Mazda MX-5 RF Review on Car Reviews

"Rear-wheel drive, convertible, naturally aspirated and making a noise like a Supermarine Spitfire, you might expect the Mazda MX-5 to be bags of fun – and you’d be right" - says Car Reviews Steven Chisholm

You probably wouldn’t expect the RF to be particularly refined because of the low frame, big wheels with littles tyres and because it's Japanese. You’d be wrong though. Not only is the Mazda MX-5 RF (it stands for Retractable Fastback) great fun, but it’s also comfortable, entirely civilised and, unless you give it the beans, quiet. A noise absorption headliner integrated with the folding metal roof makes this convertible quiet as well as additional sound insulation material in the rear wheel housing. Further sound-proofing has been added to the front of the transmission tunnel, dashboard and around the gear lever. The roof is fully automated and controlled from a button on the dash and takes just 13 seconds to lower or raise – although I must admit I didn’t get the stopwatch out, testing the car as I was over Christmas while the mercury struggled to reach positive figures.

Although the low seating makes it hard to get in and out of, once your arms and legs are stowed, the heated seats with their optional Nappa leather are nice and supportive. The dash is well logically laid out and there are colour- coded inserts dotted around the facia. Head room is pretty poor though, and taller-than-average drivers will likely find the Mazda hard to live with. Our top-spec Sport Nav trim test car came with the 1.5-litre engine as opposed to the larger 2.0-litre option. It’s a powerplant found in more vanilla cars from Mazda’s range, such as the Mazda2 and Mazda3, but with a lighter and more compact intake and exhaust system which delivers heightened performance, revised cam timing and a custom steel crankshaft. As a result the 1.5-litre SKYACTIV-G’s redline is raised to 7,000rpm and power output is improved to 129bhp. It might be the slower of the two engines on offer, but the 8.6 second nought to 60 time feels more than adequate and it’s one of those cars that feels like it’s going faster than it is.

The seats provide improved head and upper body support during a rear impact, and along with the door panels, they have been optimised to enhance side impact protection. The passenger seat has anchors and a top tether for ISOFIX child seats – as if you’re going to use them. The seven-inch colour touch-screen MZD-Display infotainment system and sat nav is best controlled from the rotary dial on the centre console, being poorly designed as a touchscreen interface. The rotary controls are pretty good though and navigating the various menus a breeze once you’re used to it. Our test car came packing a premium Bose sound system complete with headrest-mounted speakers and a subwoofer. Not that I spent much time listening to music. The sound of the naturally aspirated, four-cylinder engine was far more soothing than the Radio Forth festive playlist. Because, while Mazda have spent a lot of time and effort on making it quieter, when you put your foot down the MX-5 RF still makes all the right noises.