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Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0-litre Sport Nav On Test
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
The Mazda MX-5 is the world's best selling roadster and demand for the diminutive soft top shows no signs of abating.

When the fourth generation model was launched back in 2015 it came as somewhat of a surprise that there was no folding hardtop version, as this had proved to be a big seller.

Fear not for Mazda was clearly working on a replacement, the result of which is the new Retractable Fastback.

Rather than fit a fully convertible hardtop, Mazda engineers have created a targa-like folding aluminium and steel roof which does not encroach on the already modest MX-5 boot compartment.

At a mere push of the button the roof glides back for that wind in the hair experience. Up go the buttresses allowing the rear glass and roof panels to stow neatly away before they return to their original position. A mere 13 seconds is all it takes and at speeds up to a heady 6mph.

The roof acrobatics have a habit of drawing an appreciative crowd, which is rather fun.

The roof weighs a mere 45kg more than the soft top ensuring that the MX-5's peppy performance is more or less undiminished.

Two familiar Mazda engines are available. The 131PS 1.5-litre engine is no sluggard and from my drive on the UK launch event I can confirm that it is delightfully free revving. Combined with softer suspension, many will warm to its considerable charms.

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If you seek a more sporting drive, then the 160PS 2.0-litre will be the obvious choice and my test car was thus equipped. Capable of sprinting to 60mph in a little over seven seconds, the increase in power is most noticeable when overtaking or tackling hilly terrain.

With the bigger engine comes a limited slip differential and larger 17-inch alloy wheels. Opt for range-topping Sport Nav trim and Bilstein dampers and a strut brace further enhance the dynamic set up. Yes the ride is firmer, but it pays dividends when the road turns twisty.

A slick six-speed short throw manual gearbox comes as standard and it is a delight to stir the cogs and make the most of the performance on offer.

With the roof up I was forced to recline the seat further than I would like to avoid brushing the roof - not ideal. Let's just say the interior is somewhat snug.

Roof down then was in order for rest of the test week and even on colder days there should be no excuse not to drop the roof as the heater is powerful and the seats heated. Only heavy rain showers stopped play!

It's not all good news however, as the RF is louder and more blustery than the soft top when pressing on. Conversations become a somewhat shouty affair, so perhaps it's better to turn up the stereo which can be enjoyed through the headrest speakers...

Much of my time with the RF was spent on the motorway and I was pleasantly surprised to record 48mpg on a 185 mile drive south. My final figure settled at just over 44mpg, an impressive result.

Sport Nav models are decidedly well equipped with leather upholstery, climate-controlled air conditioning and satellite navigation amongst the highlights.

The burning question I suppose is whether to buy the soft top MX-5 or spend the additional £2,000 required for an RF. As an all-seasons convertible, the usable and desirable RF is hard to fault.

I'd save the cash and enjoy the full al fresco motoring experience, but I'd quite understand if you chose to disagree.

Fast Facts

Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0-litre Sport Nav
Priced £25,995
Retractable Fastback roof folds in 13 seconds
160 PS 1,998 cc engine
0 to 62mph in 7.3 seconds
Top speed 133mph
Combined economy 40.9mpg
Emissions 161g/km CO2
Insurance group 29E

Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0-litre Sport Nav On Test , 12th July 2017, 21:57 PM