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Driven: 2024 Mazda MX-5 RF. Image by Mazda.

Driven: 2024 Mazda MX-5 RF
Mazda has given its folding hard-top MX-5 a revamp once again, but what difference has it made to the popular convertible?

   



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2024 Mazda MX-5 RF

4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5 4.5

The current, fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 is getting long in the tooth, having been with us for almost a decade, but you'd be hard-pushed to guess it. That's partly because it still looks so good, and Mazda's designers have done next to nothing to change the design in all that time. Until now, that is. The changes are minor, but they are noticeable, so has Mazda spoiled its fabulous roadster, or has it made something brilliant even better?

Test Car Specifications

Model: 2024 Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive Line
Price: Mazda MX-5 from £28,015; RF from £29,915; £34,905 as tested
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Transmission: six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
Power: 184hp
Torque: 205Nm
Emissions: 153g/km
Economy: 41.5mpg
0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
Top speed: 137mph
Boot space: 127 litres

Styling

We weren't sold on the MX-5's design at first, and the folding hard-top RF has always been a bit of an oddball in the range, but time has been kind to the little Mazda. As have Mazda's tweaks. They aren't immediately obvious, but if you look closely you'll spot some new headlights and some fresh tail lights, while the Aero Grey paintwork fitted to this example is another new feature. And those who really know their MX-5 onions might have noticed the new alloy wheel design for this car's 17-inch rims. But if you didn't notice all of that, don't worry. Nor did we until we looked at Mazda's press blurb...

Interior

As with the external design, Mazda has made small tweaks to the MX-5's cabin, rather than changing things willy-nilly. The big difference is the new screen, which is slightly bigger than before and comes with a cleaner, more modern interface. It's a small change, especially as it's still controlled using the little rotary wheel in the centre console, but that just makes it easier to use on the move. As a result, it's a useful tweak that has improved the only major weak point in the MX-5's interior.

Aside from that, it's still easy on the eye and made with high-quality materials, which gives it a semi-premium feel you don't really expect from a car that costs less than £30,000. Add in the fact it all feels well bolted together and you've got quite a pleasant place to sit, albeit one that is a bit cramped.

Practicality

Space in the MX-5 is not what we might call generous, and the cabin is just as cramped as ever. In fact, it's more cramped than the old, third-generation MX-5 'NC' that was replaced by this 'ND' version in 2015. That means anyone over six feet tall will find it a bit tight, especially in the RF with its more unforgiving roof. Hit a bump hard and you could well find your head banging the tin top. And there's little space for luggage, either, with no glovebox and a tight boot that measures 130 litres in the Roadster and 127 litres in the RF. Both might work on a weekend away, but a week's holiday may require some inventive packing.

Performance

Mazda hasn't made many changes to the MX-5's engine range over the years, so the 2024 MX-5 models still get a choice of 1.5- and 2.0-litre petrol engines. The former sends 132hp to the rear wheels via its six-speed manual gearbox, while the latter does the same with a much beefier 184hp.

It's the 2.0-litre engine we tested here, and though we like the little 1.5 for its eagerness and underdog status, the larger engine is the one that turns the MX-5 into a serious sports car. With a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds, it's encroaching on hot hatchback territory in terms of straight-line speed, while the snappiness of the manual gearbox and the growl of the engine all make it feel so much more engaging. And with the power going to the back wheels, there's more scope for fun on a track.

But despite the performance and the engagement, the MX-5 is surprisingly efficient in both 1.5- and 2.0-litre forms. Our test car achieved well over 40mpg on test, despite some enthusiastic use of the power available, and the 1.5 is capable of achieving around 45mpg. Not bad for a sports car.

Ride & Handling

While Mazda may not have made major changes to the engines, it has made a small change to the way the car drives, adding a new stability control setting thatís designed to be less intrusive than before, while still keeping things safe. To be honest, most customers are unlikely to explore its limits in the dry, but the system does allow a bit more slip before it cuts in to tell you youíre being an idiot.

That allows drivers to explore the brilliance of the MX-5ís design without worrying too much about getting bitten. And the MX-5 is definitely brilliant, no matter whether you choose the conventional Roadster or the RF. The steering is almost perfect, with a sharp response and a delicate feel, even though there isnít that much weight to it, while the balance of the car is sublime. It feels poised and agile at every moment, and though there is a bit of body roll (even in this 2.0-litre car with its sportier suspension set-up), it always feels stable.

Of course, it isnít the most comfortable thing in the world, and the 1.5-litre car, with its marginally softer set-up, is probably going to make life more enjoyable on your daily commute, but even the 2.0-litre car isnít too stiff. You feel the bumps Ė thatís kind of important in a sports car Ė but they donít shake you to the core.

What does leave you a little ruffled, though, is the roof structure in this RF version of the MX-5. At motorway speeds, the rear roll hoop makes an irritating whistle in the wind, and though the RF is fractionally more refined than its sibling with the roof up, itís less refined when the roof is down. And it doesnít seem to reduce turbulence in the cabin, either.

Mazda has also had to fit some irritating safety tech in the shape of speed limit warnings and the like. Itís all a legal requirement, but itís a pain in the backside. Helpfully, though, Mazda has fitted a mute button that allows you to silence the bonging and enjoy your drive in peace.

Value

The MX-5 has always been among the best-value sports cars out there, and that hasn't changed. The basic Roadster Prime-Line comes in at £28,015, and the cheapest RF is still less than £30,000. Both come with alloy wheels, climate control and satellite navigation, but neither is available with the 2.0-litre engine. The mid-range Exclusive-Line versions are the more attractive choice, anyway, with a bit of extra kit for only a fraction more money. Starting at £30,015 for the Roadster and £31,915 for the RF, they get leather upholstery, a Bose sound system and keyless entry, all thrown in as standard. The 2.0-litre engine commands a premium of just over £2,000.

Verdict

Mazda's light touch has paid off with the MX-5, and though the changes may be subtle, they are well judged. As a result, the little Mazda is better than ever, and it remains our favourite two-seat roadster. However, we still aren't sold on the RF body, which makes the cabin noisier at speed and impinges on practicality, but as Mazda is still offering a choice of roof designs, that's no great problem.



James Fossdyke - 17 May 2024



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2024 Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive Line. Image by Mazda.

2024 Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive Line. Image by Mazda.2024 Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive Line. Image by Mazda.







 

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