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The Mazda MX-5 RF: Fast, furious and fun to drive

The Mazda MX-5 RF.
The Mazda MX-5 RF.

The MX-5 RF is the folding hardtop version of Mazda’s all conquering two seater sports car.

The initials stand for “Retractable Fastback” and refer to the electrically operated metal roof that folds down at the touch of a button.

The MX-5 comes with an electrically operated retractable roof.

The MX-5 RF costs around £1,800 more than the soft-top version of the MX-5, with prices starting at £26,255. Buyers can pick from two petrol engines, a 1.5 litre, 132bhp unit or a 2.0 litre with 184bhp.

I drove the top of the range GT Sport Tech with the bigger engine, priced at £32,570.
In a lightweight car 184bhp goes a long way. The MX-5 RF gets from 0-62mph in just 6.8 seconds and has a top speed of 137mph.

The “soul red” Mazda MX-5 is a real head turner.

My test car came in Mazda’s fantastic “soul red crystal” colour with cream leather seats. It’s a fabulous combination that makes an already good looking car a real head turner.

You have to pack light if you’re travelling in an MX-5. There’s very little storage space in the cabin. No glove box, no door bins, a tiny central compartment barely big enough for a phone. Even the cup holders are removable.

Limited storage in the cabin but some decent boot space.

That said, the boot is quite deep and can swallow a surprising amount with careful packing.

My partner and I drove the MX-5 from Dundee to Killin to take part in the Glen Ogle ultramarathon. Somehow we managed to fit in two small holdalls, carrier bags with running shoes, shopping bags with snacks for the race and beers for afterwards.

A real sports car that’s fun to drive.

Driving through the Sma’ Glen on a bright November afternoon with the top down, the heater on and a big grin on both our faces is an experience I’ll remember for some time.

Unlike many drop-tops, such as the Fiat 500 or Mini convertibles, the MX-5 is a true sports car. It’s fantastic fun to drive. The engine revs beautifully, gear changes are slick and fast, and you feel a real sense of connection to the road.

With two engine sizes, both deliver an exhilarating drive.

Its small size and the fact you’re seated just a few inches from the ground help enhance the excitement. You can enjoy tremendous exhilaration in the MX-5 without even coming close to the speed limit.

Having driven both 1.5 and 2.0 litre versions of the car I would even say the smaller engine serves up just as much fun.

Automatic and manual gearboxes are available.

While the soft-top version of the MX-5 is manual only, Mazda offers an automatic option for the MX-5 RF. However, the slick-shifting, short throw manual gearbox is such an integral part of the little sports car’s driving experience it would feel like sacrilege to go for the auto version.

What I do love is the folding hard top. Purists might say that its (modest) extra weight affects the handling but I’ve driven both soft-top and RF versions of the MX-5 and couldn’t notice the slightest bit of difference.

Clever packing makes the most of the boot space.

Where it does improve things – dramatically – is when it comes to refinement. The additional sound insulation in the metal roof means it’s much quieter with the top up.

You could easily do a long daily commute in the MX-5 RF. Around Dundee, the MX-5’s dinky size and tiny turning circle make supermarket car parks a breeze. Its light weight (the car weighs just 1,300kg) and slippery shape help nudge fuel economy north of 40mpg.

The best-selling two seater convertible in history.

There is a good reason why the MX-5 is the best selling two seater convertible in history. It’s excellent value. It’s fantastic fun to drive. And it has the reliability and longevity Mazdas are renowned for.

Every other MX-5 driver I encountered during my time with the car gave me a blip of their lights or a wave. Owning an MX-5 is like being part of a happy little club. It’s a club I was delighted to be part of, if even just for a little while.

The Facts

  • Model: Mazda MX-5 RF
  • Price: £32,570
  • 0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 137mph
  • Economy: 40.9mpg
  • CO2 emissions: 155g/km

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