Media Day at the Orange County Auto Show was filled with fun and test drives for iDriveSoCal’s Professor, Clinton Quan.  In the meantime, yours truly was busy setting up our podcast booth and eagerly awaiting the good Professor’s reports.

His first test drive was of Mazda’s 2019 Miata RF.  You’ll notice, in the podcast, that the Professor was referring to the RF as a hardtop… but after I got a closer look at the vehicle I’d call it a targa top.  Check out the pics below while listening to this iDriveSoCal podcast and you be the judge.

***Transcript***

Recorded @ the OC Auto Show, Anaheim, CA

Mazda Miata RF – Retractable Fastback

Clinton Quan: This is different than the regular Miata, this one has like a coupe-like design that’s why it’s called a retractable fastback.  It’s a fun car.

If you want a second vehicle or a vehicle just for the weekends where you can take it up on the mountain roads or go on a scenic drive along Pacific Coast Highway, this is the car.

Tom Smith: Welcome to iDriveSoCal the Podcast! All about mobility from the automotive capital of the United States, Southern California! Tom Smith here with the good Professor Mr. Clinton Quan! Say hello Clinton!

Clinton Quan: Hi, Tom!

Tom Smith: This here podcast we’re doing… if you can hear all the background noise that is because we are here at the Orange County Auto Show a.k.a. the OC Auto Show. And we are on the tail end of the media event.

So, the auto show is getting its final preparations before the masses start rolling in here. So, you can hear some, some background vacuuming and hopefully, we’ll get a little bit of pounding and slamming around of last minute items to just enhance the overall podcast experience.

“Retractable fastback, not to be confused with a convertible.”

Tom Smith: So, the Professor got here a little bit earlier than I did. I’ve basically come onto the floor show, said hi to the main PR media types and set up. So, the Professor’s seen the show. This piece we’re going to do is on the test drive of the 2019 Mazda Miata.

Clinton Quan: Yes, it’s the 2019 Mazda Miata RF and the RF stands for retractable fastback.

Tom Smith: Retractable fastback, not to be confused with a convertible.

Clinton Quan: Correct.

Tom Smith: Because that’s basically what it is, right?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay. Retractable fastback is kind of a cool twist on convertible, though.

Convertible vs. Retractable Fastback

Clinton Quan: Yes, but this is different than the regular Miata, which has the… This one has like a coupe-like design that’s why it’s called a retractable fastback.

Tom Smith: So, there is, so there is a convertible Mia… Well, I mean all Miatas are convertibles, are they not?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, this one is a different type of convertible and that’s why they call it retractable fastback?

Clinton Quan: Yes. It looks like a coupe.

Tom Smith: Okay. We’re going to have pictures of that on the iDriveSoCal post, of course at iDrivesocal.com. But, describe the difference between the what the regular convertible is as opposed to the retractable fastback.

Clinton Quan: Well, the retractable fastback, as I mentioned, it looks like a coupe, so there’s a small window in the back. And when you scroll through the photos you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.

“…it looks like a coupe, so there’s a small window in the back.”

Whereas the regular convertible the top just goes straight down and there’s no back window. So, it looks like your typical convertible.

Tom Smith: Are they both … Is the convertible soft top and the retractable fastback hard top?

Clinton Quan: It’s a hard top, I believe. The retractable fastback.

Tom Smith: Okay. So, there’s a big differentiator right there, too.

Clinton Quan: Yeah and it’s quite a bit more. The retractable fastback. There are two trim levels, club and grand touring. The grand touring is the top line trim. That’s the one I drove and that one starts at around $33,000. The club is just a little bit less. It starts around $32,000.

Tom Smith: Gotcha. And to be clear the OC auto show is very, very big on test drives. I believe they have over…

Media Day & Test Drives

For media day here or the media half-day that they’re doing they I have, I think, three or four test drives that they are making available to us. But, when the show opens later on this afternoon and throughout the Thursday/Friday set…

And, if you can hear the vacuum cleaner is actually getting closer, which is fantastic. It’s a nice touch. Sorry about that folks!

Tom Smith: So, the 150 different test drives, I believe, they’re doing throughout the time period of the show, is that correct?

