It’s a small but significant change in mission statement, one that should move the MX-5 from being a brilliant summer weekend car for countryside cruising into something that can cope better with everyday life. But there are two elephants in the room.
The first elephant weighs around 40kg – the difference in weight between the RF and its soft-top sibling. Will that extra weight upset the wonderful ride, handling and balance that make the soft-top fun?
Thankfully, that doesn’t seem to be the case. Mazda has tweaked the anti-roll bar and damper settings and done a remarkably good job of maintaining the original car’s feel, our road testers reckon.
We’ll be testing that more thoroughly in the coming months, of course, but there’s no doubt that driving the RF is rarely less than fun and engaging. It’s everything you’d want and expect an MX-5 to be.
The second elephant in the room is worth around £2000 – the difference in price between the RF and its softtop sibling. Is that extra outlay worth it for the added refinement, comfort and convenience of having a proper roof over your head?
Certainly, on the days when I’ve driven home from work in pouring rain, I’ve been very grateful for that roof. But it does have its drawbacks. Getting comfortable in an MX-5 has always been an art form, and with the roof up, the RF is a little… tight. The aim might be refinement, but there’s nothing particularly refined about squeezing into the car when it’s in closed form. I’ve already lost count of the times I’ve headbutted the rearview mirror when clambering in.
Refinement is also a bit of an issue at speed, regardless of whether the top is up or down. Get up to motorway speeds with the roof up and there’s noticeable wind noise. While travelling on the motorway, I gave up on a phone call I’d made through the hands-free Bluetooth infotainment system, because on the other end of the line, my mum could barely hear me due to the wind noise.
With the top down, the flying buttresses do a decent job of reducing buffeting – but the trade-off is a droning noise, caused by the wind swirling round them.
Of course, few people are going to judge an MX-5 based on motorway journeys, but when the aim of the MX-5 RF is to offer a more refined experience, it’s definitely an issue – and, again, one that will need to be investigated and evaluated over the coming months.
The roof – and all that entails – isn’t the only major difference between the RF and our previous MX-5 long-termer. The other can be found under the bonnet. Our previous car came with the more powerful 2.0-litre engine, whereas this time we’ve opted for the 129bhp 1.5-litre, still mated to an incredibly satisfying six-speed manual ’box.