Mazda dealers began selling the freshest roadster in the Japanese brand’s range, the MX-5 RF, in March, following the arrival of the soft-top MX-5 in September 2015. However, the RF (short for retractable fastback – it stows the roof panels and rear window yet leaves the B-pillars in place, creating a Targa-like appearance) will sit alongside its cloth-capped sibling as a more premium alternative.
The previous generation MX-5 was the first of Mazda’s roadsters to be available with a folding hard-top and proved so popular the Roadster Coupé outsold the standard car. Therefore, the carmaker hopes demand will be strong for the RF, which Mazda describes as a ‘fastback silhouette’. It hopes to sell 3,273 in a full year, compared with 1,469 of the soft-top.
The standard MX-5 puts such focus on saving weight that users have to manually unlatch the soft-top and click it back into place. It’s not difficult, however prospective buyers can now save themselves the shoulder twisting and choose the RF, which lets the sunshine in electrically in less than 15 seconds.
The cost for such convenience comes in weight and price. The standard MX-5 weighs just over a tonne, but the RF is almost 50kg heavier, which can be enough to upset some sports car purists, particularly if they are considering the 1.5-litre engine. The RF is available from £22,195, a £2,000 premium over the soft-top. Its CO2 emissions rise marginally too (from 139g/km to 142g/km), but not enough to affect its VED charges. The 2.0-litre RF’s emissions are unchanged at 161g/km.
At least buyers have something to show for that extra cash – roof up or down, the RF cannot be mistaken for the cheaper MX-5. It also shuns the entry SE trim and is only offered in SE-L Nav and Sport Nav grades, so buyers get a more refined feel. All RFs feature twin exhausts, LED headlamps and a multimedia controller plus colour touchscreen with sat-nav. The top Sport grade gains a Bose sound system, keyless entry, auto lights and wipers, heated seats and partial leather upholstery.
Our long-term test MX-5 RF 2.0-litre Sport Nav arrived this month complete with optional metallic paint (£670), Nappa leather (£400) and a Safety Pack (£400), which comprises blind-spot monitoring and headlamp high-beam control.
Over the coming 11 months, we will report on the RF’s progress and Mazda’s activities in the marketplace.