Clinton Quan: There’s 150 different vehicles, I believe.

Tom Smith: Right.

Clinton Quan: That’s what they’re saying.

Tom Smith: That you can test drive?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: So, when you mentioned three earlier, that’s three different manufactures but there’s definitely more than three models.

Tom Smith: Oh, currently?

Clinton Quan: Yes.

“And, if you can hear the vacuum cleaner is actually getting closer, which is fantastic. It’s a nice touch.”

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Because you can drive pretty much any of the Mazdas. I believe the CX-5, the CX-9, the Miata, which I drove, the Mazda 3, the Mazda 6. So, I just named all five vehicles, right there. And then for Jaguar an Land Rover, there’s probably, at least, six, seven different vehicles.

Tom Smith: But, for everybody listening, they’re not here on media day, anyways. So …

Clinton Quan: Yeah.

Tom Smith: But, when they come there’s going to be all kinds of different stuff for them to.

Clinton Quan: And, that will start at four o’clock.

Tom Smith: Four o’clock today, which is Thursday but this is a podcast, so when you’re listening to this you’re going to be listening to it. We are going to get this podcast out early, though.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

The Miata RF Drive

Tom Smith: So, the Professor, the good Professor Mr. Clinton Quan drove the 2019 Mazda Miata RF, which by the way stands for retractable-

Clinton Quan: Fastback.

Tom Smith: Fastback and tell us about it.

Clinton Quan: Well, the big change for the 2019 Mazda Miata RF is that it’s getting a more powerful engine.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: Horsepower has increased by 26 to 181 horsepower and torque has gone up 3 to 151 lb-ft torque. And, the Miata features a two-liter inline for a normally aspirated engine.

“…it is very lightweight. So, with that power to weight ratio, it’s a fun car…”

Tom Smith: Gotcha! Now, that doesn’t sound like a heck of a lot of horsepower when we’re talking about cars with 300, 400, 600 horsepower. However, the Miata is a very small car and very light-weight car.

So, when we talk about power to weight ratio that has a lot, so that’s going to be… and it’s a small car. So, that’s going to be a very fun to car drive, even though we’re talking about 181-horse.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. It doesn’t sound like a lot of horsepower. Nowadays, we’re talking about cars with 200, 300 horsepower. But, what you have to remember is that the Miata, as you mentioned, it is a very small car.  And when we’re saying very small we’re talking about the size of something like a sub-compact, not the size of like a Corolla or a Civic.

We’re talking something more like the size of a Honda Fit or a Toyota Yaris and as Tom mentioned it is very lightweight. So, with that power to weight ratio it’s a fun car and you’ll notice that power differentiation as soon as you step on that gas.

The Test Route

Tom Smith: So, you… what’s the setup here at the OC auto show? Is there a kind of dedicated outside area around the streets that they take you on? Or do they toss you the keys or how does it work?

Clinton Quan: Well, from my experience and based on my experience today each manufacturer has their own route.

Tom Smith: Okay.

Clinton Quan: So, for Mazda it’s not a very long route. Basically, you’re going to go downstairs. There’s one level … basically, there’s one main level for the auto show and for the Mazda test drive and for most manufacturers it’s below the main level.

“A break in the vacuum cleaning. Thank you so much.”

So, you’ll register, pick the vehicle of your choice, you’ll drive out onto the side street, drive it up to Katella and then you’ll go west on Katella. You’ll get to step on it, make a U-turn down several signalized intersections and then take it back to the convention center.

Tom Smith: Is somebody with you?

Clinton Quan: There is someone who will ride shotgun with you. A Mazda representative.

Tom Smith: Okay, alright. And they’re answering questions about the vehicle and all that?

Clinton Quan: Yes. They-

Tom Smith: A break in the vacuum cleaning. Thank you so much.

New Backup Camera

Clinton Quan: They should be quite knowledgeable. They’re product specialists for Mazda and they’ll have all the info on the changes for the vehicles. One of the new changes is there is a backup camera for the 2019 Miata.

Tom Smith: Which is a nice touch, but at the same time we’re talking about such a small vehicle. It’s not that… I mean you almost have, especially with the top down you almost have a 360-degree view of your surroundings and the vehicle because it’s so small and you sit so upright in it. But…

Clinton Quan: If there ever was a vehicle you didn’t need one it might be this one.

