Mazda’s new MX-5 RF ‘Raises The Roof’

Japanese car manufacturer, Mazda, has launched a brand-new coupe-cum-cabriolet derivative of its iconic sports car, the MX-5. Called the MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback), it is essentially an MX-5 with an electrically folding hardtop. The idea to introduce the RF was in the plan from the very beginning, thanks in no small part to the fact that the previous-generation MX-5 Roadster Coupe accounted for almost 80 per cent of sales.

It will come as no surprise to learn that the electrically folding hardtop on the new MX-5 RF is the cars party piece. When in place it makes the car look like a coupe, but 13 seconds later the car transforms into a beautifully proportioned open-top sports car. The process of electrically opening the roof is a real joy to witness, as the rear buttresses arch into the air in order to allow the roof to peel backwards before separating in two and folding neatly beneath the rear deck.

The Mazda MX-5 RF enhances the pure joy of driving with a superior power-to-weight ratio, rear-wheel drive and more comfort and technology than ever before. Mazda’s signature KODO (Soul of Motion) design gives the new Mazda MX-5 RF a more aggressive and sculptured look, while retaining the classic coupe cues of a sleek bonnet, set-back seating and a short rear overhang. In fact, one look at the new Mazda MX-5 RF is enough to set pulses racing.

The all-new Mazda MX-5 RF has perfect 50:50 weight balance and a lower centre of gravity, giving it the advantage of responding precisely as the driver intends. Mazda’s MX-5 is the World’s best-selling two-seat sports car and it has earned iconic status in its 29-year history.

Mazda’s new MX-5 RF is available with a choice of 2 SKYACTIV-G petrol engines – a 1.5-litre with 131bhp and a 2.0-litre with 160bhp. Two trim levels are available – a standard RF and an RF GT. The RF model (only available with the 1.5-litre engine) is well equipped and features 16” alloy wheels, LED headlights, automatic air-conditioning, 7” touchscreen, digital radio with 6 speakers, Bluetooth, USB & AUX ports, multimedia commander, electric windows, dynamic stability control, front & side airbags, immobilizer, alarm and cruise control. Upgrade to the RF GT in 1.5-litre engine guise and you will also get adaptive front headlights, leather interior, lane-departure warning system, smart-key entry, rear parking sensors, heated seats, 16” Gun-Metal alloy wheels and a BOSE sound system with 9 speakers. On top of all this, if you opt for the RF GT with the 2.0-litre engine you will also get Bilstein sports suspension, a strut tower bar, limited slip differential, body-coloured door mirrors and 17” alloy wheels.

My test car was a Mazda MX-5 RF GT 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G finished in stunning Soul Red metallic paintwork. This SKYACTIV-G engine is punchy, sounds great and is well matched to the chassis. A six-speed manual gearbox is standard and there is no automatic gearbox option available. Annual road tax for the new MX-5 RF 1.5-litre is €390, while the 2.0-litre commands annual road tax of €570. Fuel consumption as low as 6.1l/100km is possible on a combined driving cycle for the 1.5-litre engine, while this figure rises to 6.9l/100km for the 2.0-litre engine. The 0-100km/h sprint can be completed in 8.6-seconds with the 1.5-litre engine and in just 7.4-seconds in 2.0-litre guise.

Slim LED headlights and a gaping front grille give the MX-5 RF a slightly more aggressive character than its Roadster Coupe predecessor, while round tail-lamps provide a striking light signature in the dark. Whether the hard-top is up or down, the MX-5 RF has a classic silhouette, with the cockpit located towards the rear of the car and a long bonnet stretching out in front.

Whichever model you go for, on the inside, the door tops are coloured to match the exterior paint, adding a flash of colour to the cabin and – according to Mazda – visually connecting the driver to what’s going on outside. They are also sculpted in such a way that airflow, with the hard-top down, is directed to keep the passengers cool while minimising buffeting to their hairstyles.

The new Mazda MX-5 RF’s dash is dominated by an iPad-like, 7” touchscreen, controlled through a rotary dial on the centre console. Underneath that there are three circular dials for the climate control. The instrument panel and air vents are designed to be perfectly symmetrical around the driver, for a cockpit-style feel. Overall, the new MX-5 RF’s cabin is a pleasant place to spend hours of driving fun – and fun is exactly what you will experience behind the wheel.

Boot space in the MX-5 RF is just 3-litres less than that of the roadster model with the folding canvas roof, but cleverly the load area has been reshaped so that it can swallow two carry-on suitcases – something that the Roadster Coupe could not achieve.

With prices starting at just €31,495 (ex-works) the new Mazda MX-5 RF provides drivers with an excellent fun-to-value ratio. The RF GT 2.0-litre model I drove is priced at €37,745. After spending a week behind the wheel of my test car, I can safely say that the letters RF should stand for ‘Real Fun’.