Car Reviews, Coupe, Sports

Mazda MX-5 RF Sport Nav Review

9 Feb , 2017  

There’s no doubt about it, we thoroughly love the latest generation MX-5. Although it may not have been the big handling revelation that Mazda made out, its reworked, smoother 2.0 litre lump and revised characteristics made it more manageable on the limit than ever before.

Instead of adding a hard roof to the little roadster as they have done previously, Mazda went a different way.

They created a whole new thing. A thing that had never been seen before on UK shores, a sort of coupe, Targa mashup. It’s dubbed the Retractable Fastback (catchy) or RF for short.




Mazda MX-5 RF UK Price

Starting at £22,195 for a 1.5 litre in boggo SE-L Nav trim, the RF commands a premium of £1,330. Not too bad, and to be honest, we much prefer the looks of the RF.

If you want the beefier 2.0 litre, then the extra cost is upped to cheeky £2,000 for the entry level SE-L Nav version.

OTR Price CO2(g/km) VED




1.5 131ps SE-L Nav £22,195 142 F 24E
1.5 131ps Sport Nav £24,795 142 F 25E
2.0 160ps SE-L Nav £23,095 161 G 28E
2.0 160ps Sport Nav £25,695 161 G 28E
2.0 160ps Sport Nav Auto £27,095 167 H 28E





We’ve long lusted over a hard top, coupe MX-5. It did happen. Once. But it never made it to the UK. The RF is the best we are going to get for now, but damn it looks good!

There’s a minute increase in roof height at 5mm, whilst the windscreen is raked back by a few degrees more. The rear boot lid is slightly higher, aiding aerodynamics and negating the need for a spoiler.

Oh, and you don’t lose any boot space to the new tin top either.




Those rear buttresses are plastic formed, and the fixed glass rear window folds down with the roof, leaving a clear plastic windbreak between yourself and the road behind.

It looks stunning. No doubt about it. Maybe a little stout from a side on perspective, but from any other angle it’s a winner. Like a modern day hardtop AC Cobra.



But with a fancy origami, 13 second, folding roof comes weight. And the penalty is the equivalent of a scrawny man, or a well-fed child. You’ll get a +40kg addition for the 1.5 and a +45kg for the 2.0 litre…no idea why there’s a difference on each.

0-60 times come in at 8.6sec for the 1.5-litre while the 2-litre is 0.1sec slower then the soft top at 7.4sec.

Apparently, that hasn’t spoilt the 50:50 weight distribution of the current model…not sure how that works either.




Mazda MX-5 RF Launch Edition

If you’re feeling flush then you could opt for one of the 160 launch editions left.

Starting at £28,995 you get Recaro sports seats, a slew of Alcantara, BBS alloys, a two tone roof, black mirror covers, a black spoiler, the safety pack and a choice of Soul Red or Machine Grey paint.





Jumping in the Sport Nav 2.0 litre we dropped the top straight away.

Now, we’ve never really been a fan per se of convertibles. They just feel a bit too exposed and dangerous.

Having the roof down in the RF feels so different. Those thick rear C pillars (albeit plastic) cocoon you and make you feel enveloped, like the MX-5 is now wrapped around you.

It’s a bit of a shame that the rear glass doesn’t stay in place, as the plastic wind guard takes up nearly the same space and it would give the little Mazda a more Targa’esque experience.

One thing we did notice however was rather a lot of wind noise coming through the top left of the roof when it was up, right behind the passenger’s left ear. The same billowing was also present on the driver’s side, but far more muted. I’m sure it would drive you mad over a long journey.





Ride wise, the 2.0 litre with its Bilstein sport suspension and strut brace felt rather stiff, even on smooth roads there was a fair amount of vibration into the cabin. The whole car seemed to dance around on rougher surfaces.

Hopping straight into the 1.5 with its ‘normal’ setup, smaller wheels and lacking a limited slip diff it was rather more solid and composed, taking our damaged road surfaces in its stride with far less shimmying and shaking.

Steering input also differs between the models, the 2.0 litre is instant in its response whereas its little brother has a slight amount of play on initial turn in.





Oh, and if you’re wondering whether to go for the 158 BHP 2.0 litre or 129 BHP 1.5 we can now pass comment on that.

The smaller lump feels like a little terrier, it wants to go, it wants to be worked hard and you will be rewarded handsomely for doing so.

In 2.0 litre form the MX5 has longer legs, you can be lazy with it, less gear changing is required as the torque band is ultimately wider and the extra 29 BHP makes overtakes a breeze.

So, it’s entirely down to personal preference, if you lust for an engaging drivers’ car that you can wring its neck, go 1.5. If you want more of a sporty cruiser go for the 2.0 litre.





Inside the RF is exactly the same as the 2016 Mazda MX-5, bar the new roof switch.

Thankfully the roof is totally automatic, so no more unlatching. Hold the button down and it does the rest. You can only drop the top at speeds up to 6 MPH which is a shame, but at least it’s not a totally manual affair like the soft lid.






