Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Just like the regular Mazda MX-5, the MX-5 RF offers a choice of two petrol engines: a 1.5-litre with 130bhp and a 2.0-litre with 181bhp. As it's a relatively light car, even the 1.5-litre version feels brisk, if not exactly fast, but revving its engine to the limiter to access its pace is all part of the fun.
The 181bhp 2.0-litre needs to be thrashed to access full power, but feels a lot stronger lower down in its rev range. It also has a significantly more enthusiastic top end. In fact, you often find yourself waiting until the heady 7500rpm redline before changing up a gear, such is the engine’s appetite for revs. So why the low score? Well, the RF is still a bit pedestrian in comparison with the best sports cars.
The 2.0 Sport Tech and GT Sport Tech models have firmer sports suspension with Bilstein dampers that transmits a little more information about the road surface to the car's occupants, but the ride is still bearable.
The MX-5 RF’s solid roof sections make it 45kg heavier than the soft-top, but you’d never know it, because it’s just as light on its toes, if not a touch better in the bends. It offers the same rear-wheel-drive set-up that gives all MX-5 variants their nimbleness and ability to change direction quickly, helped in part by the well-weighted and accurate steering. There’s plenty of grip, too, so you don’t feel afraid to use all its performance. Compared with most similarly priced front-wheel-drive hot hatches, the MX-5 RF is a much more playful-feeling car.