Mazda MX-5 RF

This lithe and lovable MX-5 roadster has long been the ‘affordable’ Porsche Boxster option, but the newly launched RF version, which adds a retractable folding hard top and a tougher new look, means it’s now the Porsche Cayman you absolutely can afford. It also spells an end to the ‘hairdresser’ Jokes.

DRIVING – Weighing 1009kg in its most basic form, the MX-5 hurls through corners and feels fast and frantic, even with a relatively modest engine. The folding roof adds to the negative side of the power-to-weight ratio, but the difference is barely noticeable. There’s still plenty of zip, seemingly telekinetic steering and a chassis and shortcut wheelbase.

WHAT DOES ‘RF’ STAND FOR? Retractable Fastback – ’Fastback’ is a very American term, signalling the importance of that market.

PRICE/DELIVERY – Mazda surprised everyone when it announced that the recent rag-top versions of the RF would start at $31,990 (for the 1.5-litre engine) – a big drop from previous models. You can bet the hard top and its folding bits will add between $4000 and $5000, so a RF will likely cost between $40,000 and $45,000, depending on your specification level. Deliveries will start in February 2017.

INTERIOR – There’s precious little room for two humans inside this tiny yet perfectly formed Mazda; even elbow room’s at a premium. On the plus side, the small dimensions help the MX-5 shrink around you, and with thereof up it feels like a sleek, chic coupe – a sensation helped by snazzy red stitching. It doesn’t feel overly expensive, but that’s because it’s not.

STYLING – This, the fourth generation since launching back in 1989, is a car that’s finally put hairs on the tiny Mazda’s previously androgynous chest. It’s a sharper, shapelier and meaner-looking machine, despite maintaining its almost toy-like dimensions. With its proper coupe styling when the hard-topped roof is up, and an all-new, targa-style fastback look when it’s down, the RF adds a whole new level of appeal.

Mazda MX-5 RF

ENGINE – If you only care about how great you look in an MX-5, and don’t live near steep hills, then you’ll no doubt choose to save money by opting for the base 1.5-litre engine, which makes just 96kW and 150Nm, and will get you to 100km/h when it’s good and ready. The RF will only be offered with the up-spec 2.0-litre four-cylinder, which produces 118kW and 200Nm – something that will come in handy for moving the extra 140kg the new roof structure adds to this featherweight fun box. Expect the 0 to 100km/h time to climb slightly from the soft-top’s 7.3-second claim.

BEST FEATURE The folding roof. Its most impressive trick is how good it looks once the roof has slid out of sight. Top down it shouldn’t look any better than its soft sibling, but it does.

BEST PLACE TO DRIVE IT Through the streets of Rome with a police escort, which is what we did at the car’s recent launch party, held as part of the Rome Film Fest. Be sure to download our enhanced app to read about the experience in detail.

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