Proffit at the Wheel: 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Review

Mazda’s MX-5 Miata is an icon in the sports car world for its abilities to conquer most any road surface with aplomb, to do so relatively inexpensively and for its comfort for both a driver and willing passenger on a day trip. What it doesn’t do well is accommodate more than two people, carry a full complement of luggage or serve as an overnight accommodation.

The 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF is the latest edition of the classic front midship engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car, which Mazda introduced in 1989. The MX-5 has fans the world over and many have been waiting for the RF to appear, enabling its drivers’ access to the world outside its two doors. The targa top is so easy to use, activated simply by a button with no further interaction necessary. Once dropped into the trunk, only the B pillars remain in place with a small windscreen behind the cabin.

A week’s visit with the Platinum Quartz metallic 2022 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Grand Touring began adjacent to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as we swapped from the Lexus NX350 F Sport AWD to the Mazda. While I’d enjoyed all the space, bells and whistles in the Lexus, it sure was nice to get into a car that’s made to be driven, not just operated.

Mazda equips the MX-5 with its Skyactiv-G 2-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 181 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 151 lb-ft of torque at 4,000. Redline comes on at 7,500 and listening to the engine growl at speed is a wondrous thing. While it’s possible to equip the RF with an automatic transmission our example had the snicky 6-speed manual that happily jaunts from gear to gear with only the lightest touch. I don’t think I’d ever want anything but three pedals on this car.

Double wishbone control arms and multilink suspensions are aided by a new feature Mazda calls Kinematic Posture Control, with the intent of sharpening handling by applying small amounts of brake pressure on the inner rear wheel during cornering. Suffice to say cornering was flat, capable and this feature was unobtrusive.

ABS braking through ventilated front and solid rear discs is instantaneous and operates without invasive (nanny) assistance. Rack and pinion double pinion power-assisted, quick-ratio steering is spot-on at center and exceptionally direct. The turning circle is about the width of a city street at 32.9 feet. Eight-spoke alloy rims ride on 205/45R 17-inch tires, just the right size for this Mazda.

The 2022 Mazda MX-5 RF Grand Touring weighs a sensible 2,452 pounds. There’s nothing on this little sports car that one doesn’t need and this car is made to enhance the driving experience from start to finish. Even though Mazda does ask that the engine be fed premium fuel and that cost was higher each time we needed a refill, we did achieve the 26/34/29 mpg ratings from the 11.89-gallon tank – even though we never seemed to be using the posted speed limits.

The Mazda MX-5 is all business inside, with a pair of manual bucket sport seats that have integrated headrests. Both seats are heated (didn’t need that in Indy this May) with three settings and leather-trimmed, in this case the a new-for-2022 color, Terracotta, that nicely complements the exterior. Inside the MX-5 is, as ever, all business, albeit in a personable manner. Gauges are complete with temp and fuel on the left, tachometer directly in front of the driver and speedometer on the right. On the left screen, Mazda fits range, cruise, outside temp and odometer.

The central stack includes Mazda’s upright seven-inch information screen, which is accessed by the floor-mounted control knob and hard buttons behind the shifter. There’s standard Bluetooth connectivity for both phone and streaming-audio functions. There’s even a CD player! Navigation is standard on this model – in fact, the sole option is the leather interior at an acceptable $300.

The Bose audio system features nine speakers and, of course, both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard, along with HD radio. Sirius/XM has a three-month free trial. A pair of USB outlets are at the base of the central stack.Everything works seamlessly on this vehicle; that’s quite unusual these days but with Mazda, there always appears to be thoughtfulness for the people that actually own and drive their cars.

The leather-covered steering wheel has access to audio and info on the left, while the right side houses the non-radar cruise control. We like simplicity of use around here; Mazda provides it on the 2022 MX-5 RF Grand Touring. The cabin is kind of cozy and, while there is a lockable storage area between the seats – standard for all MX-5s – it’s not very big. Neither is the remote-operated trunk, which holds a measly 4.48 cubic feet of stuff. That means the 22-inch suitcase and dirty laundry bag, along with goodies to give away to the kind folks that loan us cars.

This driver noted that lane departure is very sensitive with both beeps and graphics, but was easy to ignore. What is also easy to ignore is the speed limit notice on the left gauge area which we laughed at on the banzai trip back to Chicago after the race was run. We barely made it to the airport on time, but did so thanks to the maneuverability of this Mazda in brain-dead traffic.

Another thing we noted about the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF – it’s not very comfy for an overnighter. This writer normally stays in the media lot across from Indianapolis Motor Speedway the night before the Indianapolis 500. It’s pretty darn tough to get into the track on race day and, for 2022, everybody came back to the Brickyard. Everybody.

So the writer co-opted the passenger’s seat and placed her little dog in the driver’s seat (no, she can’t reach the pedals). All was fine until little dog got lonely and found her way into the passenger seat. Fortunately that occurred shortly before the wake-up call around 5AM so it wasn’t too uncomfortable. We’d suggest getting a room close by next time!

Bottom line: Mazda produces the best and most affordable sports car in the game and it’s a fabulous ride in town and over the road. The engine and suspension are accommodating and the driver is truly comfortable behind the wheel. If your desires tend toward an honest, two-seater sports car that can open – easily – to fresh air and close as quickly as it opens, this is your car. So much so I wish it were mine.

Words and photos by Anne Proffit