Mazda MX-5 RF finally enters production, Australia launch early 2017

The Mazda MX-5 RF folding hardtop has finally entered production, at the company’s Ujina Plant No. 1 near Hiroshima, ahead of its global sales rollout at the end of 2016.

The first market to get the slick new MX-5 derivative will be Mazda’s home, Japan, with Europe, North America and us here in Australia set to get the car by March 2017.

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The local launch will come about one year after the Mazda MX-5 RF’s world premiere this year at the New York motor show.

The ‘RF’ in Mazda MX-5 RF stands for Retractable Fastback, which outlines what you need to know first and foremost about this take on the world’s most popular convertible.

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Unlike the third-generation MX-5 hardtop, the ND version doesn’t simply replace the canvas roof with a harder shell. Rather, it has its own distinctive stylistic identity.

The complex roof consists of segmented front, middle and rear sections, and retractable back window glass. The C-pillar lifts, and the middle section of the roof is stowed away in the boot, all via the flick of a switch. The C-pillar is fixed in place when the top is down.

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No wonder it’s taken a while to ramp up production.

The aim is for the driver to feel more ensconced than in the soft top, courtesy in part to the large aero board wind blocker, while giving the car distinctive lines. The Machine Grey is a new premium colour, which joins the existing Soul Red hero hue.

The MX-5 RF’s roof can drop or raise via the switch, at speeds of 10km/h or less. Boot capacity with the roof down matches the soft-top, another benefit to only lowering the middle piece. You’ll get two carry-on bags in there.

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Dimensionally, the MX-5 RF matches the soft-top in all areas bar height. It’s only 5mm taller. Further differentiating the RF is the extra sound-deadening in the headlining and around the rear wheel housings.

You can also option up to real Nappa leather trim, while the RF is further differentiated inside by the 4.6-inch TFT LCD screen in the instrument cluster that displays an animation of the roof when in operation.

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Full Australian details are being held back until the car launches, but we do know that it’ll only be available with the bigger 118kW/200Nm 2.0-litre engine, matched to either the six-speed manual or automatic transmission. Expect a price premium of about $3500-$5000.

By the end of the third-generation NC MX-5’s model life, the less complex retractable hardtop accounted for more than 50 per cent sales globally. It was far higher than that in Australia, and even became the sole offering near the end of its cycle.

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The launch of the MX-5 RF will no doubt give the two-door model a sales boost, keeping things bubbling along after a strong 2016. The soft-top model has managed 1290 sales this year, up 250 per cent on 2015’s figure.

This still puts it behind the Ford Mustang, Toyota 86, BMW 2 Series and Hyundai Veloster in its segment.

MORE: Mazda MX-5 news, reviews, comparisons, galleries and videos

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