The 2023 Mazda Miata RF Club is Outright Driving Perfection
As a long-time fanatic of the Mazda Miata, I naively went into driving the newest version under the assumption that it would be a bit watered down compared to the original, thanks to modern safety requirements. After all, cars like the WRX and Integra Type S are massive compared to where their respective namesakes started and excelled. However, I found that the 2023 Mazda Miata RF Club was nothing short of the best Miata I’ve ever had the pleasure of driving. Needless to say, I was a bit surprised.
Modernity has taken no effect on the joys of driving a Miata
I want to make something clear here. This review is not about the practicalities of the 2023 Mazda Miata. As someone who stands six feet and three inches tall at around 250 pounds, I was obviously quite cramped. That being said, I used to shoehorn myself into a 1990 Mazda Miata every day as a sandwich delivery driver when I was at an unfortunate 325 pounds. Still, I loved every second of driving that car. I’ll touch on the things that are a little lackluster toward the end of the review, but the primary focus here is the experience from the perspective of a driving enthusiast.
The phrases “handles like it’s on rails” and “go-kart for the road” get thrown around a lot. There is not one vehicle I’ve ever experienced that could embody those phrases more than the 2023 Mazda Miata Club, though. You could pinpoint a penny at the apex of a corner and have zero issues repeatedly running right over the top of it with these cars. Precision aside, even the most entry-level driver could take a 2023 Miata in this trim to a windy road or track of their choice and have the absolute time of their lives.
It’ll make you feel like an absolute driving God. This is extremely important because that very sentiment is what made the original Mazda Miata so great upon its release over 30 years ago. Somehow, despite modern safety regulations, Mazda has retained every bit of excitement, steering feel, and handling capabilities of its original bare-bones roadster. The parallels between the 2023 model and the classic NA and NB generation Miatas are borderline mythical.
A flawless engine and transmission combine with Club exclusives to achieve driving bliss
This particular example is a 2023 Mazda Miata RF Club in Zircon Sand Metallic. The color made quite the compliment to the Mojave desert. However, it pales in comparison to the complementary relationship between the Club trim level’s features and the amazing driving roads surrounding me.
The Club trim level includes sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein dampers and 17-inch wheels wrapped in Bridgestone Potenza high-performance tires. It also has a front shock tower brace to add some chassis rigidity. This particular example is equipped with the Brembo/BBS package, too. That adds BBS wheels, Brembo brakes, and black Recaro bucket seats. There is no doubt that these features combine to create the Miata’s remarkable handling characteristics.
The front-midship 2.0-liter Skyactiv engine puts out 181 horsepower and screams its way up to a 7,500 RPM redline. It’s mated to a six-speed manual transmission with a short shifter. Together, they create an absolutely visceral driving experience. For a long time, I’ve maintained that the best-feeling factory shifter I have ever felt was found in the DC2 Acura Integra. No longer, though. The shifter feel of the 2023 Mazda Miata RF is hands down the best of the best. Incredibly quick and direct shifts through the gears will put you in driving heaven. Furthermore, the ease of a rev-match downshift is an absolute treat.
Many folks will criticize the Miata’s “minimal” power output. However, just like my point with the GR86, if the power level seems too low in your head, you’re likely not at a skill level that would really allow you to drive this car to its full potential. You can keep your straight-line performance. For spirited driving, the bends are where the real smiles per gallon are found.
There are some lackluster bits of the 2023 Miata, but they don’t detract from the driving experience
As I stated above, this review is all about the driving feel. After all, you don’t buy a Miata expecting to transport a couch. In fact, you wouldn’t rely on it to transport much of anything. All of this is to say that there are a few points of contention I feel I should include here.
The trunk space is comically small, but so is the car. As an example, you wouldn’t have any chance of putting a golf bag in the trunk. A briefcase or some light luggage, though? No problem. This doesn’t bother me, of course, because most folks wouldn’t shop for a sports car with practicality in mind.
The infotainment system is fine. You get satellite radio, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, and a backup camera. My biggest complaint is that, despite it being a touchscreen, I couldn’t find a way to use the touch interface while in motion. I get it; it’s a safety thing. But in such a small cockpit, the screen is only a few inches away from the steering wheel and wouldn’t be an issue to use while driving. Instead, you have to use the scroll/click wheel on the center console. Navigating Android Auto with it is a massive pain, and I kept switching songs or canceling navigation when I bumped the scroll wheel with my forearm.
The Mazda Miata RF has an awesome power retractable roof. Personally, though, I think I’d prefer the traditional soft top.
Finally, there’s no glovebox or door pockets. Instead, there’s a decently sized compartment between the seats. Overall, there’s not much for internal storage. Again, though, you wouldn’t go into it expecting that to be the case. It’s tiny both inside and out.
Even in 2023, Miata is Always the Answer
I have zero hesitation in saying that this is, without a shadow of a doubt, the best Miata I have ever driven. It is absolute driving perfection out of the box. Furthermore, despite how much I loved the 2023 Toyota GR86, a Club spec 2023 Miata is the best affordable sports car you can buy.