Mazda MX5 RF

True to its legend, MX-5 still an able driving tool

My first impressions of the Mazda MX5 RF were that it represented a fair compromise to the classic old soft top. This one has a targa roof that slips away behind a new roll hoop at the touch of a button and it certainly has a place. 

I was surprised to learn that RF is not a compromise after all – it replaces for the manual soft-top on the local market. I’d have preferred the choice to be honest – and likely opted for the original. Not that it makes much difference – you hardly notice the hoop behind you and were you to flip it with the top down, God forbid, you’d be far better off in this one. 

For the rest, MX-5 RF’s toy-like character keeps it true to the great original. Unlike its many traditional small sportscar rivals that have bloated on all fronts over the years, the Mazda sticks to its roots to retain a special place in every car lover’s heart in a surprisingly capable driver’s car.

In fact, it’s even slimmed down to ride on a shorter wheelbase and is lower and lighter, with a lower its center of gravity. MX5 even looks smaller and trimmer, but it is not quite as cramped as its dimensions suggest – you sit lower, can recline more and there’s a tad more headroom, but it’s still a challenge for the larger among us to access with the roof closed. 

The South African MX-5 gets a 180kW 2-litre four-pot rather than the Euro 1.5-litre Skyactiv engine and delivers a taut, tight drive befitting of its low centres of mass, axis and rotation. MX-5 is excellently balanced up to the point where it loses traction and even then, it drifts steadily and is easy to catch, its responsive steering quick to reward the deft touch.

MX5 is still a toy though, inevitably bound to be a well-heeled owner’s second ride or a footloose and fancy-free youngster or empty nester’s daily driver. Either way, it offers great appeal, pedigree and heritage in a truly fun car to drive. – Mario Lupini

Images – Michele Lupini

ROAD TESTED: Mazda MX5 2.0 RF      
Engine: 118kW 200Nm 1998cc I4 
Drive: 6-speed automatic RWD
0-60km/h 3.43 sec
0-100km/h: 7.48 sec  
0-160km/h: 18.61 sec  
0-400m: 15.4 sec @ 148km/h 
80-120km/h: 5.02 sec
120-160km/h: 8.84 sec 
Vmax: 194km/h
Fuel: 6.7 l/100km   
CO2: 156g/km  
Warranty/Service:  3y Unl/3y Unl
Price: R538K