New Mazda MX-5 RF revealed

The hard-top version of the new Mazda MX-5 has been revealed, and will go on sale in the UK early next year, acting as a rival to the likes of the Toyota GT86 and Audi TT.

What is it?

The new Mazda MX-5 RF (which stands for Retractable Fastback), is the hard-top version of the latest MX-5 sports car. It’s expected to be the best-selling version of the MX-5 when it reaches this country, because sales of the previous hard-top accounted for 80% of total sales in the UK.

Mazda has given the RF a unique look, characterised by a new rear deck which gives the impression of a targa-style roof. This new rear deck is hinged, allowing the folding metal roof to be automatically deployed and stored at speeds of up to 6mph.

Because the roof is stored behind the rear seats rather than in the boot, the amount of storage space available in the MX-5 RF matches the open-top car, at 130 litres.

What engines can I choose from?

Engine options in the RF are the same as for the regular Mazda MX-5, with 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre petrol units being the only options available. Despite an increase in weight, the RF’s performance isn’t expected to suffer too much. The 2.0-litre soft-top model can reach 62mph from a standing start in 7.3 seconds, with a top speed of 133mph.

New for the RF is the addition of a six-speed automatic gearbox, which will be offered alongside a standard six-speed manual.

Mazda says it has also tuned the car’s suspension and steering systems especially for the RF, aiming to deliver a comfortable and refined ride. Extra insulation has also been applied to the cabin in an effort to reduce road noise.

What equipment does it come with?

The MX-5 RF is expected to come with exactly the same equipment and trim level options as the regular MX-5. The only addition to its cabin will be a switch for deploying and storing the automatic roof.

Even entry-level versions of the regular MX-5 get air-conditioning, alloy wheels, a USB connection and leather-trimmed steering wheel, and we’d expect the same to be true of the RF.

On the outside, Mazda has developed a new paint option, which uses three coats to create a metallic finish.

How much does it cost?

Mazda hasn’t revealed pricing for the RF, but it’s expected to command a premium of around £2500 over the standard soft-top MX-5, which is priced from £18,495 – meaning a starting price of about £21,000 is likely. That’s still cheaper than key rivals, including the Toyota GT86, which starts from £22,495, and the £27,150 Audi TT.

How good are its rivals?

The latest Audi TT is very well regarded by What Car?, achieving a five-star road test rating and being named as our favourite coupé at the 2016 What Car? Awards. Toyota’s GT86, meanwhile, gets a three-star rating.

Mazda’s MX-5 has secured a reputation over the years for providing excellent value for money, so if Mazda can bring the RF to the UK at a price which significantly undercuts its rivals, the new RF could prove to be a popular choice.

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