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2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF GT Reviews by John Heilig

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By John Heilig
Senior Editor and Bureau Chief
Mid-Atlantic Bureau
The Auto Channel

REVIEWED MODEL: 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF GT
ENGINE: 2.0-liter inline 4
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed manual
HORSEPOWER/TORQUE: 181 hp @ 7,000 rpm/151 lb.-ft. @ 4,000 rpm
WHEELBASE: 90.9 in.
LENGTH X WIDTH X HEIGHT: 154.1 x 68.3 x 49.0 in.
TIRES: P205/45R17
CARGO CAPACITY: 5.0 cu. ft.
ECONOMY: 26 mpg city/34 mpg highway
CURB WEIGHT: 2,335 lbs.
TOWING CAPACITY: Not recommended
COMPETITIVE CLASS: Fiat 124, Audi TT (Discontinued), Nissan Z (Convertible Discontinued)
STICKER: $35,000 (est.)

BOTTOM LINE: The Mazda Miata is always a fun car, even in its fourth generation. It offers great handling, just enough power, and it’s great looking to boot.

Anyone who has been reading these scribbling's for a while knows that I became enamored with automobiles thanks to a 1958 MGA 1500. I cite the engine because it was replaced by a 1962 MGA 1600 Mk II coupe that had a few more civilized features, such as wind-up windows, a hard top and cargo capacity.

I mention these because I just got out of a 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. Miata has been a fun sports car for four generations now and it hasn’t lost its charm. From Day One it proved to be a better car than any of the MGAs ever were with reliability and good Japanese electronics. The RF, introduced a couple of years ago, is the worthy successor to the MGA coupe, with a hard top that actually lowers automatically into the already minuscule trunk. But hey, if you want cargo carrying capacity, get an SUV. Hard tops were always available for the Miata, but the RF is a fastback style that is more attractive than a simple bubble top. With the top down, clear plastic wind deflectors behind the seats help keep Mom’s hair in place.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The Miata also has power windows which frees up a small amount of interior space because of no window winders. In my garage right now is a 1965 MG Midget with wind up windows and that tiny handle banging against your knee can be a pain in the, well, knee.

Under the hood is a 2.0-liter four rated at 181 horsepower. None of MGAs even touched 100 horses. This is plenty of power for the 2,335-pound Miata. But in a car like this, absolute power isn’t necessary. Rarely did I get close to the speed limit on the roads I travelled.The joy was in the ride and in zipping around curves.

Right at hand, and I mean literally at hand, is a shifter to work the 6-speed manual gearbox. There’s a large tachometer the center of the instrument panel to guide you, but you really don’t need it for normal driving. After a few short runs you learn when to shift just by the sound. There’s a smaller speedometer to the right of the tach, but all you need to know from that is that 55 mph is where 9 o’clock would be on an analog clock or watch.

Handling is great, which is one of the features that endeared me to the MGAs. The suspension is firm, but not harsh.

Interior storage is a challenge, but Mazda chose to opt in favor of Less is More. For example, there are two removable cupholders. One clips on to the right side of the transmission hump while the other stays in the glove box behind the center console. It’s a very small center console/arm rest with no door pockets. There’s a small space at the base of the center stack that has a pair of USB outlets and room for a phone.

In a salute to modernity, there’s an infotainment screen of a sensible size in the middle of the dash. The heating/cooling system consists of three knobs, for temperature, fan speed and air direction.

Overall, the Miata continues to deliver fun on the road. The RF automatic hard top makes it more civilized, but compared to its distant ancestors from England, almost anything would help.

(c) 2019 The Auto Page Syndicate