Mazda MX-5 RF: Test Drive

Who is responsible for the existence of the Mazda MX-5 RF Roadster – whether classic British sports cars, or Bob Hall, who persuaded Mazda's managers to design such a car in the ‘70s.

Of all those who have ever driven a Mazda MX-5, there has never been a single person who would say that he did not like the car. Although if you try to approach it from a practical point of view…

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No, it is better not to try to, because there is very little practical in this car. Yes, there is a hard folding roof (previously, only a black canvas top was available), but everything else has remained the same. But this is only at a glance, because there are still some changes. Actually, the new Mazda MX-5 RF is the main reason for this test drive.

The model brings out a lot of positive emotions due to a real fusion of many qualities. So, what is new in the test car?

Firstly, there is a hard folding top. Secondly, the test model features a more powerful engine and an automatic transmission. However, many drivers expected a manual transmission with a short-stroke coupling link, clear and sometimes hard gear shifts…

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The Mazda MX-5 RF has a beautiful silhouette and small, narrowed headlights that look quite aggressive. Indeed, the roadster is very compact in size – less than 4 meters in length and only 1.2 meters in height. In traffic, you have to look up even at drivers of small cars, and it seems you can pass under large trucks without keeping your head down.

Just like in the famous movie about the adventures of Italians! There, by the way, the car of the main characters was also red. But no one bullies the compact MX-5 on the road and even menacing black SUVs let it pass (yes, they seem exactly like this at the wheel of the new Mazda). And then you look in the rear-view mirror, their headlights and radiator grille take up the entire area. Truly, an unusual experience!

A hard folding roof only slightly modifies a look of the model, but does not harm it in the least. Press a button on the center console, wait 12 seconds and the roof disappears into a compartment behind the rear seats. At this moment, the Mazda MX-5 receives a targa body style, because both a cross member and side sills remain in place. It feels a little different from the MX-5 with a soft top and more space, but the new model is also breathtaking!

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There are no changes inside – it is moderately ascetic and self-sufficient. There is a very low landing, simple-looking seats, a minimum of buttons and joypads. Sometimes, you cannot find place for some things. For example, a glove box is placed between the backs of the rear seats, there are no storage bins in doors at all, and only glasses can be put in the box of the center console. But there are two full-fledged cup holders, one of which can even be moved to the same central tunnel, at the feet of the front passenger, who does not have so much space.

n general, the Mazda MX-5 — from the design to the drive — can be both loved and praised, and criticized. If a skeptic gets into the roadster, he will say that it is small, hot, noisy, and it is not very comfortable to drive “on the ground”. You need to clearly understand that this car is for an egoist-romantic (for two, maximum), who likes extreme and emotions and fights boredom with all available methods!

The official press release claims that the Mazda MX-5 RF is a more comfortable version of the model with a soft roof. Who actually buys an MX-5 for comfort? The difference will be noticeable only by the fact that the open-top MX-5 has a top speed of 100 km/h, the MX-5 RF – 130 km/h.

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Yes, there is improved noise insulation (in the roof and wheel arches), but it's hard to catch when you lower this very roof and press an accelerator pedal harder. A driver and a passenger, sitting close to the rear axle, will hear all the noise, and especially sophisticated people will be able to catch the sounds of individual components, such as brakes. But this, my friends, is the whole “buzz” seasoned, by the way, with the sound of a powerful Bose audio system, speakers of which are installed even in the headrests.

So if you like the Mazda MX-5, if you chose it, then you will get a special pleasure from it.

The MX-5 RF is really different –portions of fresh air can be better controlled here. For example, when the roof is down and windows are up, wind hardly blows in the cabin, but the spirit of freedom is already felt. By the way, when the roof is lowered, there is an open window behind the seats, which is only slightly covered by a windscreen, and when it is raised, all this is covered by ordinary glass.

When folded, the roof is divided into three parts, and the entire mechanism can be viewed by simply removing your finger from the down/up control key. A kind of «pause” can be made at any stage, just as you can start the reverse process.

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What about the trunk? Maybe it's not there at all? It turned out that its volume has not changed at all and it is still the same 130 liters. The engineers were able to pack the hard roof into a compartment of the same size as that of the soft one.

It turned out that there is more headroom than in the version with a soft roof. It is especially important for tall people. And the hard top psychologically seems more reliable.


The Mazda MX-5 RF has become more powerful – now a power output of the 2-liter engine is 184 hp. This increase has benefited dynamics. The RF accelerates from 0-100 km/h in 6.8 seconds instead of the previous 7.3 seconds. But this is true for versions with a manual gearbox. As for our test car with automatic transmission, it reaches 100 k/h in 7.9 seconds. Compared to the MX-5 with a soft top, the loss is about half a second.

But, first of all, if you are an ordinary adept of a manual gearbox, then you still need to try to achieve the advantage in time. One fuzzy shift and you will not even be able to pass 8 seconds. In the case of an automatic transmission, there are no such problems. Secondly, it feels imperceptible and a naturally aspirated engine accelerates the roadster so quickly and dashingly that it takes your breath away. Yes, there is no turbocharger, but its strength is in another – in the predictability and linearity of acceleration. The engine is ready to give out all 100%, up to 7,000 rpm. And torque can be very accurately “dosed”. A little more than half the potential of the engine can be revealed somewhere up to 5,000 rpm, what, however, is enough for a dynamic ride. But it is worth pushing the pedal harder, as the Mazda immediately responds and rushes to accelerate! A very low landing, the noise of the wind and the running car only enhance the impression.

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In general, the control accuracy is inherent not only to the accelerator, but also to the steering and brakes. The car is very sensitive to the actions of the driver, so there is a sense of harmony with it. The Mazda MX-5 RF is very accurate and predictable, so driving it is always a pleasure even for a not very sophisticated driver.

But there is one interesting nuance. If you look at the roadster in profile and split it in half, the driver and passenger will be behind the conditional centerline. Therefore, every turn is accompanied here by not quite typical sensations. The car looks like it is about to start drifting. And this is very cool. On the one hand, it is not necessary to provoke it, on the other, if you disable the stabilization system… The main thing Is to do it in closed areas! At the same time, if you do not provoke, the MX-5 RF perfectly holds the trajectory, and its body rigidity can be the envy of many hatchbacks and sedans. In addition to the proprietary steel truss that connects the gearbox and the rear power reductor (it is hidden in the central tunnel), all sorts of amplifiers and struts are used. The running gear with 205/45 R17 wheels works out bumps and potholes very tightly, although it is better not to conduct unnecessary tests.

According to the results of the test, the average fuel consumption is 10-11 liters, and this is about a liter and a half more than that of the version with a manual transmission. But in general, it is just a low fee for the Mazda MX-5 RF, a generator of positive emotions!

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