Zoom Zoom: 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

Miata is a legenadary nameplate. Non-car people and car lovers alike know and revere the name, such as you would expect with any legendary vehicle. Everyone knows that a Miata is fun, but does the MX-5 Miata RF live up to the legendary nameplate, especially when equipped with the six-speed automatic transmission?

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF 1

Chances are, if you’ve driven or ridden in a Miata, you know what it feels like to smile. Chances are, if you’ve driven or ridden in a Miata, you know the definition of fun. While the Miata may not be the quickest car around the track, or the most powerful drag strip burner, it is one of the most fun vehicles you can buy at any price. We’ve driven several of this generation MX-5, most recently an MX-5 RF Club with a manual transmission and Brembo/BBS Recaro Package. But this Miata was slightly different

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF 8

Our 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Club arrived equipped with the optional automatic transmission, which may be sacrilege to some. Disappointingly, the auto-equipped Club model doesn’t receive the limited slip rear differential, Bilstein dampers, or front shock tower brace that the manual-equipped variant features as standard equipment. Even more, the Brembo/BBS Recaro Package that adds lightweight wheels, grippier brakes, and sport seats isn’t even offered. The auto does, however, feature a sport mode to hold gears longer and paddle shifters to help give the driver a more involving experience. While not being the choice for everyone, does have its merits: it’s easy to leave the Miata in drive and cruise, and helps with city driving as well. Most importantly, the automatic does not change the fundamental nature of the Miata. This Miata, like any other Miata, is still fun to drive.

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF 4

The 2020 MX-5 Miata is equipped with a 2.0L 181 hp 4cylinder that, while not being the most torquey powerplant, has a fairly exciting upper RPM pull. 181 hp may not sound like much, but when the entire vehicle weighs right around 2400lbs, it feels like much more. The auto is geared well enough if you have your foot to the floor, but I often found that the Miata lacked in pep around town. 8 or 10 gears instead of 6 could potentially cure this minor niggle. However, the relatively low power level is actually a gift in disguise: the Miata can make 40 mph feel as exciting as 80 mph does in most cars. You can have fun without breaking the speed limit in the Miata, a huge benefit to those of us with lead-feet (of which your humble author is guilty).

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF 5

The most rewarding and fun aspect of the MX-5 Miata is, without a doubt, the engaging chassis and handling. The Miata does not disguise the body roll or lean in corners. This actually helps you to understand how different corner entries and speed change how the weight shifts around and how those shifts change the car’s ability to corner. Get it wrong, and you can feel the understeer scrub speed; get it right and you can knife your way around the apex with surprising precision. The Miata does what you ask of it, forgiving ham-fisted driving but not disguising it. The balance of the chassis helps teach you to become a better driver as you can feel changes in the car so clearly. The steering is light and responsive, quick and agile, and the ride is busy and firm. Do not expect a luxury-car like ride out of the Miata, and you will not be let down. Road textures come through in lossless clarity; in the Miata, you actually CAN feel the difference between driving on the stripes of the road versus being centered in the lane. It’s a raw, rewarding experience that is difficult to find at any price.

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF 6

The interior of the MX-5 is surprisingly upscale. The materials are nice to the touch, everything is well laid out, and everything fits together well. No rattles were present in our tester. The standard Bose audio system delivered clear and punchy sound in a very small cabin. The Miata is a small car, and the interior is one of the most intimate of the modern car world. Make sure you can, at the very least, tolerate your passenger (if you plan on taking one). Do not take this to mean that the Miata has no creature comforts (it has 3-stage heated seats), or that you couldn’t drive this daily. I did, and it was fun every time I got in the driver seat, even to get out and drive 5 minutes away to pick up lunch.

2020 Mazda MX-5 RF 7

A week of driving the Miata was a week full of fun adventures out of the house, and onto the open road. The Miata inspires you to get out, find new roads, keep the revs high and hit the corners hard. The 2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF faithfully carries on the legacy of the legendary Miata nameplate, even with an automatic. Zoom zoom!

-Ken Wilson

2020 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Club
Automatic Transmission$600
Destination Charges$945
As Tested MSRP$34,590

Auld Lang Syne: 2019 Mazda MX-5 RF
Quick Spin: 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF
Colder Weather: 2016 Mazda MX-5



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