‘RF’ stands for is ‘Retractable Fastback’, but it’s not just the name that distinguishes itself from the regular MX-5 – the RF has its own look.
The MX-5 RF is offered with a 131PS 1.5-litre engine, or you can up the enjoyment factor by going for the 160PS 2.0-litre unit. The latter is the version I got behind the wheel of. If you don’t like switching gears yourself you can go for an RF with automatic transmission, but I’d advise staying with the six-speed manual ‘box. The miniature gearstick feels good in the hand and it finds the cogs with accuracy – making for a more pleasing drive.
The 2.0-litre powerplant is hurried, with zero to 62mph arriving in 7.3 seconds. But the car needs some work to get the best out of it, and that’s where you come in – helping the RF with the revs by hanging onto the gears and really pushing the car. It all makes for a gratifying experience – especially when the Mazda’s engine and sprightly exhaust notes make themselves known.
The MX-5 RF’s static roof sections make the Mazda 45kg weightier than the normal MX-5, but the RF has been engineered so that it handles as amiably as the lighter model. I found I could drive into twisting turns of tarmac eagerly; the steering is exact and the RF feels meticulously balanced in the bends. It rides well, coping with road surface inconsistencies far better than some bigger, less athletically-oriented cars.
What the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF can’t do, though, is gag the whistling wind. It disperses road and tyre rumble better than the MX-5 Convertible, but even with the roof up, it still sounds squally. That said; once the roof is dropped, you are shielded from a pummelling by the fastback segments – and at that point you accept the sound of the wind rather than battling against the hubbub.
Inside, the miniature cockpit is very much the same as the usual MX-5. The only tangible alteration is an up-to-date colour screen housed in the driver’s instrument binnacle. As with all MX-5’s, there’s only room for two, and if, like me, you’re tall and not particularly lean, it’s a close-fitting place to be. The boot isn’t colossal – obviously, but a couple of holdalls and some shopping will fit in.
So, if you’re in the market for a motor that has a removable roof section, but isn’t a full drop-top, then this MX-5 RF could be for you. The new Mazda protects you from the worst of the elements, while giving you that wind in your beard (and ears) experience. At the end of the day, the RF delivers just as much joy as the MX-5 Convertible, but in a more relaxed way. It also looks, dare I say it, more virile with its fastback styling.