Miata RF Caps Coupe-Roadster Debate

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CHATHAM, Mass. – The best of both worlds sums up the driving pleasure, security, comfort and convenience provided by the 2022 Mazda Miata RF Club MT hardtop convertible.

Seconds after activating a dashboard button, the Miata transforms from a tight, quiet two-seat coupe into an exhilarating open-air roadster (with substantial roll bar/ buttress). The RF in the Miata’s full name indicates inclusion of the convertible hardtop instead of the roadster’s alternative soft one.

I have always found dropping a car’s roof turns a mundane vehicle into a fun machine; in the case of the Miata, regardless of the top’s position, driving is a blast!

Braking now an integral part of refined chassis

A fully independent suspension system provides basis of the sports-car handling of the Miata. Up front, the pieces include a double-wishbone design, aluminum control arms and, in Club models like I drove, Bilstein shock absorbers.

For 2022, the rear multi-link setup (again with Bilsteins) gets an assist from the rear brakes thanks to the newly developed Kinematic Posture Control (KPC) which turns braking into a handling and ride aid.

According to Mazda, “The MX-5 Miata’s rear suspension is already designed to help keep the vehicle planted to the ground when the brakes are applied. KPC takes advantage of this by applying a slight brake input to the inner rear wheel during high-g cornering. This pulls down on that corner, suppressing body roll, and making steering response feel more linear through tight or rough corners. Slightly stronger braking is used when accelerating through a corner, enhancing the limited slip effect providing more confidence and enjoyment.”

An important aspect of the KPC design is its zero-weight penalty. Electronics, utilizing sensors and software management, provide the KPC’s functions, so no components had to be added to the physical chassis to achieve these results.

The power-assisted braking system upon which the KPC relies includes 11-inch rotors front (ventilated) and rear (solid discs) with single-piston calipers at both ends; four-wheel, four-channel anti-lock (ABS); electronic brake distribution (EBD), and brake assist.

The Miata RF Club MT (for the six-speed manual transmission) I tested had the no-charge Brembo®/BBS® Recaro® package which included BBS forged-aluminum 17×7-inch wheels (mounted with 205/45R17 performance tires) as well as the Bilstein shocks at all four corners and heated Recaro sport seats.

Historically, the Miata has had just enough motive power to provide driving enjoyment and efficiency. This remains the case for 2022 where the SKYACTIV®-G 2.0 DOHC 16-valve four-cylinder with variable-valve timing produces 181 horsepower and 151 pounds-feet of torque.

Those numbers might seem a bit modest by 2022 standards where some performance cars top 400/500hp, but (according to Motor Trend) a 0-60-miles-per-hour time of 5.9 seconds while returning more than 32 miles per gallon (my overall results; the federal Environmental Protection Agency rates it at 29 mpg overall, 26 urban, 34 highway) are far more important digits. The Miata really performs!

Do the changes work?

I honestly cannot say because I did not have an older Miata without KPC for comparison. The Miata has always been a great handling sports car; a blast to toss through tight turns while rowing through the gears (very easy with the slick transmission).

Each successive generation has resulted in improvements to the ride-handling combination and the 2022 Miata RF Club is no exception. You sit low in the Miata, inches off the road. The ride is better than past Miata versions, but it is still sports-car stiff and lets you know if the road surface has irregularities. But I found longer, highway trips much more relaxing thanks to suspension improvements and better sound insulation from the hardtop (versus the more traditional soft top).

Complete suite of ADAS

I can verify the capabilities of the advanced driver-assistance systems (ADAS) included with the 2022 Mazda Miata RF Club MT. The ADAS suite includes blind-spot monitor; rear cross-traffic alert; lane-departure-warning system; dynamic-stability control; smart city braking, and traction-control system. All worked as advertised, except I cannot say anything about how the smart city brake (and other automatic-emergency braking) functioned; thankfully, I never had to experience these.

Intimate cabin fit for two

The Miata has always been a two-seater, without any pretense beyond providing the driver and a fortunate companion an intimate place to enjoy an exhilarating ride.

Mazda now fills the Club trim level’s interior with amenities beyond what sports-car enthusiasts from days gone by might have enjoyed. My sample had an infotainment system with seven-inch touch screen; wireless Apple CarPlay (wired Android Auto); Bluetooth connectivity; SiriusXM satellite radio; HD radio, and Bose® nine-speaker audio system.

And stopping/starting the Miata’s engine was via the push of a button; no physical key for this modern machine.

A car for the ages

The Mazda Miata continues a tradition established nearly a century ago of turning a simple automotive design into a spirited fun machine. The look is of a small, agile sports two-seater, but unlike many of the MGs, Triumphs and Fiat Spiders of the past, Mazda brings modern amenities, safety and efficiencies to a value package without sacrificing any of the fun.

The 2022 Mazda Miata RF Club MT carries a base price of $38,200 and the version I drove, with machine-gray metallic paint ($595) and delivery, processing and handling fee ($1,015) totaled $39,810. This represents terrific sports-car value and if you want the combination of wind-in-your-hair exhilaration when the weather cooperates, yet a solid, tight all-season coupe when it does not, the Miata RF is a perfect choice. The best of both worlds.

Next week TBR Drives the 2022 Volvo XC60 Recharge.

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Mike Geylin
Mike Geylin

Mike Geylin is the Editor-in-Chief at Hagman Media. Geylin has been in automotive communications for five decades working in all aspects of the industry from OEM to supplier to motorsports as well as reporting for both newspapers and magazines on the industry.