Folding hard-top version of the new Mazda MX-5 will go on sale early next year, with the option of an automatic gearbox

The Mazda MX-5 RF, the hard-top version of Mazda's latest roadster, has been revealed at the New York motor show.

Named for its retractable fastback roof (RF) design, Mazda has reinvented its popular hard-top MX-5 for its fourth-generation model, taking on a Porsche 911 Targa-style aesthetic characterised by hinged rear pillars and a powered, stowable middle section and rear window.

As well as a change in design over its predecessor, the MX-5 RF roof is fully automatic for the first time, with the control system enabling the roof to open and close at speeds of up to 6mph. When open, the front and middle roof sections are stowed together with the back window glass in the space behind the seats. As a result, luggage space, at 130 litres, matches that of the soft-top MX-5.

A spokesperson said that any similarities with the 911 Targa were "purely coincidental". "We were designing this solution before the 911 was revealed. The car is smaller than its predecessor, and this system meant we didn't intrude on boot space," he added.

New auto ’box

Unique to the RF is the addition of a six-speed automatic gearbox option, alongside the existing six-speed manual offered on the soft-top. Engines, however, remain the same, with the choice of Skyactiv-G 1.5 and 2.0-litre petrol units.

Performance figures are unknown for the MX-5 RF, but given that the car will be 40kg heavier than the 1050kg soft-top, expect a slight dip on performance figures; the 2.0-litre soft-top achieves 0-62mph in 7.3sec, with a top speed of 133mph.

Mazda has also tuned the suspension and power steering specifically for the MX-5 RF, aiming to deliver a comfortable and refined ride. Mazda has made a concerted effort to reduce cabin noise in the RF, with extra sound deadening in the rear wheel wells and headliner of the front and middle roof panels.

Another distinction from the soft-top is the introduction of a new ‘premium’ Machine Grey paint colour (pictured). Using three coats – one colour, one reflective and one clear – Mazda says this RF-unique paintjob creates “a sheen when illuminated and a genuine metallic look”.

Most popular model in UK

Despite the expected price premium of around £2500 over the £18,495 starting price of the regular car, the MX-5 RF is expected to be the best-selling UK model when it goes on sale in 2017.

The hard-top version of the previous-generation MX-5 accounted for 80% of sales in the UK, presumably due to Brits’ preference for the extra insulation and comfort in a hard-top, alongside the increased ease of an electric folding roof over a manual one. However, a Mazda spokesperson told Autocar that that the global sales split for the MX-5 RF was expected to be 50/50. 

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Our Verdict

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Fourth-generation MX-5 heads back to the roadster's roots

Join the debate


23 March 2016

Looks a little awkward withe roof open from the side profile, but I'm sure it'll sell well.

23 March 2016

Have to agree with A88A, but with roof up looks great

23 March 2016

Can they please give us the 6 as a convertible in order to occupy space taken by BMW 3 series and Audi. I know that I would certainly buy it in preference.

what's life without imagination

23 March 2016

Imagine if it's powered by a full blown 2-liter turbo engine. Would make it a Porsche Cayman rivalling car..

23 March 2016

for doing something different again. I was really expecting a CX-4 reveal, so this really surprised me. To these eyes it looks a little like a modern day Opel GT (the targa version) in profile. I'd certainly consider this over the std roadster, if only because it's a little different to anything else on offer out there.

"Why is not getting more media attention? It could be the future... Now!"

23 March 2016

Agree that it looks good with the roof in place, but disappointed this is not a proper convertible. It's more of a targa top, like the final Honda CRX was and Lotus Elise. A manual removable roof panel might have been a sensible option to keep things simple, light and cheap. Would be interesting to know if this suffers wind buffeting at speed.

23 March 2016

I liked the simple folding hardtop in the old version much better. I don't like this much with the top up, and not at all with it 'down'. The soft-top makes more sense this time around.

23 March 2016
androo wrote:

I liked the simple folding hardtop in the old version much better. I don't like this much with the top up, and not at all with it 'down'. The soft-top makes more sense this time around.

I agree. You got the full convertible experience with the hard or soft top previously, with no compromises.

23 March 2016

Those fake rear side windows look awful.

23 March 2016

It's great that Mazda decided to redesign the folding top rather than carrying the same top from previous generations, like the Mercedes SLK. However all that engineering and technology yields only the middle portion of the roof retractable but not the side pillars.
The appearance from the side is very awkward. The fake rear quarter window is too upright and narrow, it's like Mazda took the rear quarter window from the Porsche Cayman and narrowed it in half. It doesn't follow any lines on the car and I'd rather not have the fake window and have it just a painted body panel (like the Mercedes SLS) that would look less goofy and more sporty.
Rear pillar and fake rear quarter window will always be visible whether the top is up or down with this type of folding top which is unfortunate.

Why can't Mazda do a true sports coupe or even a shootingbrake style body without the gimmicky retractable targa top?
I've always like the earlier BMW Z3/Z4 coupe/hatch, and even prefer the long lamented Pontiac Solstice coupe over the roadster.


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