Mazda's MX-5 two-seat sports car has been around since 1989, with the fourth-generation model launching in 2015. It's a perennial favourite here at What Car? for the way it blends outstanding ride, handling and performance with a low buying price and running costs. In fact, direct rivals are thin on the ground - the closest is the Fiat 124 Spider, with which the MX-5 shares its underpinnings, plus the Toyota GT86 and the much pricier Audi TT.
Now, there is the MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) electrically folding hard-top version. In the UK, such MX-5s have previously taken around 80% of sales. Engine options in the RF are the same as for the regular MX-5, with 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre petrol units the only choices. The RF is exclusively available with a six-speed automatic gearbox.
The MX-5 RF will cost from £22,195, which is £3700 more than the regular MX-5. It arrives in showrooms in March, but we've already invited a team of What Car? readers along to an exclusive event to give their opinions on the new car.
Age: 57 Job: Enterprise architect Drives: Mazda MX-5 RC Kendo (2011)
‘I’ve only done just over 14,000 miles in my previous-generation MX-5, because it’s my 'weekend car'. But as much as I like it, it’s time for a change, and I’m definitely considering this new MX-5 RF.
‘I love its looks. The more contoured lines compared with the previous model, the curves on the front wings and the new design of the head and tail-lights all really stand out for me. With the roof up, it’s better-looking than the previous hard-top MX-5, which doesn’t quite look right with the roof up.
‘On that car, you have to manually unlatch the roof and then fold it down by pressing a button. It's all done with the button now, so the whole process is that bit easier. The roof takes about the same time to retract, and it’s a bit quieter.
‘I’m six feet one inch tall. Leg room is roughly the same as in my car, while head room is actually a bit better, although this top-spec model does have Recaro sports seats, so I’d need to see if the standard seats are mounted lower or higher.
‘The only thing I don't like is the infotainment screen. I wouldn’t call it a distraction, but I’ve been driving for 35+ years just fine without a screen in the corner of my vision. Fortunately, you can turn it off.’
Age: 60 Job: Communications manager Drives: Hyundai i10
‘I’ve already ordered an MX-5 RF, even though today is the first time I’ve seen it in the metal. From every angle, it’s a beautiful car. Photographs don’t do it justice.
‘I think the Soul Red metallic paint looks awesome; Mazda have used this new paint-mixing technique that gives a real contrast in light in areas right next to each other.
‘I’ve had a test drive in the soft-top version of this car, and it was just so much fun. It’s light and the handling is nippy, with very responsive steering. So when I heard that this RF version would be available with an automatic gearbox, I was sold.
‘It’s more angular than the previous model, and that makes for a very pretty design. I’m a fan of the wider rear wheel arches, but I’m glad it doesn’t look too muscular. When some cars go into a new generation, they’re made to look a lot more masculine, and for me it often doesn’t work. A good example of that is the Audi TT.
‘Some will complain about the MX-5 RF having a roll-bar above the driver, saying it then doesn’t feel like a true convertible, but I’m hoping it will reduce wind bluster and noise.
‘I was hesitant about the interior, because the soft-top I drove didn’t look all that refined inside. But, this top-spec car is fantastic quality.'
Find out what our third reader, Mark Hanson, thought of the MX-5 RF and read more on the next page.
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