The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Has a Little More Mean to Go with Its Lean

2019 Automobile All-Stars contender.

Todd LassawriterAndrew Trahanphotographer

The Mazda Miata was among the 24 standout vehicles competing for a coveted 2019 Automobile All-Stars award. See the rest of the field here, and go here to see the winners!

More important than the 26-hp boost from the MX-5 Miata's new-for-2019 2.0-liter engine is the 700-rpm hike in its redline, to 7,500 rpm. This helps on tight circuits like Streets of Willow, which hosted the track portion of our 2019 All-Stars evaluation, as you don't have to upshift at the end of a long straight only to immediately heel-and-toe downshift again into the turn.

The more flexible engine is the biggest part of a midcycle update to the back-to-basics sports car we've loved and named an All-Star several times during its 30 years on the market. Its most controversial quality is unchanged, however. "So much body lean that I thought I was driving a Mercedes G-class," senior editor Aaron Gold said after a few laps at Willow. But once on public roads: "All is forgiven! This is a great road car, if not the greatest road car. The body lean I sneered at on track isn't an issue out on the road."

Contributor Jethro Bovingdon had a different take. "For me, it's the same old problem," he said. "The suspension is so soft and allows for so much body roll, squat, and dive that this lithe, light car takes too long to rediscover its poise between direction changes. On the track, it's much better because the chassis is fully loaded and settled nearly all the time. Then you can enjoy the gorgeous manual gearbox, the engine's eagerness to rev, and the chassis's inherent balance."

The midcycle refresh also adds a telescoping steering wheel, and for the second model year you can get the Club with heated seats or the Grand Touring with the Club's sport suspension. "The Miata's engine is better than ever with enough power to feel lively and a rev-happy nature with the higher redline," features editor Rory Jurnecka said. "The six-speed is still near perfect, and with a telescoping wheel I can finally get comfortable in the car, at 5-foot-11. The Miata is one car I'd lap happily for hours on end."

Although the '19 Miata didn't garner sufficient votes for an All-Stars nod this year, the judges lauded its ability to reflect individual skills and preferences. "The cool thing about the Miata is how it makes you an honest driver," contributing writer Ronald Ahrens said. "The car is fun in every circumstance."

2019 Automobile All-Stars
The Winners | The Contenders | The Venues

2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Specifications

PRICE $33,240/$38,635 (base/as tested)
ENGINE 2.0L 16-valve DOHC I-4; 181 hp @ 7,000 rpm, 
151 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
TRANSMISSION 6-speed manual
LAYOUT 2-door, 2-passenger, 
RWD convertible
EPA MILEAGE 26/34 mpg (city/hwy)
L x W x H 154.1 x 68.3 x 48.8 in
WHEELBASE 90.9 in
WEIGHT 2,453 lb
0-60 MPH 5.9 sec (est)
TOP SPEED 135 mph
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