Review: 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

Review: 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF
Review: 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

A folding fastback roof makes this MX-5 stand out from the crowd. For better or for worse?

The MX-5 RF is what people used to call a coupe-cabrio. Its name stands for Retractable Fastback, and unlike the other tin-tops that have made up a surprisingly high percentage of MX-5 sales in the past, it looks very different indeed from the standard model.

What is it, exactly? It’s an MX-5 whose roof folds away to leave a pair of distinctive flying buttresses in place behind the cabin. It looks distinctive, but it costs £2000 more which is also distinctive in its own way.

Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 160PS

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★★★★☆
Price: £23,095
Engine: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 158bhp
Torque: 148lb/ft
Gearbox: Six-speed manual
Kerb weight: 1120kg
Top speed: 134mph
0-62mph: 7.4sec
Economy: 40.9mpg (combined)
CO2/tax band: 161g/km, 29%

It’s also heavier, to the tune of 45kg – most of which, naturally, is so positioned as to lift the car’s centre of gravity. The suspension and chassis have been retuned to counter this, and some of that extra weight comes from additional sound-deadening material added in a bid to make this the most refined MX-5 there is.

It works, up to a point. That point comes shortly before you reach the national speed limit.

Until then, it’s clearly quieter than the standard MX-5, giving it a level of hush to go with its excellent ride. But go beyond it and whether the roof is up or down, wind noise will be your constant companion.

That’s a big old bore, but the car itself is as much fun as ever. It’s a trace slower thanks to that extra weight, but we’re talking 7.4 seconds instead of 7.3 so tell it to the Marines. From behind the wheel, the engine feels as up-for-it as ever and the chassis remains the very picture of agility.

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As before, you’ll find yourself steering just for fun. The same goes for changing gear, too; you can get the RF with an auto box, but why on earth would a person do such a thing out of choice?

Between the visceral joy of steering it, changing gear in it and feeling the sublime balance with which it takes every corner, the MX-5 is as great a treat for the senses as ever.

As great, but not greater. Which you can’t say about the sum you’ll pay for the privilege of enjoying all this. So is the RF worth the extra £2000?

If you simply wouldn’t buy a soft-top if your life depended on it, yes. Maybe, at least. If Mazda had managed to carry off this MX-5 without its refinement crumbling at high speed, though, we’d be saying definitely.

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