Mazda MX-5 RF

Our fold­ing hard-top road­ster is prov­ing to be al­most too pop­u­lar

Auto Car (UK) - - THIS WEEK - JAMES ATTWOOD

Dif­fer­ent views on go­ing roof­less

WHY WE’RE RUN­NING IT

To see if a hard-top makes the MX-5 more prac­ti­cal but no less fun

When I joined Au­to­car around five months ago, I was struck by the friend­li­ness of my new col­leagues. In par­tic­u­lar, they seemed in­cred­i­bly in­ter­ested in what I was do­ing with my week­ends.

It didn’t take long to work out it wasn’t my leisure plans they were in­ter­ested in, but the long-term test car I was cus­to­dian of: our Mazda MX-5 RF. After all, the MX-5 has al­ways been an ex­cel­lent week­end get­away car (as­sum­ing your plans only in­volve two peo­ple and limited lug­gage), and the ad­di­tion of a fold­ing hard-top should, in the­ory, only add to its util­ity. In the past months, I’ve sur­ren­dered the RF’S keys to col­leagues so they can make week­end trips to, among other places, Corn­wall, Nor­folk and France.

Pic­ture edi­tor Ben Sum­merel­ly­oude took the long­est trip, driv­ing the RF to Paris and back, with the roof down the en­tire way – “even at night”, he noted. “The heated seats were ex­cel­lent, as were the noise lev­els while I was hav­ing a con­ver­sa­tion with my pas­sen­ger.”

Tester Doug Re­volta was another who kept the roof down through­out his trip to Corn­wall, al­though he did note the fold­ing mech­a­nism “isn’t ex­actly quick, and a bit an­noy­ing when you have to hold your fin­ger on the but­ton the whole time.”

But it was time well spent, ap­par­ently. “I cov­ered every mile with a smile on my face,” he said. “Many jour­neys in­cluded a warm hat and a coat, but it was to­tally worth it.”

While such roof-down mo­tor­ing does call into ques­tion the ex­tra cost of the fold­ing hard-top com­pared with the reg­u­lar soft-top MX-5, Doug did con­cede that a down­pour on the way home prompted him to put the roof up. My ex­pe­ri­ence on a trip to Swansea high­lighted the value of the roof to me. It made hold­ing a con­ver­sa­tion on the blast down the M4 eas­ier, and kept me dry dur­ing the heavy show­ers that be­set south Wales in sum­mer. Sadly, the roof couldn’t pro­tect me from those show­ers when I was run­ning the Swansea Half Marathon…

One lim­i­ta­tion of the MX-5 RF as a week­end car is shared with its soft-top sib­ling: the small boot. “It was prac­ti­cal enough for a solo trip to Corn­wall and back, which isn’t re­ally say­ing much,” said Doug, while Ben re­ported: “It was only just enough, but it was enough – if you’re will­ing to squash your bags.”

Edi­tor Mark Tis­shaw, a vet­eran of run­ning an MX-5, had pack­ing the boot down to a fine art. “It’s quite a big space, if you pack it right. Shoes and coats first, then bags on top.” I’d agree with that: from my ex­pe­ri­ence, us­ing those big su­per­mar­ket bags rather than a suit­case al­lowed me to fit far more in, even if it did make me look a bit odd when check­ing into my ho­tel. So the RF is just about prac­ti­cal enough to be a week­end car, then, but to be a great week­end get­away two-seater, it also has to be fun to drive. “Beau­ti­ful thing, lovely bal­ance to the chas­sis and the gear­box is a joy,” said Doug. “Every jour­ney was a de­light. It man­aged the mo­tor­way in com­fort and was per­fect around Cor­nish roads.” Ben added: “Loved it, and the 1.5-litre en­gine has as much power as you’ll ever need. Even when fully loaded it felt light, and it was su­per-comfy.” Tis­shaw wasn’t quite such a fan, per­haps be­cause he had the 2.0-litre en­gine in his pre­vi­ous long-ter­mer: “It’s de­cep­tively slow – it al­ways sounds a lot faster than you’re go­ing, which at least has the happy con­se­quence of mean­ing you can pretty much ex­ploit it in full on the road.” I didn’t mind the lack of out­right speed so much, per­haps be­cause I’m not so fa­mil­iar with the 2.0. And, to me, week­end get­aways aren’t all about driv­ing fast; they’re about a car that puts a smile on your face and the MX-5 RF does that.

Small boot isn’t too bad if you box — or bag — clever; the MX-5 has trav­elled far and wide

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