The 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF (Miata), also known as the Roadster in Japan, has long held a special place in the hearts of driving enthusiasts. For more than three decades, this iconic roadster has been the embodiment of affordable, pure, and unadulterated driving pleasure. This week’s Daddy’s Digest review takes us to sunny Los Angeles, California, where we got to take this fun little sports car’s GS-P trim (Club in the US) for a boot in the area’s infamous canyon roads.
The 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) retains the classic roadster proportions that have made it an icon over the years. With its low-slung body, short overhangs, and a long hood, the RF exudes a timeless and elegant design. The front end features Mazda’s signature big-grin grille design, flanked by sleek LED headlights that look mischievously happy. The rear of the MX-5 RF continues to be one of its standout features, with its beautiful lines and the ever-so-important retractable power targa roof (that’s very fast in its operation). In this iteration, Mazda has given the MX-5 more aggression, yet maintains sophistication with its iconic silhouette.
The 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF shines brightest in the performance department. This is where the MX-5 has always excelled, and the latest model continues to be a beacon of driving joy. Under the hood, you’ll find a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine that delivers 181 horsepower at 7,000 RPM, and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 RPM. While those numbers may not sound overly impressive, the lightweight chassis and the car’s low curb weight (approximately 2,500 pounds, or 1,134 kilograms) combine to make the MX-5 an absolute blast to drive. The engine is super responsive from idle to the 7,500 RPM redline, and has instant response thanks to the lack of lag-inducing turbochargers. At the pumps, the MX-5 RF achieves a Natural Resources Canada rated 9.0 L/100km in in the city and 7.0 L/100km on the highway, making it a reasonably efficient driver. Premium fuel is required.
The MX-5 comes with a standard six-speed manual transmission, which enthusiasts will undoubtedly appreciate, and the gearbox’s shifter and clutch combination has some of the best feel known to man. Drivers will immediately act like a pro – sportiness doesn’t necessarily mean a steep learning curve when it comes to smooth driving. A six-speed automatic is available, but the manual is where it’s at.
On the road, the MX-5 handles beautifully, with crisp and responsive steering. The car’s low centre of gravity and well-tuned suspension make it a corner-carving machine. While the feedback through the electric power steering isn’t necessarily the greatest, the feel through the chassis more than makes up for it. The MX-5 gives the driver a deep sense of control and confidence, making it an excellent dance partner for spirited driving.
With this level of engagement, it’s also extremely fun when driving slowly. Whether you’re cruising along a winding country road or taking it to the track, the MX-5 never fails to put a smile on your face. The Sport Package includes Bilstein shock absorbers and lower-profile tires on lightweight 17-inch BBS alloy wheels. Based on our week of motoring in LA, the ride quality, while firm, isn’t too punishing, and it remains compliant even on rougher road surfaces. The Sport’s fixed-piston Brembo brakes felt great too, offering confidence-inspiring stops time and time again.
On the inside, the cabin maintains its driver-centric layout, providing a snug and intimate feeling. The Sport Package’s Recaro seats are supportive and comfortable, hugging the driver and passenger in all the right places without being too fatiguing on longer trips. The materials used in the cabin are generally of decent quality, with soft-touch surfaces and well-finished details. Cargo space is limited, which is typical for a roadster. You’ll need to pack light if you plan to embark on an extended road trip. The trunk offers just enough space for a weekend getaway, but it’s not intended for heavy cargo hauling.
Having been on the market since the 2016 model year, the infotainment system, while functional, feels a bit dated compared to the latest offerings from competitors. The screen is small, and the interface lacks the user-friendliness and responsiveness seen in more modern vehicles. The touch screen is disabled while moving, which makes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay inputs a bit awkward with the forced use of a control dial. After some time, muscle memory does take over and you do get used to it, but unlike the awesome feel of the manual transmission, the learning curve is steeper here.
Standard features on the GS-P trim include a noise absorbing headliner, automatic high beams, 9-speaker audio (including a subwoofer and headrest speakers), manual climate control, pushbutton start, and black cloth seat upholstery. On the RF GS-P, the base price starts at $40,900, and the Sport Package is $4,400 extra. The snazzy Zircon Sand Metallic paint was $250, and with $1,895 worth of destination fees, the as-tested price came out to $47,445 Canadian.
The 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF stands as a shining example of a car that has remained true to its core principles while evolving to meet modern demands. It’s a roadster that delivers a driving experience that’s difficult to match in any price range. With its timeless design, excellent performance, and engaging handling, the MX-5 continues to be the embodiment of pure driving joy. While it may not be the most practical choice for everyone, for those who value the thrill of the open road and the joy of driving, the MX-5 remains an icon that’s worthy of celebration.