2017 Mazda MX-5 RF GT

By Jaedene Hudson on 08 March 2017
2017 Mazda MX-5 RF GT convertible

Specifications

Priced from $43,890
Engine 2.0L
Transmission 6-speed manual
Fuel Economy
7.0L/100km16.4 L/ 100km
Output 118kW
ANCAP rating

What Is It?

The RF is a new convertible version of the MX-5. RF stands for 'retractable fastback', as this model has a metal folding roof rather than the fabric one on regular MX-5 convertibles.

What are its rivals?

This is an interesting one, as not many cars can compete with the MX-5 for handling or value. In convertible form with a soft top the MX-5 has its 'twin under the skin', the Arbath, and then there are other higher priced soft tops such as the Nissan 370Z and Audi TT.

As a hard top, the MX-5 competes with other sports coupés such as the Toyota 86 and the Subaru BRZ.

What models are on offer?

The MX-5 RF comes in three versions – the RF, the RF GT and the RF GT with black roof.

How much is it?

The equivalent soft top version of the MX-5 is priced from $34,490, just over $4000 less than the RF. A rear camera adds $480 (dealer fit).

  • Mazda MX-5 RF GT 6MT (Black or tan leather): $43,890

  • Mazda MX-5 RF GT 6AT (Black or tan leather): $45,890

  • Mazda MX-5 RF GT with Black Roof 6MT Nappa leather: $44,890

  • Mazda MX-5 RF GT with Black Roof 6AT Nappa leather: $46,890

What's changed?

Mazda says there were three key considerations when designing the RF: It had to be lightweight and compact, it had to have the same wheelbase as the soft-top model, and its boot space could not be greatly sacrificed. While sporting a slightly different shape, the RF has the same length, width and wheelbase as the soft top version. Overall height has increased by 5mm.

The MX-5 RF's retractable hardtop consists of a front roof, middle roof, rear roof and back window glass. Synchronising and overlapping the various movements of the roof sections enables MX-5 RF to achieve an opening/closing time of approximately 13 seconds, one of the fastest for any vehicle with retractable hardtop as genuine parts on the market.

When the roof is open, the front and middle roof sections are stowed together with the back window glass in the space behind the seats. A new power top lock makes it possible to open and close the roof with a simple flip of a switch.
A new control system enables the roof to be opened or closed, even when in motion at speeds of 10km/h or less.

The RF comes with a wind blocker that prevents air from the rear blowing back into the cabin while maintaining rearward visibility. Boot space is 127 litres, almost the same as the soft-top model, even when the roof is stowed. The boot can accommodate two carry-on bags measuring 550mm x 400mm x 220mm.

The suspension settings, the dampers and electric power assist steering (EPAS) system have been tuned specifically for the Mazda MX-5 RF. A sound absorbing headliner has been added to the front and middle roof panels and other sound-absorbing and insulation materials, selected specifically for use on the RF, were added inside the body and door trim.

What's under the bonnet?

The RF models feature the same 2.0-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine as the soft top GT model, paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The engine produces 118kW of power at 6000rpm and 200Nm of torque at 4600rpm. Claimed combined fuel consumption is 7.0L/100km (manual) or 7.4L/100 (auto).

What equipment does it get?

Standard equipment on the RF models includes cloth trim, satellite navigation, cruise control, body coloured retractable roof, LED daytime running lamps and headlamps, power mirrors, six-speaker audio system with seven-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth, Internet radio integration (Pandora, Stitcher and Aha) and 17-inch alloy wheels with 205/45 tyres.

Safety equipment includes front and side (driver and passenger) airbags, blind spot monitoring, limited slip differential (manual only), rear cross traffic alert and a tyre pressure monitoring system. No models come with autonomous emergency braking (called Smart City Brake Support on other Mazda models).

Additional equipment on GT models includes the option of a two-tone retractable roof, automatic headlights, power mirrors (body coloured with heating), rain-sensing wipers, leather trim, heated seats, climate control, rear-view mirror with auto dimming function, Bose audio, adaptive front-lighting system and advanced keyless entry.

How does it drive?

As you'd expect, much like the soft top. Interestingly, despite having the metal drop top, there is still a bit of noise intrusion through the roof. While not overbearing, it was enough to make me check that the windows were up properly. It is more pronounced when going through tunnels.

There are no glaring differences between the hard-top and soft-top in the way they drive. Credit is due to the engineers, who added the roof and all the extra components but only 50kg to the overall weight of the car.

Steering is razor sharp, has good feedback and is well-weighted. The RF is nimble, surefooted and composed over most road surfaces. Ride comfort is good given the dynamic prowess of the car. Like, the soft top, it could do with that little bit more power but, being in the same vein as the Toyota 86 and Subaru BRZ, it's not about straight out speed.

With the roof down, wind intrusion is less than what we recall for the soft top – likely due to the higher rear roof frame and larger wind deflector.

The manual transmission is a sweet box. The gear lever falls naturally to hand, has precise shifts (albeit a bit notchy) and the clutch is light. While purists might scoff, the automatic would have to be a consideration if you plan to use the MX-5 as an everyday driver. My daily commute is only 16km, but one trip (outside of full peak hour) saw 274 gear changes. That would quickly become tedious.

Inside, the cabin is much the same as the soft top. Cosseting is an apt way to describe it. Whether it's the soft top or the RF there is certainly not a lot of room inside the MX-5, but it doesn't feel claustrophobic. Storage spaces are few and the position of the drink holders is not very ergonomic. One cuts into the passenger's seat knee space and the other is located behind the centre console – the driver has to turn fully around to reach it, unless the passenger uses it and even then it's awkward. Moving to an automatic handbrake – even the Mazda3 has an electric parking brake on some models – would help to free up more space, but again the purists would gnash their teeth.

A rear camera is not standard. Yes, the car is tiny, but the issue is visibility, not size. The high haunches and small rear window make it hard to see what is around you – especially small children. There are blind spots around the car too; the rear pillar is wide and you can completely lose a pole when reversing.

The RF's seats are different but there's not a lot in it – they might be slightly wider than those in the regular MX-5. They are still well bolstered and hug the occupants, although the lack of enough height adjustment was an issue for me and that, combined with no reach adjustment on the steering wheel, made it difficult to find a comfortable driving position – especially given the car was a manual.

Should I consider one?

With better security (metal top versus fabric), increased practicality, less road noise, no loss of dynamic capability or compromise in boot space, and a better overall convertible drive experience, the RF is definitely worth considering for the extra $4000.

Quick Facts
Make Mazda
Model MX-5 RF GT
Category Small
Body type Convertible
Pros Retains the great handling of the soft top
Doesn't compromise boot space
Quieter cabin
Cons Driving position was a little hard to get used to
Autonomous emergency braking not available
Some ergonomic gripes – sparse storage
Country of manufacture Japan
Available from 8-Mar-17
Priced from $43,890

Specifications

Engine
Number of cylinders 4
Engine size 2.0 L
Claimed max power (kW) 118 kW @ 6000 rpm
Claimed max torque (Nm) 200 Nm @ 4600 rpm

Transmission
Type 6-speed manual

Fuel Consumption
Claimed fuel consumption 7.0 L/100km

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