The Mazda MX-5 Auto RF (Retractable Fastback)

Perfect for two…

When the Mazda MX-5 RF launched earlier this year, I was green with envy for anyone who’d been able to test drive it. While I loved the sleek and super sporty look of it, I only had YouTube videos and other people’s reviews to give me an idea of what it’s like to drive. So when my editor, Juliet McGuire, told me that we were getting it on test and that I’d be able to drive it for a few days, you can imagine my excitement as I cleared my schedule to make sure I’d have enough time in each day to finally experience it behind the wheel!

Priced at R532 800 for this automatic derivative, only a limited amount of units were made available directly to the public.

I’ve heard people rave about the manual derivative, mostly its ‘fun-to-drive’ aspect, so I was hoping the automatic version would do justice to these sentiments and I wouldn’t feel any sort of FOMO at the end of it.

Facts and Features

  • The Mazda MX-% RF has a maximum power of118 Kw @ 6000 rpm
  • and a maximum torque of 200 Nm @ 4600 rpm
  • Advanced keyless entry
  • Advanced keyless push-button engine start
  • Airbags SRS: front (driver and passenger) and side
  • Bluetooth® hands-free phone and audio capability
  • Retractable Hardtop
  • Climate control air-conditioning
  • Cruise control
  • Daytime running lamps (LED)
  • Emergency Stop Signal (ESS)
  • Headlamps (LED)
  • Headlamps auto on/off function
  • Adaptive Front-lighting system (AFS)
  • Hill Launch Assist (HLA)
  • I-Stop Standard
  • Leather seats
  • Leather-wrapped: steering wheel, handbrake handle and gearshift knob
  • Limited Slip Differential
  • Internet radio integration (Pandora®, StitcherT and AhaT)
  • Multi-function Commander Control
  • Navigation system
  • Black coloured mirrors
  • Premium Bose® 203 watt amplifier with 9 speakers
  • Rain-sensing wipers
  • Rear-view mirror with auto dimming function
  • 7-inch touchscreen display (MZD Connect)
  • 17-inch Alloy wheels
  • Lane Departure Warning (LDW)
  • AT Shift switch
  • Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM)

Also see: Juliet drives the Mazda MX-5

Driving – perfect for two

Of course, the Mazda MX-5 RF is great to look at, and you certainly gain quite a bit of attention in traffic. But what is it like to drive?

I haven’t had a chance to drive its manual derivative, but I have heard that the two peddle version loses its sense of zippiness, if compared to the manual version. I personally felt that the auto version was still far from boring or lacking in performance, and I had a thrilling time driving up and around Kloof Nek and the Cape Peninsula. If there were moments where I felt it could do with a bit of a kick, putting it in Sports Mode sorted that out right away, especially when driving uphill.

Sports car-like interior 

Getting in and out of this little guy can be quite a task – I wouldn’t suggest taking anyone like my aunt, who’d previously sprained her ankle in a game of tennis, for a spin unless you get them to sit on the ground and drag them into the passenger seat by their arms. Having said that, this car isn’t made for everyone in the family. I can imagine it fitting in perfectly with a family who already has, let’s say for argument’s sake, a CX-5, and when something a bit more exhilarating is needed, the MX-5 RF comes out to play. Its driver-focused cabin might feel a bit cramped if you’re used to slightly bigger cars, and if you’re super tall you might struggle with its low roofline. But, once you’re settled in, everything is user-friendly and conveniently available, from its infotainment system and phone pairing, to its aircon dials and other adjustable settings.

Also see: Juliet reviews the Mazda CX-5

The metal hard top roof, the MX-5 RF’s claim to fame, can be opened and closed simply by pressing and holding a switch up or down. Watching everything above you synchronise and overlap doesn’t get boring and opening and closing time is approximately 13 seconds! It adds to the MX-5’s refinement and gives it that ‘extra special’ sense of excitement.

The RF is certainly aimed at those looking for a fun, compact, sports car, so if you’re looking for something with more storage space and room, you might want to consider something bigger, like a hot hatch. It is a sports car, after all!