“…you can take it up on the mountain roads or go on a scenic drive along Pacific coast highway, this is the car.”

Tom Smith: You know what, though? There so standard practice. I mean some manufacturers are… I read a headline recently they’re talking about the rear view mirrors are going to be a thing of the past, that it’s going to be rear view cameras.

Clinton Quan: Yes. Well, yeah.

Tom Smith: We can slide off on a tangent so easily. Everybody listening knows that. The Professor and I. So, what did you think of the drive?

Clinton Quan: Oh, it’s… this a fun car. If you want a second vehicle or a vehicle just for the weekends where you can take it up on the mountain roads or go on a scenic drive along Pacific coast highway, this is the car. It’s affordable. It’s something that’s obviously very reliable. Since it’s…

Mazda Miata Drivers & New Additions

Tom Smith: It’s a great car for a single person, too!

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: But, you’re not going to get a lot of groceries in there. You’re certainly not going be… No one’s going to be calling you to ask for your assistance in moving.

Clinton Quan: Well, great for singles or couples.

Tom Smith: Well, okay. But, yeah. But, there’s literally two seats, right? There’s no back seat, whatsoever?

Clinton Quan: Correct. There’s only two seats, yes.

Tom Smith: But, it is a really, really fun little car to drive. Now, is it… the 2019 is it refreshed at all? It’s not all new, right?

Clinton Quan: It is not all new. It is refreshed.

Professor’s Top-3
1. Increased Horsepower – now 181-hp
2. Styling – that Miata thing
3. Fun-to-drive-factor

Tom Smith: It is refreshed.

Clinton Quan: Yeah, so that’s why it features the new engine.

Tom Smith: The bigger engine.

Clinton Quan: And the backup camera and it also has a telescopic steering wheel.

Tom Smith: That’s cool.

Clinton Quan: Yes.

Tom Smith: Anything else about the Miata? The inside/outside tech, drive?

Clinton Quan: It’s got a new smart city braking system to avoid collisions with pedestrians.

Tom Smith: Makes sense. Okay. Top three things?

Clinton Quan: Top three things. I’d definitely have to go with the increased horsepower. Definitely makes it a lot more fun. Love the Mazda Miata styling and then the fun to drive factor.

Tom Smith: Yeah.

Clinton Quan: Yeah. Those are definitely my top three.

Tom Smith: I had a buddy that had one of those back in the college days and it was a heck of a lot fun to drive back then. I haven’t driven one since. I need to. Maybe I’ll go for a test drive.

A League of Its Own

Clinton Quan: Yeah, you should go for a test drive and really there’s nothing else out there on the market. There’s no true competitor. The closest true competitor might be the Suburau BRZ and Toyota 86 but those aren’t convertibles.

Tom Smith: Yeah, they’re not convertibles. That’s a completely different drive.

Clinton Quan: And they’re a little bit bigger. But, that would be the closest. Other than that, there’s really nothing else out there.

Tom Smith: Okay. And the price points, again, were?

Clinton Quan: About $32,000 for the Club and then for the top line, which is the Grand Touring at about $33,000. So, not a big price difference.

“About $32,000 for the Club and then for the top line, which is the Grand Touring at about $33,000.”

Tom Smith: A thousand-dollar difference, what are you getting?

Clinton Quan: Yeah, I think it’s at thousand one-hundred-dollar difference.

Tom Smith: What are you getting though for that?

Clinton Quan: I actually don’t know.

Tom Smith: Professor! I’ve got the Professor stumped! Okay. Professor Quan thank you so much, as always!

Here at the Orange County Auto Show. Media Day. The tail end of the media day, as it’s getting ready to fire up. As I said, we’re going to get this podcast out early!

We’re going to get it out… so, you’ll probably be listening to this as you still have the opportunity to get down to the Orange County Auto Show, which is going on October fourth through the seventh. Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday and again you got 150 different test drives that you can go on. And just a great family friendly thing to do and experience.

Tom Smith: So, Professor thanks again! We’re going to sync up again after you go on another test drive. And for iDriveSoCal I am Tom Smith! Thank you very much for listening!