Mazda will sell its new RF on looks alone, most punters are opting for the higher-level trims with buyers also said to be holding off on purchasing an MX until this one hits showrooms.

Its coupe styling is gorgeous, yes there is a weight penalty to be had, but the minute change in the 0-60 times is negligible.

Let’s just hope they can sort out that windy passenger side.






Mazda MX-5 RF Specs


SE-L Nav 1.5
SE-L Nav 2.0
Sport Nav 1.5
Sport Nav 2.0
16” Alloy wheels
16” Gunmetal alloy wheels
17” Gunmetal alloy wheels
17” Bright alloy wheels
Emergency tyre repair kit
Sport suspension featuring Bilstein dampers
Strut brace
Dual exhaust system
Front, adjustable speed wipers with intermittent wipe
Rain-sensing front wipers
LED headlights with automatic headlight levelling
Adaptive Front lighting System (AFS)
Dusk-sensing headlights
LED daytime running lights
Coming home / leaving home lights
Rear brake light, high-mounted Body coloured cover
Fashion bar cladding, Piano black
Rear parking sensors
Electrically adjustable, heated door mirrors, Body coloured
Electrically adjustable, heated door mirrors, Piano black coloured
Premium cloth soft-top with heated glass window, manually operated (black)
Metallic / Mica / Pearlescent paint
● = Standard; – = Not available; o = Option available at additional cost.


SE-L Nav
Sport Nav
Driver’s seat, manual slide, recline and tilt adjustment
Passenger seat, manual slide and recline adjustment
Premium black cloth trim with red stitching
Black leather trim with red stitching
3-stage seat heaters
Body colour co-ordinated interior upper door trim
Leather-wrapped steering wheel, gearshift knob & handbrake lever
Auto-dimming rear-view mirror
Trip computer
Analogue Speedometer
Detachable cupholders (x2)
Coinbox and rear centre box with lockable lid
Interior courtesy light

Comfort & Convenience

SE-L Nav
Sport Nav
Remote central locking with deadlocking and remote boot release
Smart keyless entry
Engine stop/start button
Electric Power Assisted Steering (EPAS)
Cruise control with manual speed adjustment
Adjustable speed limiter
Electric windows with one-touch auto down
Climate control air-conditioning
Sun visors
● = Standard; – = Not available; o = Option available at additional cost.
1) =Leather refers to centre seat facing and side support

Audio and Communication

SE-L Nav
Sport Nav
Multimedia Commander and volume control dial
AM / FM radio; DAB radio; Single CD / MP3 audio system with 6 speakers including 2 drivers headrest speakers
AM / FM radio; DAB radio; Single CD / MP3 and Premium Bose® sound system with 9 speakers, including 2 driver and 2 passenger headrest speakers
7” Colour touch-screen display
USB/iPod connectivity (2 inputs)(1)
Steering wheel-mounted audio controls
Steering wheel-mounted Bluetooth® controls(1)
Auxiliary (AUX) input
Mazda Navigation System: European mapping with alternative route calculations, point of interest and 3-years free map updates
Mazda Navigation System: Premium Connected Services including live traffic and weather information, fuel prices and local search(2)
Integrated Bluetooth® allows hands-free calling and easy access to phone contacts via touch screen or commander as well as voice activation function; Audio transfer from Bluetooth® devices(1); AhaTM app and StitcherTM app integration for internet radio, Facebook and Twitter(3)
● = Standard; – = Not available; o = Option available at additional cost.
1) =Please refer to www.mazdahandsfree.co.uk for the latest information regarding compatibility and functionality of mobile and audio devices.
2) =Connected Services are a subscription service. A 60-day free trial is included with your navigation system and commences the first time you connect the car to a Wi-Fi hotspot. After the free trial has finished you must purchase a subscription to continue using Connected Services. Please speak to your dealer or visit mazda.co.uk/mzd-connect/navigation for more information.
3) =Requires a compatible mobile device. AhaTM / StitcherTM apps need to be downloaded to mobile device and app registration completed before connection. Data usage and costs will vary, please contact network provider for more information.

Safety & Security

SE-L Nav
Sport Nav
SKYACTIV- Body engineered ‘triple H’ body structure to help protect occupants from impact forces
Deployable Hood System (DHS) – in a frontal collison the bonnet raised to maximum pedestrian protection when travelling at more than 12.4mph
Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) with Traction Control System (TCS)
Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS)
Four-wheel disc brakes – Ventilated front, Solid rear
Limited Slip Differential (LSD)
Driver’s and passenger’s front airbags
Side airbags
Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS)
Seatbelts, 3-point (ELR) x 2 with pre-tensioners with reminder (driver and passenger) audible warning
Thatcham Category 1 alarm and immobiliser
ISOFIX child seat anchorage (passenger seat)
High Beam Control (HBC)
o (2)
Blind Spot Monitoring with Rear Cross Traffic Alert (BSM w/RCTA)
o (2)


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Owner / Editor of Carwitter - French car fiend, hot hatch lover. Follow @car_witter