Mazda MX-5 RF
Our folding hard-top roadster is proving to be almost too popular
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