2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF
There’s a new Mazda Miata in town, and it’s more than just a hardtop, it’s something entirely different. It’s the MX-5 RF, for retractable fastback. Now is it just a Miata that’s better in bad weather, or is it a better Miata period? Well, we feel it’s our duty to get to the top of it!
Sports cars have been in a bit of a slump lately, though the Mazda MX-5 Miata has mostly been immune. But just to ensure the excitement meter stays pegged; for 2017, Mazda has something special for all of us, this Miata RF.
Much different than the previous gen’s Power Retractable Hard Top, this Retractable Fastback features a somewhat complicated design that somehow works very smoothly, and stores the center section of the roof only, in the same amount of space as the soft top, leaving trunk capacity exactly the same. You could call it a Targa, but Mazda chose not to.
It’s much better in every way than the previous hard top. And as sharp as it looks with it up, we can see a lot of style-conscious fans buying it for that reason alone.
The RF also includes some additional sound-deadening material, so engine and tire noise are more tempered, a plus if you’re planning longer trips.
The RF looks much different in profile of course, unique enough that it wasn’t instantly recognizable as a Miata to many we encountered.
The RF weighs about 110-lbs more than the roadster, but you won’t notice it in around town driving.
And we love that everything remains super simple inside. All is right where you expect it to be, including the shifter for the standard 6-speed manual.
But that also means frustrating cup holders and minimal small item storage space.
No other changes inside, save for the button to set the top in motion and a new TFT screen in the gauges that will make its way into other Miatas soon.
Plenty of headroom remains, but if our RF had any downside, it was wind noise. Too much of it made it inside, seemingly right by our ears.
Nothing deviates from the norm in the powertrain department. Under-hood lies a SKACTIV-G 2.0-liter I4 with 155-horsepower and 148 lb-ft. of torque.
Maybe it was the top’s added weight, or test day’s hot temps, but our RF manual was a few tenths slower to 60 than the last cloth top we tested, at 6.3-seconds.
Only moderate throttle modulation is necessary at launch, as there’s not enough torque to really cause problems. Both clutch and shifter work as precisely as always, allowing you to move quickly through the gears. We finished the ¼-mile in 15.0-seconds flat at 92 miles-per-hour.
And without a doubt, no matter what is or isn’t over your head, the MX-5 remains a great place to take in the blurry sights surrounding your favorite back road. Or our choice, the curves of Northern Virginia’s Dominion Raceway.
We know that a hardtop can add some rigidity to a car’s chassis, but to be honest we didn’t sense that either, as the basic car is now so solid.
Both the suspension and electric power steering have been recalibrated, and if anything, we noticed a little less feel through the wheel than before, though reaction is still very quick. Throttle response also felt a little deadened.
The RF is only available in Club and Grand Touring trim, with base pricing that works out to be around 3-grand extra. So, its $32,430 for the Club RF, and $33,495 for the Grand Touring.
So, you have to really love the new look. Now, we view the MX-5 as the best bargain among sports cars, so we’d probably stick with the original and spend the money we saved on performance upgrades.
Still, one thing is clear. Mazda took great strides to give buyers not just a hard top version of our beloved Miata, but something that is truly different. The 2017 MX-5 Miata RF is a uniquely charming take on the minimalist roadster theme; and a beauty not just for our eyes, but for all of our senses.
- Engine: 2.0 liter
- Horsepower: 155
- Torque: 148 lb-ft.
- 0-60 mph: 6.3 seconds
- 1/4 mile: 15.0 seconds @ 92 mph
2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid
Crossed Up Corolla Gets More Efficient
Toyota offers a hybrid powertrain in just about everything they make, so it did seem odd that last year, when they debuted an all-new SUV version of their long-time best-selling Corolla, a hybrid was nowhere to be found. Well, it didn’t take long for Toyota to correct that situation, delivering this Corolla Cross Hybrid for 2023.
With prices for everything seemingly going up daily, we can all use a little more cost efficiency in our lives. That’s a mission that Toyota has been undertaking for some time now and continues to do it with this 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid.
The Alabama-built Corolla Cross arrived just last year as Toyota’s attempt to bring their best-selling nameplate into the SUV era, and give them an additional entry into the most popular automotive segment going right now, small crossovers.
There are some RAV4 styling cues here, but the Corolla Cross is mostly its own deal, and the Hybrid is more than just a fuel efficient option, it has added performance too. So, it’s offered only in Toyota’s S line of trims S, SE, and XSE, where the standard Corolla Cross is available in base L, LE, and XLE.
There are some differences outside, most notably unique front and rear fasicas; the front with a much more aggressive look, with larger grille and blacked-out trim.
Black trim and logos in back too, along with a redesigned bumper; plus, you can optionally go 2-tone by adding black paint to the roof.
Great packaging has it feeling roomier inside than most small 5-seat utes, straddling the line between subcompact and compact. And seats are way more comfortable than your typical urban-minded utility.
In fact, the entire interior feels quite upscale, and the layout will be very familiar to those stepping up from an actual Corolla.
Those who put off buying a Corolla Cross until now will be rewarded with upgraded infotainment, as all Hybrid’s will come with Toyota’s latest 8-inch touchscreen multimedia system standard.
The Hybrid’s small battery is located under the rear seat, so there’s minimal loss of rom, with a good 21.5 cubic-ft. of cargo space available; expanding to 61.8 with rear seatbacks folded.
Getting to the heart of the matter, the Corolla Cross Hybrid’s fuel-sipping ways are courtesy of the 5th generation of Toyota’s Hybrid System which outputs a combined 196-horsepower through its trio of electric motors and naturally-aspirated 2.0-liter 4-cylinder gasoline engine. One of those motors operating strictly the rear axle for standard all-wheel-drive.
At our test track, there was a nice little chirp of the tires off the line, but that’s where the excitement ended.
So while a 7.5-second trip to 60 may not raise your blood pressure, it’s a full 3-seconds quicker than the standard Corolla Cross we tested last year. We’ll take that!
CVT automatic means engine revs and engine noise both hang relatively high throughout the whole ¼-mile, which took us 15.6-seconds to complete, finishing at a reasonable 90 miles-per-hour.
The Hybrid also gets a “sport-tuned” suspension, and indeed it felt light and nimble through our cone course, very neutral too, with no noticeable understeer or oversteer. Steering was light but still provided good feedback. With some grippier tires, this would certainly give the best handlers in the segment a run for their money.
But the real reward comes in Government Fuel Economy Ratings which are 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined. We averaged a great 43.3 miles-per-gallon of Regular; that’s a 40% increase over the 30.9 miles-per-gallon we averaged in the standard Corolla Cross last year.
But, that does come at a cost, though it’s difficult to make direct comparisons with separate trim families, but pricing starts at $29,320 for the Hybrid, about 3-grand over a base all-wheel-drive non-hybrid. Top XSE comes in at $32,400.
As influential as Toyota is in spreading the hybrid doctrine, it was indeed odd that the Corolla Cross arrived last year without a hybrid option. Smartly, it didn’t take them long to right that wrong, as it was always part of the plan, and the Corolla Cross has benefitted from it greatly. The 2023 Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid is not just more efficient, it’s more capable, and a much better small utility all around.
- Engine: 2.0-liter 4-cylinder
- Horsepower: 196
- 0-60 mph: 7.5-seconds
- MW Fuel Economy: 43.3 MPG (Regular)
- Transmission: e-CVT
- Torque: 139 lb-ft
- 1/4 Mile: 15.6-seconds at 90 mph
- EPA: 45-City, 38-Highway, and 42-Combined