Flash Drive

2021 Mazda MX-5 RF

Model Tested: 2021 Mazda MX-5 RF Club 6MT

The 2021 Mazda MX-5 RF is basically unchanged from the previous year, but that also means that the fun factor is still outstanding.

Engine:  2.0-liter I-4, 181 horsepower and 151 lb-ft torque

Transmission: 6-speed manual, rear-wheel-drive

EPA Rating: 26-mpg city, 34-mpg highway, 29-mpg combined

Base Price: $33,045

As Tested: $39,255


A true sports car

Spirited performance

Very responsive engine and suspension

The RF designation signifies the retractable hardtop, which neatly folds into the trunk area.

Excellent Brembo brakes

Super smooth 6-speed manual transmission

Very useful Hill Hold feature for stopping/starting on steep streets

Highway expansion strips are felt, but that’s a sports car trade-off

Ninja-like for slicing through city traffic

Blind spot monitor standard and necessary

Excellent fuel economy—our best was 36.1-mpg

The engine is a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated inline four-cylinder that packs an amazing punch into that small displacement.

Limited slip differential

Big tachometer, but small speedometer


Quite comfortable once you’re in

Very supportive optional Recaro seats

Heated seats (3 temps)

Manually adjusted seats, but limited range

Not much room for stretching or shifting positions

Fine legroom for driver, somewhat less for passenger

The optional Recaro seats are a wise choice, both for their support and comfort.

Good headroom

Good quality interior materials

Small tilt/telescopic column range


Minimal interior storage

No glovebox or door bins

One hard to reach lockable bin between seats

Trunk is deep and OK sized for soft luggage

Good safety features

All controls are close by in the compact interior. The 6-speed manual transmission is super smooth.

WOW Factors:

Impressive retractable hardtop

All-weather fun

Nimble, athletic handling

Great fun to drive—a go-kart for adults

Transmission shifts “like butter”

Handsome styling


Minimal interior storage

Too small sun visors

Tight ingress/egress

The Mazda MX-5 RF is fun to drive on the open road as well in congested city traffic.

Premium gas required

Bottom Line:

The 2021 Mazda MX-5 (Miata) RF Club is great fun for two people who don’t need to pack a lot of stuff in order to have a great time. The handsome RF model (retractable fastback) looks slick and adds all-weather functionality. The cockpit is low and slightly challenging to get in and out, but once ensconced the seats are comfortable and supportive, even on long drives. The Mazda MX-5 RF Club does have some compromises, but the fun-to-drive factor outweighs them by a significant margin.