It's been a fun three months driving 'Max' the 2019 Mazda MX-5 RF. There was something I have failed to mention this whole time; the MX-5 is my dream daily driver, but I have always been hesitant in choosing it because of its size and what I thought, its lack of practicality. How wrong I was. More on that soon. So, why would I pick the MX-5 as a daily driver?
- I don’t have a family, so the room does not matter to me
- I get my vitamin D with a convertible on a sunny day
- I love the predictability of a naturally aspirated engine
- I like character in a car
- And spending an absolute fortune on a sports car was not an option
For many MX-5 owners, these are some of the reasons they purchase the world's best selling two-seater sports cars.
The masculine yet cute fastback design of the RF gives it a completely different look over the soft-top. Mazda has taken a giant gamble messing with something that has worked since 1989, but the company has done the MX-5 badge justice. It’s a stunner.
Let’s talk business. The RF starts at $39,400 before-on-roads, $5310 more than the entry variant soft-top. For the 2019 update, the MX-5 gets an increase of power to its 2.0-litre petrol engine, and a rear view camera.
You do get to choose the transmission, with a six-speed automatic or manual, but we think it should just have the manual because it is one of the best boxes currently available.
It doesn’t come packed with a lot of the latest safety features, with the main ones being blind-spot monitoring and emergency brake assist. Front and rear parking sensors and parking camera can be optioned for a total of $1155.20.
For a car 3.9 metres long, it’s surprisingly roomy when it comes to leg room, but knee room not so much. My height of five-foot six-inches only left a few centimetres until my head got a bit too close to the roof, so if you are tall, you would need to test-drive one first; or just drive it all the time with the roof down...
Speaking of which, as opposed to the manual roof of the soft-top, the RF is electric. After taking ages to find the tiny button, the roof takes just 12 seconds to open or close and can be operated up to 10km/h.
The driver's information screen shows a neat diagram of the roof operation in real time and requires your finger on that button the entire time, so it’s probably a wise idea to do this before you set off.
For anyone who has back issues, they will struggle getting in and out of the MX-5 as it does sit quite low. The seats are simple but sporty, and appear to also be designed for larger people, which is great. But, for a person with a smaller stature, like me, I found my sides tend to roll out of them when cornering hard.
If you’re on a long road trip, though, they are very comfortable. My passenger even fell asleep. There is no height adjustment, with all controls being manual.
Roof down and heated seats are a blessing when a cool change hits, but going by experience in my classic convertible, cooled seats in summer would've been a nice option on top of the air conditioning when you pull up to the lights and feel the sun beaming down on you.
The whole interior as a package feels very well put together and looks premium. We would recommend optioning a colour other than black for the leather, because once the roof is down, it can really make the car pop.
Cabin storage is always going to be a bit of a struggle in a small two-seater sports car. There is a lockable storage compartment just behind the seats, and we discovered they keep a couple of water bottles quite cool.
The flimsy cupholders are positioned below it and can be incredibly hard to reach from behind. They can be removed as well, with one of them clipping into the passenger-side console, which can invade on leg room. Finding a secure place for your phone within easy reach is a challenge, and it will most likely sit just behind the gearstick where two USB connections are available.
With no closed storage, charging cables will be flying everywhere, not to mention your phone, if you’re a spirited driver.
Bluetooth speakers are conveniently placed right next to your ears on the headrest and the audio is crystal clear. With the roof up or down at 100km/h, the receiver on the phone mentioned the driver's voice sounded a tad faint, but every word was clearly heard.
Once the windows were down and the roof too, wind noise increased that much the receiver could no longer hear the driver, but obviously this would get better at slower speeds.
MZD Connect provides the car's infotainment on a 7.0-inch touchscreen. The system has always divided many at CarAdvice, but I haven’t had too many dramas with it. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto can be retro-fitted for $494.99.
Satellite navigation input can be a bit slow, but the whole system is easy to find your way around, especially with the shortcut buttons around the rotary dial.
Starting up the MX-5 can sound a bit buzzy at first, but you know you’re going to be in for a lot of fun. Unlike nearly every car on the road, this baby does not have any driving modes in the manual. That’s right, no sport, eco or race mode. Just driving mode. How pure is that?
And while we’re on the subject of pure, the 2.0-litre engine is just that – no sign of a turbo – just naturally aspirated. Producing 135kW of power and 205Nm of torque, it is a zippy thing.
It is also predictable, as I mentioned earlier. You put your foot flat to the floor and you know exactly how it’s going to react. It hasn’t got too much power for it to be scary, more so the right amount of power.
The exhaust note isn’t exactly amazing, but it also isn’t bad either. Mazda’s claimed fuel economy reading is 7L/100km, and we achieved a lower reading of 6.6L/100km. That’s pretty impressive.
Using the six-speed manual is pure happiness. You would be bonkers to choose the auto for an extra $2000. The gearknob is the perfect size to fit in your hand and is in the right position. The clutch pedal is placed close to the floor, so your heel can remain on the floor. It takes the weight off your leg a little, especially when in stop/start traffic.
Weighing in at 1080kg, it is 100kg heavier than the soft-top. Just think of it as an extra fully grown man in the car.
The MX-5 has dynamic stability control and it does work very well, as I discovered when putting the throttle down at the wrong moment while cornering. It brought the car back into line without a lot of correction at all.
There is a fair amount of body roll, which can surprise you at first, but once you lean with it, you don't even notice it. The 205/45 tyres are wrapped around 17-inch alloy wheels, with double-wishbone suspension up front and multi-link at the rear.
Over rougher country roads, the rear-view mirror vibrates, and the gearstick shakes over any type of road, but that is a good thing – it really connects you with the road and the car. Considering it’s a sports car, it can handle speed humps with surprising ease driving over them at 35–38km/h.
The view through the windscreen is nice with the long bonnet and bold wheel arches. However, the bonnet dips down at the front, and you forget how long it is when you’re parking. Optioning the front parking sensors is worth the money.
Meanwhile, as there isn’t much metal behind you, sticking your head out to reverse park is easy. The side mirrors are small, and you can’t see a whole lot out of them. Thanks to the RF design, vision is more impaired than the soft-top, so head checks are made that little bit harder. Luckily, blind-spot monitoring helps those lane changes.
Being a small convertible sports car, you’re going to expect some noise to seep into the cabin. With the roof up, tyre noise can be heard, although it’s not overwhelming.
Top down, and noticeable wind noise is heard from 70km/h from the top of each side of the windscreen. Keeping the windows up definitely keeps the wind levels down, but to get the ultimate topless experience, those windows need to come down.
The boot can be opened by the key or a button hidden just above the registration plate, which can take some time finding.
It is a tiny yet deep 127L boot (same as the soft-top) and can swallow two small overnight bags for a couples' weekend. A largish hard-cased suitcase is not recommended, as you would barely be able to fit it through the opening.
The MX-5 comes with Mazda’s five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty. Service intervals are every 10,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first. The first, third and fifth services come at $307 each, and the second and fourth at $350.
After spending a decent amount of time behind my ‘next car’, is it still on my daily driver bucket list? Absolutely. The MX-5 is known for its fun factor, and while the RF steps away from the iconic soft-top styling, that fun factor level has not wavered whatsoever.
2019 Mazda MX-5 RF
- Odometer reading: 5623 km
- Travel since previous update: 1569 km
- Fuel consumption since previous update: 6.6L/100kms
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