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Mazda MX-5 RF misses one crucial ingredient

15.04.2019

Small sports cars used to be weekend warriors. They were driver orientated toys that you could enjoy for two or three days before parking it and getting back into your executive sedan for the Monday to Friday grind.

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.

Auto MX-5?

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.

Verdict

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.

Article written by Justin Jacobs
15.04.2019
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