The new Mazda MX-5 RF goes right to the heart of the dilemma of what Bertie Wooster used to call “the jolly old two-seater”, says Andrew English in The Daily Telegraph. Such sports cars are expensive to build because car manufacturers can’t share much in the way of parts with other models, and they sell to a small customer base with “the loyalty and attention span of a Labrador in a larder”. Mazda is therefore sharing the basic platform of its MX-5 two-seater with Fiat’s 124 Spider.
This “Retractable Fastback”, or RF, model, however, is a bit different from your usual two-seater. It has a hardtop with a removable roof panel. In other words, it’s neither a completely sealed hard-top, nor a true wind-in-the-hair convertible, and is designed to appeal to people who want the latter but worry about the practicalities, given the British weather. This is a compromise, but the result is a “pretty” looking sports car, says English. It’s “sprightly” too, thanks to its innovative engine. The car is far from perfect – but it is “hard to resist”.
Using the stubby, precise gear lever truly is one of the pleasures of MX-5 ownership, says John Howell in What Car. It’ll get plenty of use too, because, as with the soft-top model, the 2.0 litre engine is quick but needs plenty of revs to get the best out of it. But this is yet another pleasure: savouring the engine’s free-revving nature and zingy exhaust note, especially with the roof open.
However, to really justify the RF’s sizeable £2,000 premium over the soft-top, you’d expect more refinement and lower wind noise. The car is markedly quieter and more comfortable with the roof up though, says James Taylor in Car magazine, and there’s no penalty to pay in terms of boot space. The RF may be “idiosyncratic and slightly oddly dressed”, but if you “like the cut of the RF’s jib”, and only plan to open the roof occasionally, it has “real appeal”.
Price: from £22,195
Power: 158bhp at 6,000rpm
Top speed: 134mph
0-62mph: 7.4 seconds