We fell in love with the MK4, or ND for hardcore followers, Mazda MX-5. It is the closes the brand has come to reproducing that magic recipe first tasted in the 1989 original. On top of being lighter and retaining a keen sense of fun behind the wheel, it also bought with it origami inspired looks that proved to be head turning. This is the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF and it presents itself as more than just a tin-top variation of the sports car.
Whilst the RF retains the long bonnet and short rear overhang of its sibling, its silhouette is notably changed. Follow those familiar creases along its surface, up onto the solid roofline, and down a proud set of buttresses. The addition of these highly sculpted rear elements totally changes the profile of the car. Roof up or down, it is a handsome thing to look at and our top specification test car finished in Ceramic paint looked the part. Visually it comes across as something rather special and absolutely something which turns heads in the high street.
The interior of the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF will be familiar to anyone who has driven the standard car. Its architecture is identical incorporating a simplistic, driver focused, ethos to the two-seat cockpit. A leather lined dashboard outlined with neat stitching hosts Mazda’s usual infotainment display. It’s ergonomic shortcut buttons and joystick are mounted on a dividing element of the console between driver and passenger. A clearly laid out instrument binnacle puts the rev counter front and centre. Heated leather seats are mounted low in the car for a great driving position. Lower the roof and the the rear deck does an intricate dance the metal panel is folded away in 12 seconds. The clever packaging of the roof means that it doesn’t actually impede the 130 litres of boot space offered in the RF.
Behind the raked headlights of this MX-5 is the 2.0 litre naturally aspirated SkyActiv engine. Producing 158 BHP and 148lb ft of torque, it is slightly more long legged than the rev happy 1.5 also offered. 0-62 MPH takes 7.4 seconds, of which is actually just 0.1 seconds slower than the convertible. Cruising the coastline of England, the little MX-5 can’t help but make you smile. It’s small dimensions make it nimble and on the move refinement isn’t bad at all. Obviously the larger alloy wheels of the 2.0 litre models give a firmer ride, but it is far from unbearable. With the roof up it is notably quieter than the convertible, and when it is down there is less wind turbulence rushing around the cabin. It must be said that, at speeds above 50 MPH or so, there is a vortex of air that forms and causes loud rushing of the wind. To be totally honest this only becomes an irritation if you have the roof down on the motorway, and in reality, who does that? Speaking of the M27, the larger capacity engine has no trouble in this environment and can swiftly disclose of dawdlers. Place the MX-5 on some challenging stretches of tarmac and it is at home. Plant your foot firmly on the floor and feel the petrol engine grow stronger as the needle chases the redline. A satisfyingly mechanical shift into the next gear starts the process all over again. The MX-5 RF weighs 45kg more than standard, thanks to its electric roof gizmos, but unless you drive the cars back-to-back I doubt you would notice the difference. Changes have been made to the steering, suspension, and anti-roll bars, resulting an ever so slightly sharper sports car. Turn-in is immediate and the lessened body roll boosts agility. The connected feeling through the steering is joyous, as is the feedback through the brake pedal. Leaping from apex to apex in this machine is enough to satisfy enthusiasts no end. The masterful balance that this chassis has is the motoring equivalent of “Starry Night over the Rhone” by Vincent van Gogh. A pure linear power delivery allows the driver to accurately conduct the engine with the short-throw transmission delivering with every flick of the wrist. On top of all of that, Mazda claim it will do 40.9 MPG combined.
The 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF has graduated from simply being a highly appreciated motoring icon, to an object of true desire. As well as retaining the core driver pleasing attributes of the car on which it is based, the RF delivers an aesthetic that is just downright sexy. This car at £23,095 it clearly separates itself from the base model. How good is the RF in the real world? I want one more than my next breath.