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Reportedly the recently updated Mazda MX-5 was so successful in Britain some felt it a “proper” British sports car. Mazda build cars with an uncanny eye for shaving grams off just about every car they make, bringing us the first back in 1989. The MX-5 RF model, (Retractable Fastback) now offers quite different looks, qualities and abilities, with its retractable hardtop roof.


Previously there had been an optional removable hardtop (left at home), but now the roof is permanently part of the car, lowered or raised whenever the weather is right. Furthermore, the captivating design Mazda came up with stows away just the middle parts. Flying buttresses behind are reminiscent of an XJS Jaguar and the Porsche Targa type gap created bestows some mystique and a very different look to the car. Mazda has successfully turned their famous cabriolet into a very desirable pseudo fastback coupe, presenting convincing coupe silhouette roof up or down.

The flying buttresses lift up and back, revealing a cavity for the two-piece central panels to fold into it, then drop back into place, taking approximately 13 seconds, 10kmh speed limited whilst opening or closing. The electrically operated roof hides in the same cavity which would have housed the soft top.

Some may regard the tiny Mazda as a “selfish” car for one plus passenger. Not wrong, but stepping into the car, you quickly realise the MX-5 is a very personal car.

In keeping with the tradition of lightweight and balanced driver’s cars, Mazda has rebalanced the RF model to accommodate the new roof design, and be more rigid, for the weight. Also having the hardtop has meant much more insulation and sound proofing could be provided, and the design minimises wind noise and optimises air flow.

Internally soft top and RF are identical. Sweeping body panels on the outside have found their design repeated onto the door trim, essentially bringing body design elements inside the car. Interior ergonomics are very good, with all switchgear within line of sight. The gear knob placement is excellent, very good for a manual short-throw, with minimal distance knob to wheel.

The car has a good suite of driver assist and safety features, including SatNav, LED Head and Running lights, Blind Spot and Cross Traffic Alerts (one notable exception being reversing cam, but this is a sports car).

The infotainment unit has simple functionality as on the likes of the CX-3 crossover - above the central air-con vent and providing avenues for mobile connectivity, way-finding and other car settings. There is a very useable rotary knob for navigating menus.

Below the air-con controls are pair of USB ports and AUX I/P, for MP3 player connectivity. Given its open-top intentions, the MX-5 comes with seat warmers.

Audio quality is excellent. The sound system features speakers within the headrest, which is a plus, especially driving on the highway with top down.

Boot space is just 130 litres, enough for 2 duffle bags. You could describe this sports car as for those who are able to ''travel light''.

RF performance figures of 118kW of power and 200Nm of torque are modest compared to the Toyota 86 (152kW and 212Nm), but feel more adequate in real life driving, which has a lot to do with weight. Almost 200kg lighter than the Toyota, the RF feels extremely light on its feet, giving that extra dose of playful panache tackling a series of bends.

The 6-speeder gearbox has mechanical feel to it and very smooth operation, making you want to work it harder every gear change. Power delivery is quite linear and throttle response is accurate. Powering around bends the rear responds, giving minor oversteer, but give it the beans and traction control kicks in, keeping the rear well behaved.

What may not be a car for some is certainly a car for those who want direct feel and connection to the road. There are a number of cabriolets out there, but most do not feel this connected. The “Retractable Fastback” also gives you the best of both worlds, and Mazda expects about 60% of MX5 sales to be the RF, in future!

Mazda’s committed engineers have put their dedication into producing one of the best sports cars in the world, since 1989. Being awarded 2016 World car of the Year and World Car Design of the Year, speaks volumes about such the basic fundamentals realised in a car this well built.

For those who would struggle to afford that Porsche Boxster they might be keen on, this car can be a pretty satisfying lower cost alternative.

Servicing is covered by 5-years capped-price program that requires 10,000km/annual check-up. The normal schedule costs $1,030.00 to maintain the RF over the first three years.
  • Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol
  • Power: 118kW at 6,000rpm
  • Torque: 200Nm at 4,600rpm
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual or automatic, rear-wheel-drive
  • Fuel use: 7.0L/100km (manual)
  • Fuel tank: 45 litres
$38,550 plus on-road costs
Servicing is covered by 5-years capped-price program that requires 10,000km/annual check-up. The normal schedule costs $1,030.00 to maintain the RF over the first three years.