Unfortunately, times have changed and many just can’t afford such luxuries any more. Manufacturers have thus made their sports cars more practical and one such car is the Mazda MX-5, which features a folding hard-top roof and an automatic gearbox.
Called the RF which stands for Retractable Fastback, the solid-lid MX-5 is now the only derivative locally as Mazda has, decided to cancel soft-top with its manual gearbox.
The decision has been met with mixed response with some of my colleagues commenting that the two-pedal layout spoils the feel and poise the MX-5 has become known for. Truth be told, I didn’t care much as the auto ‘box alleviated the clutch-stop-clutch-stop acrobatics of sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
Small but acceptable
When I got into the car, I noticed that the cabin was somewhat cosy, in other words, small. There wasn’t much space for things, but I found myself sitting low with ample support from the seats. The steering wheel and pedal position is spot on and it feels like a little racing car.
Enough power with added weight?
Under the bonnet sits the same 2.0-litre naturally aspirated motor as the soft-top which produces 118 kW and 200 N.m of torque. As mentioned, this is routed to the rear wheels via a self-shifting six-speed ‘box, and is further compounded by weighing 51 kg more than its sibling at 1 126 kg.
On back roads, the little Mazda delivers a fun-filled driving experience - the steering is well-weighted though the throttle response is,to put it bluntly, slow. You really need to get it into the upper rev-range which gives the car a little fizz as you approach the red-line. As for practicality, the RF doesn’t offer much in terms of cabin space and the boot is not big at 127-litres. The targa-like roof, however, takes 13 seconds to retract and can be done at speeds up to 10 km/h.
So what do I think? Well, after a week I can report that the RF is a fun little car that is nonetheless wanting for a manual transmission. As convenient as the automatic is, it feels out of place in a model wearing the MX-5 designation.
What’s more, its sticker price of R538 200 is simply too high and sees it going up against the Mazda CX-3 and CX-5, both of which offer much more in the real world. If, therefore, you want an MX-5, rather consider a used soft-top with the manual ‘box and save yourself a significant amount of money.