Love At First Sight
Mazda MX5 RF
Lovely. That’s my first, instinctive reaction to the sight of the Mazda MX5 RF. Mazda has used the addition of a tin top to the MX5 as an opportunity to play with the styling and the result is stunning. Its new roofline reminds me of a classic Ferrari Dino or Triumph GT6 (also an Italian design from the ‘60’s) in the way the roof buttress slopes to meet the rising high hip of the rear wheel arch. It’s beautifully proportioned and has so much more panache than the rag-top or indeed the old folding hardtop.
It’s also a clever, effective design. As you’d expect, when raised, the tin roof makes for a more comfortable, refined and quieter cabin than the rag-top. But at the touch of a button the mid-section of the roof lifts, Targa style, and folds away invisibly underneath the rear buttresses, which then serve to give some protection from the elements while allowing you to enjoy proper al fresco driving. It really is the best of all worlds – stylish, comfortable and invigorating.
It’s also worth noting that not only does the rear folding roof look great in isolation, it also blends seamlessly with the MX5’s overall design. It’s almost as though the MX5’s curves, lines and general shape were designed from the outset with the ‘Targa’ roof in mind.
Mazda has tweaked the RF’s chassis adding more strength and a tad more firmness to try to preserve the rag-tops excellent handling. And it works - you’d never guess the RF is 45kg heavier (having said that, it’s still way lighter than most ‘sports’ cars). Mazda’s ‘SkyActiv’ philosophy of minimal weight lends itself perfectly to a stripped down, two seater sportscar. Combined with a cracking suspension set up and lovely direct, balanced steering that provides oodles of feedback, you have a car that grips likes a limpet and puts a huge smile on your face as you throw it through corners.
Performance, though not outrageous, is brisk and certainly fast enough for a car that majors on fun rather than outright speed. With 158bhp, the 2.0 litre engine is good for 134mph and a 0-62 of 7.4 seconds giving you plenty of mid-range punch for overtaking. But that’s only half the story. A high compression ratio and the absence of a turbo means it revs freely and comes alive above 2000. With a sweet-as-a-nut gearbox and nimble handling you can get close to supercar levels of fun without having to drive at licence-losing speeds.
Even though the MX5 is all about fun there are practical considerations to factor in. It’s a close-fitting cabin, as you’d expect from a small lightweight sports car but still comfortable, even for my 6ft plus frame. The boot, whilst usable, is compact. That aside, there aren’t any compromises. The driving position is great and the seats are supportive, even after a day’s driving. The dash is clear and well laid out whilst fit and finish are up to usual Mazda standards with knurled chrome switch-gear, carbon fibre and ebony-effect inserts. There’s also plenty of kit, such as a snazzy 7 inch infotainment screen.
At speed and with the roof up the RF is pretty refined – you can hear some wind noise but it’s not intrusive and it’s certainly a step up from the fabric convertible. Despite the firm suspension it irons out road imperfections well and soaked up the worst the Vale’s backroads could throw at it. To live with day in day out, it would be fine.
To sum up, the MX5 RF maintains all the attributes of the full convertible but dials in more sophistication, refinement and style. What’s not to love?
Thanks to Victoria Park Mazda,
Hadfield Road, Cardiff.
Top speed: 134mph