Ad closing in a few seconds...
View all Mazda MX-5 reviews
Parkers overall rating: 4.4 out of 5 4.4

Just like its soft-top sibling, but with added roof-up refinement

Mazda MX-5 RF (17 on) - rated 4.4 out of 5
Enlarge 36 photos

PROS

  • Quiet and refined with roof up
  • Boot space almost identical to soft top MX-5
  • Great fun to drive
  • Smooth ride quality
  • Generous standard equipment list

CONS

  • Resonant wind noise with roof open
  • Divisive styling
  • Pricier than soft-top MX-5
  • Heavier than soft-top MX-5
  • Tight for taller drivers

PROS

  • Quiet and refined with roof up
  • Boot space almost identical to soft top MX-5
  • Great fun to drive
  • Smooth ride quality
  • Generous standard equipment list

CONS

  • Resonant wind noise with roof open
  • Divisive styling
  • Pricier than soft-top MX-5
  • Heavier than soft-top MX-5
  • Tight for taller drivers

Mazda MX-5 RF rivals

Toyota
GT86
4.2 out of 5 4.2

What is a Mazda MX-5 RF?

Retractable Fastback – that’s what the suffix stands for on the Mazda MX-5 RF. It swaps the regular MX-5’s manually operated soft-top hood for a motorised steel/aluminium/plastic hard-top with an unusual design – sporting distinctive targa-style fairings. It looks like no MX-5 that’s gone before.

It’s considerably more affordable than other roadsters with folding hard-tops like BMW’s Z4 and Mercedes’ SLC, although it is around £2,000 more expensive than the conventional soft-top MX-5. Fiat’s own version of the Mazda, the turbocharged 124 Spider, is currently available with a manual soft-top only.

This makes the MX-5 RF a unique proposition. Mazda hopes it will attract a different cross-section of buyers, who might ordinarily be put off by the idea of a soft-top, and like the idea of an MX-5 that looks a little more ‘grown up.’

How does the roof work?

It takes 13 seconds to go from closed to open (or vice versa), by pressing a switch on the centre console. It’s quite a spectacle to watch; the ‘flying buttress’ fairings lift into the air, then the rear glass and roof panels fold themselves into a space in front of the boot, before the buttresses return to their original position.

The result is a car that doesn’t feel as open and exposed to the elements as the fully convertible soft-top MX-5, but still allows plenty of open air into the cabin. With the roof up it’s much quieter on the motorway.

The downside is a far greater level of wind noise when the roof is open; there’s an annoying, resonant buffeting at speeds above 55mph, which means you’ll need to raise your voice to continue a conversation with a passenger.

There’s no difference in boot space between the MX-5 soft-top and RF models, with a reasonable amount of space inside for two large bags (maybe three at a push), but a narrow aperture to manoeuvre them through.

Engines, trim levels, automatic gearbox option

Like the soft-top MX-5, two four-cylinder petrol engines are available: a 1.5- and a 2.0-litre, with 132hp and 184hp respectively. An update in late 2018 uprated the performance figures from the previous 131hp and 160hp versions available.

Both come with an excellent, fun-to-use six-speed manual gearbox as standard. However, the MX-5 RF also introduces the option of an auto transmission, available with the 2.0-litre engine only in Sport Nav+ trim. There are currently no plans to introduce an auto MX-5 soft-top in the UK, so if you’re searching for a brand-new MX-5 automatic then the 2.0-litre RF model is your only choice.

The Mazda MX-5 RF is available with four trim levels: SE+, SE-L Nav+, Sport Nav+ and GT Sport Nav+. All models except SE+ come with sat-nav as standard.

Mazda MX-5 RF rivals

Toyota
GT86
4.2 out of 5 4.2

Other Mazda MX-5 models: