What's the used Mazda MX-5 coupe like?
Few cars reach iconic status but the mega-successful Mazda MX-5 is definitely one of them. Over four generations this charming soft-top has won the hearts of all who’ve either owned or driven one, with an unbeatable combination of fresh-air driving fun and pocket-friendly affordability.
The third generation version introduced a folding hard-top roof into the equation, and it quickly went on to become the bigger seller. When this fourth generation model appeared, smaller, lighter and more nimble than the car it replaced, it was this RF, or Retractable Fastback, version that came to do the hard-top honours, with a three-part roof that folds away in seconds at the touch of a button but leaves the fastback-style rear section in place.
It weighs more than the standard convertible version, and new it costs more too. On the positive side, the car is more refined, with extra sound deadening added just for good measure, and the delightful handling balance of the original car is retained.
Just like the Convertible model, the Mazda MX-5 RF comes with two petrol engines: a 1.5-litre with 129bhp and a 2.0-litre with 158bhp. Being a relatively light car even the 1.5-litre version feels brisk, if not exactly outright fast, and revving its engine to the high 7000rpm limiter to access its pace is all part of the fun. The 2.0-litre also needs to be revved, but in doing so you instantly get pressed back harder in your seat by its extra grunt.
The entry-level trim in the RF is SE-L Nav, and in it you get goodies such as climate and cruise control, LED daytime running lights and 16in alloy wheels. A comprehensive infotainment package includes a six-speaker stereo, sat-nav, Bluetooth and a DAB radio, all operated through a 7.0in colour screen. Sport Nav versions throw in extras such as heated leather seats, rear parking sensors, automatic lights and wipers, and an upgraded stereo. The 2.0-litre models add 17in alloy wheels to both trims.
As you would imagine, it steers and handles really well, too, having the same nimbleness and ability to change direction quickly as the Convertible. Sport models receive a stiffer suspension that keeps roll under much tighter control and also makes the MX-5 feel keener to turn in to a corner. On all 2.0-litre models you get better traction out of corners, too, thanks to a standard limited slip differential.
Refinement at low speeds seems impressive enough, but when you get to higher speeds wind noise is very pronounced, and dropping the roof down seems to make that noise much worse. It rides well, though, especially for a small sports car, soaking up speed bumps and road imperfections with aplomb.
Space inside is best described as cosy, with a driving position that is a little compromised for taller drivers. There’s not a lot of oddment space in there either, although the boot is the same size as the Convertible’s, and the same whether the roof is up or down.