Words: Calvin Chan
Photography: Calvin Chan
Published: May 10, 2017
We’ve spent quite a lot of time with the MX-5 RF, blasting up and down the windy roads in Muskoka for the Mazda Adventure Rally, but here we are back in the driver’s seat of the RF to really get to know it on a personal level.
You see, I was never a huge fan of the MX-5. Small cars, petite engines, and cramped cabin quarters; these are automotive recipes that I tend to avoid. It’s a personal bias, but I tend to prefer large V8 engines, howling exhaust notes to match, and commanding road presence. The MX-5 does neither of those, but the new hardtop “coupe” is beginning to change my mind, somewhat.
It’s phenomenal what a simple change in styling can do to one’s overall perception of a vehicle. I think the RF, short for retractable fastback, looks stunning; ten times more masculine, a hundred times sexier, and a thousand times more striking than the soft-top variant that sits alongside it. The extra sheetmetal behind the driver’s head betrays the soft-top’s clean and simplistic lines in favour of sharper details. It makes the RF look a bit smaller and compact.
That targa roof is to die for – queuing comparisons to the lovely Porsche 911 Targa – and is electronically operated, no manual overhead arm action needed. This one can open and close up to 10 km/h an hour as well, whereas with the soft-top it really depended how ballsy and strong your right arm was to combat the wind. The roof action is something out of a Transformers movie, and the RF is one of the few convertibles that look just as good with the roof up as it does down.
The hardtop adds further insulation, lowering cabin noise a noticeable amount but it does add weight, around 56 kg depending on which trims you’re comparing. Is the added weight perceptible? Not really. The MX-5 isn’t handicapped from the hardhat, and still steers and handles just like a Miata should. Mazda engineers made sure of that by stiffening up the chassis, adding new springs and dampers, and tuning the suspension to pretty much nullify the extra baggage.
However with the roof down and stowed behind your head, the MX-5 marginally feels more tail happy, with more of the weight shifted to the rear axle. Luckily the limited slip differential and sticky 17-inch tires kept the MX-5 grounded and controlled. With the retractable roof up though, the RF feels slightly stiffer and sturdier.
The rest of the MX-5 RF is standard soft-top fare, with the addition of a roof button in the center console, and a new Machine Gray colour (as you see in the photos) exclusive to the RF. Storage space in the back is identical, and the same engine lies under the hood as well; the 2.0-litre SKYACTIV naturally aspirated four-cylinder banging out 155 hp and 148 lb-ft.
The MX-5 RF drives like a dream. On paper, the output figures may not flick the emotional switch, but in reality that’s all the power you need. The MX-5 weighs next to nothing, and darts around with ease. The power to weight ratio is key, and the MX-5 nails it dead center. The steering is light, the brakes are strong, and the entire chassis moves as one cohesive unit.
Having what is essentially a large sunroof to soak up the sun is always a nice feature to have, especially when it’s a Miata. Wind buffeting, even at triple digit speeds, is more than tolerable, and just a hairs-length better than the soft-top MX-5. Sure it might be noisy in the cabin, RF or not, but heat insulation is excellent. Even when cruising around in zero-degree weather, pumping the heat to the max and turning on the heated seats keeps the driver and passenger comfortable and content on the long road ahead.
The shifter and clutch combination is one of the easiest and most forgiving setups in the market. A lot of people ask me which car they should buy to learn how to drive stick, and the MX-5 is usually my go to answer. It’s a great beginner’s car, and allows you to really feel the connection between foot and forward motion. The clutch pedal is light, has a ton of feel, and the shifter has short and defined travel between the gates.
I love the interior too, which adds body-coloured panels throughout, giving it that extra bit of personal spice. Practical, though, this MX-5 is not. Significant storage bins are lacking, and there aren’t any side door pockets either. Got an iPhone6? Too bad, because it won’t fit anywhere except in the vertical storage bin between the seats.
With the RF, headroom was surprisingly ample for my six-foot stature. I could sit comfortably with the roof up and have enough wiggle room to spare. Arm and leg space was decent as well, only showing its detriments of a cramped footwell on long distance journeys.
The price for the RF is a bit steep, starting at $38,800 for the GS model, $3,000 more than equivalent GS soft-top. Three grand can buy you a fair amount of aftermarket parts too. Keep in mind that our tester was the top-end GT model ($42,200) which also came with the Grand Sport Package, adding $3,600 to the price tag, along with Nappa leather, a contrasting piano black top and side mirrors, Brembo front brakes, red front and rear calipers, and 17-inch BBS forged alloy wheels to top it all off.
Nevertheless, I will admit that I have a soft spot for targa roofs and hardtops, and the RF has totally morphed my perception of the MX-5 lineup. No longer is it the cute, bubbly, and childish toy that I once perceived it to be. And no longer does it have to worry about its more stylish Fiat 124 Abarth cousin. It’s not a traditional Miata, no, but it’s what the Miata should have been all along.
型号 Model: 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF GT with Grand Sport Package
顏色 Paint Type: Machine Gray
廠方建議售價 Base Price: $42,200
試車售價 Price as Tested: $46,100
軸距 Wheelbase(mm): 2,309
長闊 Length/Width/Height (mm): 3,914 / 1,918 (mirror to mirror) / 1,245
車重 Curb weight (kg): 1,114
引擎 Engine: 2.0-litre 4-cylinder
最大馬力 Horsepower: 155 hp @ 6,000 rpm
最高扭力 Torque: 148 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm
波箱 Transmission: 6-speed manual
擺佈 Engine & Drive Configuration: Front engine, RWD
油耗 Fuel Consumption ( City / Highway ) L/100km: 8.9 / 7.1
油耗 Observed Fuel Consumption (L/100km): 9.1
輪胎尺碼 Tires: 205/45R17