What is it?
Call it delusion or perhaps sheer lunacy, but the British response to the beginning of summer is without question one of unbridled optimism. Just a few days of sunshine has us pulling out the barbecue, heading to the nearest beach, and, if official sales figures are to be believed, buying a convertible - such as the Mazda MX-5.
That’s right. Despite the UK suffering from notoriously unreliable weather, when it comes to European sales of convertibles, we come second only to Germany. And yet, despite our errant hardiness, there are still those who apparently crave a small sports car but doesn't quite commit them to full soft-top living. This is a point backed up by the previous generation MX-5, 80% of which were sold with a folding hard-top.
It’s hardly surprising then, that a year after the launch of the fourth-generation soft-top, the new Mazda MX-5 RF, which stands for Retractable Fastback (or hard-top to you and me) is going on sale. With a three-part roof made from steel, aluminium and plastic, the RF promises less wind noise than the regular car, a cleaner Porsche 911 Targa-esque look, and a hands-free electrically folding roof mechanism – say goodbye to contorting your body into an unnatural position to lock the roof into place.
And yet there is a downside to all of this: weight. Those sexy buttresses, glass rear window and roof-folding mechanism only serve to add more weight higher up in the body. In fact, all-in, a 2.0-litre-engined RF weighs 45kg more than the equivalent soft-top. Not ideal in a car praised for its low-weight ethos.
Therefore, to counteract any unwanted dynamic effects, Mazda has beefed up the front anti-roll bar, tweaked the damper settings and sharpened up the steering, all to ensure that the RF drives as similarly to its sibling as possible. And on the table-smooth roads of Spain, it did. But if there’s ever a real litmus test for chassis tuning, it’s bumpy British B-roads.