The Mazda MX-5 Miata is a dream on curvy country back roads. Everyone knows it’s great on a track. But did you know it inhales long stretches of the Ohio Turnpike like a tiny, Japanese black hole? Floor it on the entrance ramp, smile as you wring out the 181-horsepower four-pot, then exit said highway. Time doesn’t matter. Road conditions don’t matter. When it comes to road-tripping an ND3, five hours feels like five minutes. I swear Mazda hid a Flux Capacitor somewhere in this thing.

I conquered all of the above and more on a recent 800-mile trip to the suburbs of Akron, Ohio, piloting a new MX-5 RF Club with a six-speed stick and the Brembo/BBS Recaro package. 2024 marks the first year for the updated ND3 model, which Motor1’s self-proclaimed Hardtop Sports Car Man Chris Rosales recently exercised to considerable praise. But my aging (and not so outstanding) backside was hoping I’d survive 800 miles in the stiff little Miata. So yeah, my review is a little different.

2024 Mazda Miata RF Club
Quick Specs 2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Club
Engine 2.0-liter Inline-four
Output 181 Horsepower / 151 Pound-Feet
Efficiency 26 City / 34 Highway / 29 Combined
Base Price / As-Tested $41,395 / $41,970
On-Sale Date Now

Full disclosure—this trip marked my first ND experience and only my second time in an MX-5, the first came many moons ago in a mostly stock second-gen NB. I have no illusions that the hard roof and Recaros helped make this road trip an unexpected pleasure. But before I go further, some exposition.

My destination was classified, the endpoint of a mission to check out another legendary Japanese vehicle, one with three times as many cylinders that you'll hear about later this year. Unfortunately, I only had two days to make the trip happen. Leaving my northern Michigan home on a Wednesday, I had to trek 400 miles southeast, spend a few hours getting photos and interviews, then have the Miata back in Detroit by 1:30 PM the next day.

The Mazda is supremely small. Big shocker, I know, but consider these specs. The wheelbase is 90.9 inches, which is shorter than a two-door Jeep Wrangler. You're barely five inches off the road, about the same as a Lotus Elise. At 49.0 inches tall, the roof reaches just halfway up the side of most pickups and SUVs. 

2024 Mazda Miata RF Club
Pros: Inconceivably Comfortable, Sharp Handling Without Harshness, Usable Trunk With Roof Down

And this is the RF Club, which comes with extra tuning to its already sporty suspension. I sampled that prior to my departure, diving into a plethora of bendy roads near my house. Without the benefit of ND2 experience by way of comparison, I’ll just say the ND3 feels like something you wear, not drive. Turns are taut and balanced, the steering feel is superb, and those Brembos will have you pulling up far too soon, until you’re used to big brakes on a 2,450-pound car. 

But none of this is a surprise. Of course the Miata is a great fun car for the weekend. But it's not an ideal road trip car for a middle-aged man who loves tacos. Or is it?

Friends, I’m here to say the latest MX-5 is a road-trip rockstar. Leaving home at 7:00 AM on empty highways, the hours melted away as traffic steadily increased. I reached the Ohio Turnpike around 10:30—entering via a wonderfully twisty entrance ramp from I-75 to the eastbound lanes. The RF Club’s thresholds far exceeded my nerve on a public road. If you love G Forces, there are few new cars under $40,000 that compare to the MX-5.

2024 Mazda Miata RF Club
2024 Mazda Miata RF Club
2024 Mazda Miata RF Club

Here’s where this Miata review goes totally off the rails. This is a sports car … but hunkered down in the Recaro seat, I was impossibly comfortable. The seats don’t have a gazillion adjustments but you don’t need them. They’re supportive on all sides, and with help from the manually adjustable telescoping steering wheel, finding the perfect driving position was easy. Moreover, wind and road noise were shockingly minimal for a small convertible, albeit one with a folding hardtop. Less noise means less driver fatigue and more opportunity to enjoy some Japanese pop music. May'n sounds subarashii through the Bose stereo.

I also thoroughly enjoyed the ND3's interior upgrades. The 8.8-inch infotainment display isn’t overly complicated. Plugging in a destination for the nav system can be a pain, and sadly, Mazda's voice recognition struggles to understand commands. But most people will hop in and switch to Android Auto/Apple CarPlay anyway. Alternating between that and Mazda’s software is as simple as punching the home button on the console.

2024 Mazda Miata RF Club
Cons: Cumbersome Infotainment, No Interior Storage, Expensive

And while we’re talking about buttons, the MX-5 still has them, praise be. Simple rotary dials adjust the climate control, a button switches the stability control for track or street use, and the roof lowers neatly with a toggle in about 15 seconds. These features haven't changed in recent years, and it's not a bad thing. In an era where too many automakers relegate common controls to a fussy touchscreen, the Miata’s analog approach is not only appropriate but appreciated.

The ride isn’t bad either. There wasn’t a single moment in 800 miles that scrambled my brain despite ribbons of trashed roads around Cleveland, Toledo, and Detroit. I’ve long believed that Mazda uses some kind of witchcraft when it comes to suspension tuning, striking an amazing balance between poised and posh. That same witchcraft is prevalent with the latest MX-5. Much has been said about how crisp and stable it is for spirited driving, but few people talk about how compliant it is for everyday use.

2024 Mazda Miata RF Club
2024 Mazda Miata RF Club

Folks, I did a lot of traveling in this car over a short period of time, and I could’ve easily handled much more. Even when storm clouds unloaded a tsunami of rain just outside Cleveland, the Miata shrugged it off. The car felt confident in every situation, and because of that, I felt confident. Is there anything this car can't do?

Well, yes. You can’t enjoy Miata life with two of your friends simultaneously. But you can stow a moderately sized travel bag and some smaller items in the RF’s 4.5 cubic-foot trunk, which should sustain you and a passenger for a long weekend if not a full week on the road. I carried two laptops, a camera bag, lighting gear, and a duffel bag with two days of clothes and toiletries in the trunk with room to spare. And trunk space is unaffected whether the roof is up or down.

Yes, I’m talking about trunk space in a Miata. In the nine years since the current generation launched, much has been said about how the car handles corners, but its practicality is often overlooked. It’s no hot hatchback, and it will never be a family vehicle. But I went into this adventure expecting to be stiff and tired at the end. Instead, I didn’t want to stop. 800 miles in 36 hours? Way too easy. I could’ve done 800 miles in 12 hours, taken a half-hour break for tacos, and gone 800 more. 

And I almost forgot. It handles pretty well, too.

Competitors

2024 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF Club

Engine 2.0-liter Inline-Four
Output 181 Horsepower / 151 Pound-Feet
Transmission Six-Speed Manual
Drive Type Rear-Wheel Drive
Weight 2,452 Pounds
Efficiency 26 City / 34 Highway / 29 Combined
Seating Capacity 2
Cargo Volume 4.5 Cubic Feet
Trim Base Price $41,395
As-Tested Price $41,970
On Sale Now
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