When the all-new MX-5 was released in September 2015, Mazda replaced the retractable hardtop model with a soft-top convertible – a retrospective step of taking the MX-5 back to its origins as a lightweight convertible sports car. It was applauded by motoring journalists and enthusiasts as a return to affordable, fun, top-down motoring the Mazda MX-5 had been known for. With a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated SkyActiv engine, the car proved an instant sales success for Mazda.
Unlike the previous model, there was no 2.0-litre engine or retractable hardtop model available with the initial release, and though a 2.0-litre soft-top soon followed in 2016, a hardtop version known as the Mazda MX-5 RF was released in early 2017.
As an owner of the previous retractable hardtop model, I enjoyed the security and warmth of a hardtop during the colder winter months, but also enjoyed the wind in your hair driving experience you got during the spring and summer months with the roof down. I now had to choose between a soft-top or a folding hardtop, and I chose the MX-5 RF.
RF stands for Retractable Fastback, and represents the fact that only the roof and rear window fold down, with the fastback buttress lifting out of the way when the roof folds and then returns to the original position to make a targa-style roof line. As the new MX-5 was shorter than even the first MX-5, Mazda engineers needed a way to fold the hardtop roof into a shorter vehicle, while not reducing the size of the boot.
The retractable roof adds about 40kg to the car, which for some purists is too much weight to add to a car that already weighs just over 1000kg. To be honest, you'd be hard pressed to notice the extra weight, though it does take about 12 seconds to fold the roof down and you can only do it up to a speed of 10km/h.
The fastback buttress does limit the rear visibility, whether the roof is up or down. As a result, blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are now standard across the MX-5 range. The buttress also catches quite a bit of the wind with the roof down, making it swirl around behind the seats, which can be a little too noisy at times.
The Mazda MX-5 RF comes in two trims levels, the RF or the RF GT. My car is the GT trim and includes leather seats, climate control, heated seats, advanced keyless entry, rain-sensing wipers and Bose speakers over the RF trim. There is also an option for a black roof, but it only comes with the brown Nappa leather, which won't be everyone's cup of tea and does not suit all colours in the range.
Subsequently, I went with no black roof and my car is finished in Crystal White Pearl Mica with black leather trim. The red leather stitching does enhance the sporty look of the interior and the heated seats work a treat during the colder months, with or without the roof down.
The RF is only available with a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated engine. Manual or automatic transmissions are available, though it is hard to go past the manual transmission with its short, sleek shift and the inclusion of the limited-slip differential for manual cars only. Brakes and suspension work well, though there is quite a bit of body roll when you lean the car into corners.
Cabin space is small and you may have trouble fitting in the car if you are taller than 188cm (6ft 2in). Though the steering wheel has height adjustment, there is no telescopic adjustment or seat height adjustment, and thus some people may find it difficult to achieve a comfortable driving position.
This is the first car I have owned without a glovebox, and though there is some storage between the two front seats, there are no door pockets, so you will find yourself putting most of your belongings in the boot. Speaking of boots, there is only about 130 litres of space, so you will need to be careful about which bags you take away for that weekend escape.
Though Mazda has spent a lot of time focusing on weight reduction and the car's handling characteristics, there are some features that are needed as standard on this car. The car does not come with reversing sensors or camera. I had the rear-view camera added as a $500 option and would highly recommend you do the same if you purchase an MX-5.
The MZD Connect stereo system has great sound, but it does not come with Digital Radio, Apple Car Play or Android Auto. There is also no CD player, assuming that most people will plug music in or stream via Bluetooth.
Though this car has a five-star ANCAP safety rating, safety features such as adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning and emergency assisted braking are not offered as options, and will need to be considered for this car if it is to retain its five stars.
The Mazda MX-5 RF is not for everyone. It won't fit a family of five and it won't tow a boat. But it is still the world's best-selling two-seater sports car and will give you endless driving enjoyment, whether you have the roof down or not.