While turbochargers and electrified powertrains seem to take over most of the automotive world, it's good to see that some things remain the same. Like, say, the Mazda MX-5 that last December received some upgrades for the 2018MY.
The best-selling roadster ever is currently in its fourth generation and is much more mature than the model that started it all in 1989. Yes, it’s grown up and gained some weight, mostly due to safety regulations demanding the addition of a comprehensive list of features, but at heart it still follows the same affordable RWD roadster that’s fun to drive recipe as the original.Well, some things have changed. For one, it has spawned Fiat and an Abarth derivative that have a few styling differences, smaller turbocharged engines and… well, are not as spot-on as the Miata. The second significant change in the latest MX-5 is the introduction of a retractable hard-top alongside the soft-top roadster. Mazda calls it the RF, which stands for Retractable Fastback, but in essence it’s a targa-like design that gets as close to an MX-5 coupe as possible without totally giving up open-top motoring.Watch: Mazda MX-5 and Toyota 86 battle it out for the title of the best affordable sports carIn case you’re wondering whether the addition of the pillars and hard top have somehow affected the driving dynamics, the answer is a big, reassuring NO. In fact, despite the different top, Mazda’s engineers ensured that the RF retains the same 50/50 weight distribution as the Roadster.Of course, the naturally aspirated 2.0-liter four puts out just 155 HP, which, admittedly, is not that much – plus it lacks forced induction, so there’s no swell of torque from low revs. You have to really work this engine, but doing it is pure fun, especially since it comes with a six-speed manual gearbox and a standard limited-slip differential.Is the RF the best looking of the two Miatas? That’s for you to decide. What matters most is that, at $25k, it’s one of the few affordable rear-wheel drive sports cars that will put a wide smile on your face. The genre might be an endangered species, but, as you can see in the video that follows, the MX-5 stays true to form and will give enthusiasts the best smiles-per-gallon ratio of any other car out there.