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First Drive

2018 Mazda MX-5 RF Sport Black review - price, specs and release date

Sitting between SE-L Nav and Sport Nav, could the Mazda MX-5 RF Sport Black be your ideal summer companion?

Words By Alan Taylor-Jones

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Convertibles may be incredibly popular in the UK considering our often unappealing weather, but it would seem buyers aren’t complete masochists – nearly a third of MX-5 buyers opt for the folding hard-top. That brings us nicely onto the Mazda MX-5 RF Sport Black.

This limited edition (300 examples will be made) slots neatly in between the SE-L Nav and Sport Nav models and is only available with the 2.0-litre engine. That means you get a limited-slip differential, although you miss out on the strut brace and stiffer suspension of the Sport Nav.

Sport Black trim then adds this fetching shade of metallic blue, black highlights on the exterior, leather seats, automatic lights and wipers, rear parking sensors and unique interior trimmings. In essence, you get most of the kit of Sport Nav along with a comfier ride and a lower purchase price.

2018 Mazda MX-5 RF Sport Black on the road

Although some might bemoan the lack of changes under the Sport Black’s skin, we have few complaints regarding how it gets down a twisting stretch of asphalt. While 158bhp isn’t even strong enough for most hot hatches these days, the Sport Black’s featherweight build means that amount of power is enough to get it from 0-62mph in 7.4sec – just 0.1sec slower than the 45kg-lighter soft-top MX-5.

Mazda has stiffened the hard-top MX-5 RF’s suspension to counter the high-mounted bulk of the metal roof, and, if anything, improved the handling over its lighter sibling. There’s a little less body roll in corners and the car is quicker to recover its composure after you hit a bump. Even so, you might still be surprised at how much the Sport Black cants itself over in the bends.

Vitally, the steering is still well weighted and precise, allowing you to easily place the nose of the car on even the tightest of country lanes. And because you have rear-wheel drive and the ability to fully switch off the stability control, there’s always the temptation to play the hooligan.

Once you’ve finished hooning around, you’ll soon be thankful for the soft springing. Sure, it’s no Mercedes-Benz S-Class Cabriolet, but there are few more comfortable convertibles at this end of the price spectrum. But while you’ll appreciate the cosseting ride and reduced road roar, you might be disappointed with the amount of wind noise, even with the roof up.

It’s also worth remembering that, unlike in many rivals, you have to be stationary or travelling at a snail’s pace to operate the MX-5 RF's electrically folding roof; exceed 6mph and it will be frozen mid-movement, forcing you to pull over or crawl down the road with frustrated commuters behind you. Yes, this is the voice of experience speaking.

2018 Mazda MX-5 RF Sport Black interior

If there’s one thing that we must mention about the interior, it’s how big it is. Unsurprisingly, given the MX-5’s compact dimensions, it’s not exactly cavernous inside. Indeed, if you’re over 6ft tall, there’s a good chance you won’t fit inside when the roof's up. If you want more detail, have a look at our 16-point review for everything you possibly need to know.

At least the cosy interior is well appointed. The leather seats sit a bit high, but they hold you in place well in corners and add a touch of class to the interior. To make sure you don’t forget what you’ve bought, you get a plaque on the dashboards, unique floor mats and snazzy scuffplates.

If you fancy saving a bit of cash on a regular MX-5 or another drop-top, don't forget to look at our New Car Buying section for big savings.

Next: 2018 Mazda MX-5 RF Sport Black verdict >

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