For as long as there have been Miatas (31 years now), people have wondered if there should be a dedicated Miata coupe to go with the convertible. Happily, Mazda resisted that suggestion and, after an early and somewhat ungainly attempt at a retractable hardtop ten years ago, has been selling the MX-5 Miata RF the past few years.
The RF is the elegant solution---a retractable, power-operated roof panel that, when stowed, turns the Miata into a targa.
Compared to the previous retractable hardtop, the styling is smoother, there's less weight and complexity, more usable luggage space when the top is open since the top slides into a separate compartment---and the cabin is insulated when the top is closed. Driving the MX-5 Miata RF is like driving a fully-realized closed coupe and a convertible.
Under the hood, it's the 2.5-liter four-cylinder SKYACTIV-G engine making 181 horsepower with 151 pounds per foot of torque. Zero to 60 happens in the same 5.7 seconds as it does in soft-top Miatas. With its sport-tuned suspension and Bilstein shock absorbers, the Miata is the perfect winding-road partner.
An automatic transmission is available, and I'm sure I've driven an automatic Miata at some point, but I honestly don't remember it. The vast majority that I've driven over the years have been the six-speed manual, as was this one. The stick in the Miata is light, smooth and precise and contributes enormously to the fun of driving it.
The base price of the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring is $34,325. The window sticker is at the end of this review so you can see for yourself, but among the standard equipment highlights at that price are the stunning and new for this year Deep Crystal Blue Mica paint, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (also newly standard for '21), 17-inch alloy wheels, a nine-speaker Bose audio system, navigation and heated leather sport seats.
The only extra-cost option on our tester was the also newly-available white Nappa leather interior---$300 and well worth the brightening of the cockpit, though long-term cleaning and upkeep are something to seriously consider.
So, with $945 delivery, processing and handling fee, the as-tested price of the 2021 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring is $35.770.
There simply is no better reasonably-priced sports car than the MX-5 Miata. And if I were playing with my own money, I'd absolutely go for the RF. The real-world benefits are just too good to ignore.