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Mazda MX-5 Retractable Fastback Launch Review
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.

Woolly hat and warm coat packed, I headed south west to Devon eager to blow the cobwebs away.

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 saw a small appreciative crowd gather on Paignton sea front, my location for some photography.

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

Despite an aversion to driving a convertible car with the roof up, my driving partner and I did spend some time snugly cocooned. At motorway speeds the RF is undoubtedly more refined, a boon for those who like the idea of a convertible car but rarely drop the roof.

In order to accommodate my six foot frame, 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 day and immediately my disposition improved. Powerful seat heaters do a sterling job, aided and abetted by the excellent air conditioning.

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It's still 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...

I was glad of my hat, something my follically-challenged co-driver omitted to pack and spent the day regretting.

Two familiar Mazda engines are available. The 131PS 1.5-litre engine is no sluggard and is delightfully free revving. Combined with softer suspension, many will warm to its considerable charms.

If you seek a more sporting drive, then the 160PS 2.0-litre will be the obvious choice. 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 but on offer exclusively in the RF is an automatic option. A sensible addition to the range, but it's not a box I would tick. City-based drivers feel free to disagree.

Prices start at £22,195, but if you are quick you may just be able to grab one of the 500 Launch Edition models. Your £28,995 buys a certain exclusivity and a host of desirable features. There's a unique two-tone roof, 17" BBS alloy wheels and black door mirrors and rear spoiler, all set off by Soul Red or Machine Grey metallic paint.

The interior boasts Recaro seats and Alcantara trim. A Safety Pack completes the package.

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
Priced from £22,195 to £28,995
Limited Launch Edition - just 500 cars
Retractable Fastback roof folds in 13 seconds
Choice of 1.5 and 2.0-litre petrol engines
2 trim levels offered. SE-L Nav and Sport Nav
Optional automatic gearbox (2.0-litre Sport Nav only) add £1,400
On sale from 4th March

Mazda MX-5 Retractable Fastback Launch Review, 21st February 2017, 23:00 PM