Test Drive by Graham Breeze
Imagine the joy of discovering your favourite iconic two-seater just got even better if you will. Well it's just happened with the launch of the new Mazda MX-5 RF -an example of metal origami.
Brave decisions by Mazda bosses have seen the arrival of the new Retractable Fastback metal roof, adding a touch of class to the World's most popular sports car. And I have an inkling that you'll need to move pretty quickly if you want one to snap -up one of the limited edition models in a hurry.
Because Mazda has only 500 of the special editions in red and grey available at March 4th launch and they're already nearly sold out as fans of the roadster clamour to get their hands on the new model as an alternative to the highly successful soft-top.
But buyers won't be too disappointed because orders are already being taken for the rest of the range and there are plenty of options for Mazda enthusiasts to pick from.
It takes less than 13 seconds for the coupe to transform to an open-top sports car with the roof peeling back, before splitting in two and vanishing beneath the rear deck like a piece of folded paper without affecting boot space in any way.
Powered by a 160ps 2.0-litre SKYACTIV-G engine, the launch edition is marked out by its unique twin-tone roof, 17” BBS wheels, black door mirrors and a black rear spoiler.
Available with a choice of Soul Red or Machine Grey Metallic paint, it also comes with a safety pack as standard, while the exclusive feel continues inside with Alcantara trim and Recaro seats.
It would have been absolute madness had Mazda not stayed true to the underlying principle of the previous generation MX-5 retractable hardtop, but the new Mazda MX-5 RF’s ‘fastback’ styling does give it a unique appearance and broadens its appeal.
So is this the start of another chapter in the amazing success story of the Mazda MX-5.? Well Managing Director Jeremy Thompson certainly thinks so.
"We are very excited about the arrival of the all-new Mazda MX-5 RF. It will add a unique and stylish model to our range, one that stands distinct from the MX-5 convertible, yet retains all the award-winning driver appeal our sports car is famed for," he told me.
"With over 120,000 sales since its launch in 1990, the UK has played a huge part in the MX-5 success story. The last generation of retractable hardtop accounted for a large percentage of MX-5 sales and we expect the all-new RF to continue that trend," he added.
As with the established Mazda MX-5 convertible, all manual models powered by the 2.0-litre 160ps engine feature a limited slip differential and 17-inch wheels; while Sport Nav manual models (and the Launch Edition) feature Bilstein dampers and strut brace to enhance the ride.
And with the introduction of the £27,095 Sport Nav Auto, the current generation of MX-5 is offered with an automatic gearbox for the first time in the UK.
Available in both SE-L Nav and Sport Nav trim, RF’s powered by the 1.5-litre 131ps engine will arrive in dealerships in May.
Generations of people have been attracted to Mazda's straightforward approach to the two-seater market and I don't think they will be disappointed with this new model.
The biggest change is at the back end where the roof folds-in brilliantly, revealing a unique design that will make the model instantly recognisable.
I would have liked to see Mazda address the lack of storage space in the cabin but nothing has changed there. That means even a briefcase really needs storing in the boot, as do coats and any other accessories.
The cabin looks the part with equipment and instruments just where you would expect to find them but it's a tight and perhaps a claustrophobic space to those not used to two-seater travel. And while the driving position is comfortable enough, with plenty of adjustment to steering column and seat, the passenger seat offers very little leg relief to those around six feet tall.
Even with the roof folded on a cold and blustery morning the cabin was still a cosy place to be as long as you cranked up the heating and switched on the essential heated seats. But there was a little too much wind noise with the roof up on the model tested.
With specially tuned suspension, steering and brakes the MX-5 is still a fun car to drive with the 2.0 160ps Launch Edition charging from 0-62mph in just 7.4 seconds and top speeding at 134mph.
It's still pound for pound the best value two-seater available today too. The 1.5 SE-L Nav comes in at £22,195 while the top-of-the-range Launch Edition will set you back £28,995.
You'd better get your order in quickly because I have a feeling Mazda might have a few problems meeting demand.