Mazda MX-5 RF

   Perhaps the Mazda PR lady’s coat was a bit of a giveaway: Canada Goose Parkas are rated for temperatures of -30C and below. Devon in February doesn’t get quite that cold I’ll grant you, but to quote more than one motoring writer gathered for the launch Mazda’s new MX-5 RF, “It was bloody freezing up on Dartmoor”.

    Dry, chilly days though are actually perfect for trying out a convertible sports-cars. If anything’s going to find its way into an open-topped car it’s a frigid wind! Also, cold air is denser, so it’s actually performance enhancing – for the engine that is, it has an adverse effect on this particular scribe.

    Fortunately my vertically challenged frame fits nicely under the MX5-RF’s all-new electrically retractable hard-top - taller drivers I fear might struggle a little. Mazda’s RF suffix stands for Retractable Fastback and it’s the name they’ve given to the targa-like aluminium and steel folding roof that glides back at the touch of button without encroaching on the MX5’s already modest boot-space. At the mere flick of a switch on the centre console the RF’s flying buttresses lift upwards whilst the roof panels and rear glass panel simultaneously stow themselves away before the buttress take up their original positons once more. The whole origami-esque folding process takes just 13 seconds and can be executed at speeds of up to 6 MPH. It’s perfect for getting attention on the way out of a car-park.

     With the side windows up, the air-con set to toasty, and the seater heaters deployed it’s possible to enjoy both the MX-5 RF and the scented country air without freezing your vital bits to the core. Although if you’re used to a fully open MX5 you might find the RF is actually a little louder than the soft-top once it’s lost its clever tin hat. Conversations of the shouty kind are required at motorway speeds and you’ll be glad of the extra speakers Mazda have put in the headrests if you want to listen to The Archers on the DAB.

    Conversely with said tin-top in place the MX5-RF is a far quieter place to be than the rag-top. Mazda have fitted more sound-deadening in the rear wheel-arches - and of course the roof is sturdier too - the result of which is a far more refined and quieter roof-up driving experience. So much so that if you’re prepared to pack light – there’s no glovebox or even door pockets – you could happily drive the MX-5 RF from Devon to Dundee. 40.9 MPG means it wouldn’t cost the earth to do so either.

     But which one would you take, the 1.5 or the 2.0 litre?

   Having driven both I’d say, if your budget allows it, go for the bigger motor. Not only does the 2.0 litre get to sixty a whole second quicker than the 1.5, its extra torque makes for more relaxed cruising plus a little extra punch out of the twisty bits. Speccing the extra half-litre capacity also bags you a limited slip-diff, a strut brace and bigger alloys too. The resultant firmer feeling ride 2.0 litre feels more planted, without detriment I hasten to add, to ride comfort. It somehow it suits the more mature feel of RF.

   That said the softer-sprung, revvier and more effervescent, 1.5 is also whole heap of fun. Honestly, I wouldn’t turn my nose up at either engine. Add in the MX5’s beautifully quick steering, wrist-flick precise 6-speed gear box (there’s an auto available – but who’d want that?) and its near toy-like dimensions, and despite the extra 45 kg the folding hard-top adds, the RF feels as every bit nimble as the MX-5 always has.

      A spirited afternoon’s drive down to Salcombe harbour proved The MX-5 RF really is an excellent little thing to drive, and the hard-top means it’s now even more usable even more of the time. The RF commands £2K premium over its soft-topped sister, but even after a cold day on Dartmoor I’d argue that’s a small price to pay for what surely now must be the definitive affordable all-season roadster.



Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 160PS Sport Nav

Engine: SKYACTIV G 1,998cc, 4Cyl, DOHC 16V Petrol

Transmission: 6 speed manual.  Rear Wheel Drive

Power: 158 bhp @ 6000rpm

Torque: 147.5 lbft @ 4600 rpm

Weight: 1,120 kg

0-62mph: 7.4 sec

Max Speed: 134 mph

MPG: 40.9 combined.

CO2: 161 g/km

Price: from £25,695


Many thanks to everyone at Mazda’s UK press office



Liam Bird Liam Bird

I'm Liam Bird, a freelance Motoring Writer based in the South Shropshire Marches. I currently write car reviews and road tests for a number of regional lifestyle magazines and newspapers which are distributed throughout Cheshire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, Staffordshire, Worcestershire, most of Wales and beyond.

As a member of the Welsh Group of Motoring Writers I'm as happy behind the wheel of a super-mini as I am in the latest super-car. I have press accreditation with most of the major motor manufacturers, meaning that as well as always being on the look out for further commissions, I always have a number of cars arriving each month ready to review.

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