Mazda MX-5 Review: 2017 Model | MX-5 | Car Buyers Guide

Mazda MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) 2017 - New Car Review

I've never made a secret of it. I am a huge fan of the latest Mazda MX-5. There's very little to criticise about it. Mazda even got the price right on the Roadster. So, when I got the invite to attend the international press launch of the new Mazda MX-5 RF, I readily agreed to make the trip.

You see, Mazda has always kept the MX-5 simple, and the soft top version is testament to that. So, why complicate things by adding the extra weight of a hard top? Well, they’ve done it before with the third generation MX-5, so why not the latest version? You see, the Mazda MX-5 soft top car is an immensely fun machine. It's all very simple. Get in, put the roof down, accelerate, and go. Surely adding the extra 45 kg solid roof will take all of that fun away? Well, on paper it does, but only ever-so slightly. In the real world though, what this car loses in getting from 0-100km (0.3 of a second), it gets back on account of the extra refinement that the retractable roof offers.

The only engine available with the current MX-5 Roadster in Ireland is the 1.5 SKYACTIV-G. It’s well suited to the car, and on a twisty road you can hear the necessary burbles as you drive for as long as possible in second or third gear. Unfortunately, the 2.0 SKYACTIV-G engine was precluded from the Irish Roadster line-up. The good news is, that both of these engines will be available with the Mazda MX-5 RF version. There’s nothing terrible about the 1.5 engine (131 PS), but it could offer a little more on the motorway when you’re going from 100-120km/h. The 2.0 litre model (160 PS) doesn’t suffer in this regard.

The 1.5 and the 2.0 are similar in many ways in the MX-5 RF. With the 1.5, the joy is in driving in second and third gear. I found that the main fun from the 2.0 comes in third and fourth gear – you don’t need to drop to second when going up steep country roads. Both engines create an extremely satisfying noise that makes you feel like you’re driving something really special. Indeed, it is something special – it feels like a sports car. For those of you who are interested, the 1.5 can bring you from 0-100km/h in 8.6 seconds (8.3 seconds in the soft top version), while the 2.0 covers that same distance in 7.4 seconds.

The Roadster and the RF version both handle amazingly, and the car always feels grounded. The more powerful of the engines also has a limited slip differential – which of course changes the dynamic. I know there are some out there who prefer the honesty of what the 1.5 has to offer and they wouldn’t necessarily want the limited slip, the 17-inch wheels or the Bilstein dampers, but personally I would consider the 2.0 to be more fun. It can be pushed further and harder.

With the extra weight of the 45 kg roof, it feels slightly firmer - but Mazda has done well to keep the roof weight down by using a mixture of light plastics and metals in the build. What makes the RF extra special is the cleverness of the design. Firstly, and we would have said this about the Roadster too, is that KODO design sits wonderfully on the MX-5. Throw in the semi-fixed rear buttress pillar, and it's amazing just how good this makes the car look. It now looks like a sleek coupe fastback with either the roof up or down. Then, the retractable roof itself. It takes just 13 seconds to fold this thing away. That's quick – in fact, Mazda tells us that it has the quickest open/close time in the world.

The design is clever because usually, adding a retractable roof like this would completely compromise available boot space. Not so with this car. It chops just 3-litres off the 130 litres that is available with the soft top version. In fairness though, even if it did impede on luggage capacity, the MX-5 was never really the king of boot space. I mean, who buys a Roadster on account of its practicality? The physical look of the roof is stunning too, and I would even say that it is quite retro. The fastback reminds me of the rear pillar of an old Datsun 240Z. So can I call it retro-modern? Or is that a contradiction in terms?

The interior is exactly like that of the soft top, with a few minor changes. There's now a 4.6” TFT display on the left of the instrument binnacle that shows the movements of the roof opening and closing. It would be nice if this display was a little more functional – for example, it would be handy to also use it to display directions from the SATNAV.

The seats are the same (of course, you can change materials, etc. depending on trim), and like the soft top, it's available in GT trim. The biggest interior difference is the extra refinement. Close that roof and you will immediately notice the difference between it and a closed soft top.

The Mazda MX-5 RF is due to land in Ireland in early February, and we’re told that the order books are now open. We don’t imagine that we’re going to see thousands of these cars on the roads, but in terms of price, the manufacturer has kept it reasonable. The MX-5 RF starts from €31,495 with the 1.5 SKYACTIV-G engine. This is in and around €3,000 more expensive than the reasonably priced Roadster. There will be two grade levels for Ireland, which includes the GT trim – this features rain sensing wipers, rear parking sensors, smart keyless entry, 9 Premium Bose Surround-Sound speakers and heated leather seats.

Overall, I would say the MX-5 RF is a better looking machine than the MX-5 proper. I’m sure that there are MX-5 purists who would disagree with me about this. Likewise, I know that there will be some who would argue that the 1.5 litre option results in a more honest small-sports car. But there is one thing that we would probably agree on. The road needs the Mazda MX-5. It adds character to a growing world of SUVs, saloons and hatchbacks.

Compare specs to an alternative car!
€ 27,995 when New

Key Facts

New Price
€ 27,995


MAZDA MX-5 1.5P (131ps) ROADSTER
First Launched
Engine & Transmission
6 Speed
Fuel type
Body Type

Running Costs

Tax Band
Average L/100km
Fuel Tank Capacity (L)
Fuel Tank Range (km)
CO2 emmissions (g/km)
Emission Standard EU


Driven Wheels
Engine (L)
Break Horsepower
Top Speed
Acceleration (0-100 km/h)
Fuel Tank Capacity (L)

Space & Practicality

Boot capacity (L)
Tyre Size Back
195/50 R16


Euro NCAP Star Rating


MagicChef 20 Jan 2017 09:02

Once you start throwing the LSD into an MX-5, you start taking away its soul. You're right though, the roads do need cars like the MX-5.


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