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First drive: Mazda MX-5 RF. Image by Mazda.

First drive: Mazda MX-5 RF
The addition of a folding hard top roof adds refinement in the shape of the Mazda MX-5 RF.

   



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Mazda MX-5 RF

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

A new hard folding roof goes beyond making the Mazda MX-5 RF that bit more practical; it represents a new second model that is certain to appeal to an even wider audience. With the same engine range and only a minimal additional weight penalty, the MX-5 RF retains much of the same impressive handling characteristics of its roadster sibling.

Test Car Specifications

Model tested: Mazda MX-5 RF Sport Nav
Price: 24,795 as tested; range starts at 22,195
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Body style: two-door, two-seat convertible
CO2 emissions: 142g/km (Band F, 145 per year)
Combined economy: 46.3mpg
Top speed: 126mph
0-62mph: 8.6 seconds
Power: 131hp at 7,000rpm
Torque: 150Nm at 4,800rpm

What's this?

The MX-5 RF is the second model to join Mazda's range of sports cars and is a variation on the familiar soft top roadster. It uses a hard folding roof that, when in place, gives the car a more coupe-like appearance. When the roof is open, the 'flying buttresses' behind the driver's head remain in place, essentially turning it into a targa.

How does it drive?

With the exception of the different roof components, the RF is mechanically identical to the regular MX-5. It does carry a small weight penalty, of 45kg, but that isn't enough to have any noticeable impact on the performance of the car, though the 1.5-litre SkyActiv-G petrol engine isn't big on torque, with a modest 150Nm on offer. That peak figure doesn't arrive until the tacho needle is just shy of the 5,000rpm mark, either, so to extract the most from the naturally aspirated four-cylinder you do need to work it hard. It's a good thing then that the six-speed manual gearbox is one of the slickest in the business. Its short throw across the gate and mechanical feel make it a joy to use.

The steering is nicely weighted and suits the car's handling characteristics well. Were it any lighter, it wouldn't feel quite as involving to drive, and that's one of the primary attributes of the latest generation MX-5. As you sit low and very much into the cabin, the sensation of speed is increased. Even threading the Mazda down a winding road at 50mph feels more rewarding than it ought to.

To compensate for the weight and positioning of the new roof mechanicals, Mazda retuned the suspension slightly. The alterations are minor; in fact, it's hard to notice difference between the regular roadster and the RF. Across most road surfaces the ride quality is just the right side of soft, so everyday commuting is certainly possible. It's more likely the limited cargo space will be an issue for daily driving. Even with the roof open, boot space isn't affected, as the top stows away into its own compartment. What can be a problem, however, is wind noise. The shape of the buttresses behind your head catches the air once you get above 40mph, leading to what can be excessive amounts of wind noise. It's enough to make you want to pull over and close the roof again.

Verdict

With its alternative styling, the MX-5 RF is a great addition to the Mazda range and offers something more than merely a hard top roof on a roadster. It looks and, to a degree, feels like a different model. Yes, it's noisy and windy when the roof is folder, but when closed the Mazda feels more refined than the soft top equivalent. Add to that the sense of increased security offered by that roof, and it is easy to see how this MX-5 looks set to seduce a whole new audience.

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Exterior Design

4 4 4 4 4 Interior Ambience

3 3 3 3 3 Passenger Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Luggage Space

3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 3.5 Safety

4 4 4 4 4 Comfort

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Driving Dynamics

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 Powertrain


Dave Humphreys - 20 Jan 2017



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2017 Mazda MX-5 RF. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda MX-5 RF. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda MX-5 RF. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda MX-5 RF. Image by Mazda.2017 Mazda MX-5 RF. Image by Mazda.








 

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