2018 Mazda MX-5 RF Offers The Most Smiles Per Gallon Bar None

While turbochargers and electrified powertrains seem to take over most of the automotive world, it’s good to see that some things remain the same. Like, say, the Mazda MX-5 that last December received some upgrades for the 2018MY.

The best-selling roadster ever is currently in its fourth generation and is much more mature than the model that started it all in 1989. Yes, it’s grown up and gained some weight, mostly due to safety regulations demanding the addition of a comprehensive list of features, but at heart it still follows the same affordable RWD roadster that’s fun to drive recipe as the original.

Well, some things have changed. For one, it has spawned Fiat and an Abarth derivative that have a few styling differences, smaller turbocharged engines and… well, are not as spot-on as the Miata.

The second significant change in the latest MX-5 is the introduction of a retractable hard-top alongside the soft-top roadster. Mazda calls it the RF, which stands for Retractable Fastback, but in essence it’s a targa-like design that gets as close to an MX-5 coupe as possible without totally giving up open-top motoring.

Watch: Mazda MX-5 and Toyota 86 battle it out for the title of the best affordable sports car

In case you’re wondering whether the addition of the pillars and hard top have somehow affected the driving dynamics, the answer is a big, reassuring NO. In fact, despite the different top, Mazda’s engineers ensured that the RF retains the same 50/50 weight distribution as the Roadster.

Of course, the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four puts out just 155 HP, which, admittedly, is not that much – plus it lacks forced induction, so there’s no swell of torque from low revs. You have to really work this engine, but doing it is pure fun, especially since it comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and a standard limited-slip differential.

Is the RF the best looking of the two Miatas? That’s for you to decide. What matters most is that, at $25k, it’s one of the few affordable rear-wheel drive sports cars that will put a wide smile on your face. The genre might be an endangered species, but, as you can see in the video that follows, the MX-5 stays true to form and will give enthusiasts the best smiles-per-gallon ratio of any other car out there.

  • Dr Strangefingger

    Love the RF version!

  • Six_Tymes

    love this car. whats funny is how small the diameter disc breaks are, too funny

  • Bash

    An absolute fun car to drive but you know what, in my mind – an MX5 should always be a convertible.
    THAT would deliver an even more fun and draw the best smile on drivers face..

  • Callanish

    I’m just glad this car still exists in 2018. We’re living in a bigger size, maximum power, more toys, more complications, heavier car world, so something that isn’t any of these things, just a low weight, no frills car with maximum fun in its DNA for a reasonable price is refreshing in this day and age.

  • Moveon Libtards

    Q anon

  • smartacus

    i like the way the RF drives.
    And it’s fun to switch from
    Coupe to Targa whenever

  • iea96

    RF is definitely a great option but I wouldn’t pick it over the standard Cabrio

  • Harry Nimmergut

    Problem is, like all of the competition, past and present, if you’re over 5’9″, you can’t fit in it (or the convert with the top up). One of our local Mazda dealers is using this fact with a local NBA star to hawk the CX-9. Sign of the times…

    • Finkployd

      Well I guess you can’t be a giant golem *and* seat comfortably in a tiny japanese sportscar ??‍♂️

    • HaltestelleLuitpolthafen

      I’m 6′ and I’ve got a ’90 NA. I fit just fine.

      No clue what you’re talking about.

      • Nordschleife

        I agree. I am 5’11 and I thought I wasn’t going to fit inside (based on the above comment) but I fit in there fine.

        • flyfish

          Different body types I guess, 6’0″ 14 year owner of a NB2, fit just fine.
          I don’t fit in a ND or ND-RF. It’s weird, I have more leg room in the
          ND, but my forehead is 4″ closer to the windshield frame, 17″ in the
          NB2, 13″ in the ND. If only there was magical device that would allow the seat to mover lower and inch or 2… /SARC 😉

  • Wandering_Spirit

    Beautiful car. I just regret they didn’t add some ponies….180/200 would be perfect.

  • Sukhoi31m3

    If Mazda would just hit the 150% button on the PDF of the plans, then produce the car with an inline 6, I’d be in. As it is now the car is suited to those 5’10” or less. Drivers 6 foot tall or taller need not apply. That’s a shame too, because a slightly larger version would cancel out BMWs Z4 (and maybe some others). I’ve had a BMW and 2 Miatas (wifes’ cars) and trust me, the Mazda’s are much more reliable.

    • GenrlZod

      I’m 6’ and I fit just fine in the RF.

  • Diego Ramirez

    Um were is there a 2018 for 25K? MSRP shows for just over 30K for a brand new one.

  • Dariush

    looks ike a small viper. Love it.

  • Nordschleife

    It’s funny because I think this car is cool but because I am older now. I don’t hearing all that noise. I know that is very non-driving enthusiast but while I am not a Buick levels of quietness, I am beyond Miata non levels of quietness.

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