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Mazda MX-5 RF Review – Be careful what you wish for

When it comes to reviewing convertible cars, Mazda seem to have a hotline with the weather bureau. Regardless of what the google app seems to say, normally when I pick up the keys to their MX-5 the sun shines and the top goes down.

Now don’t get me wrong, being subjected to a big dose of Vitamin D while racing around Auckland’s city and rural roads in the driver’s seat of a sports car is hardly a chore, but I figured it would be good for once to have it rain and try out the roof. Well, there is a term ‘be careful what you wish for’ and my ‘wish’ was more than granted with cyclone Debbie paying a visit and Mazda giving me the keys to the MX-5 RF.

I had a brief encounter with the RF at the Auckland launch and was suitably impressed, however as with all these events, time behind the wheel is limited and there are always your own favorite roads you’d like to take them on to see how they stack up. So the offer of a week on my own turf and on my own terms was greatly received, just the RF, me and Debbie making three.

The launch event was in the few days we called summer and the 28 odd degrees meant the first button I pushed was the roof, Targa driving all the way – plus watching the mechanism yoga itself away was incredibly mesmerizing. This time however, with the weather packing in, the first thing I reached for were the wipers.

Having the roof up makes getting in and out just that little bit harder, add in the combination of less maneuverability that comes with age and a couple of extra pounds and the RF does make you think about entry/exit strategy. But that to me; is what a sports car is all about. It shouldn’t be as easy to get in as a family sedan or SUV, I want to be travelling at speed with your rear end as close to the ground as possible, that’s why I opted for this car.

Most of the aesthetics of the RF are the same as the MX-5, (they should be, it’s essentially the same car). They both have the sleek headlights and enlarged front wings. Both are 2 seater sports cars. Length and widths are the same and both sit on 17”Alloys. So the difference lies in the roof. Its weight adds 49kg’s (1106kg vs 1057kg’s) and nudges the height up by a massive 5mm (1235 vs 1230). Fuel efficiency changes a whisker by .3L/100k’s as does the boot space by 3L (127L vs 130).

As you can see, much of the ‘differences’ are so negligible that you would be hard pushed to notice. But with the roof up, the RF’s entire frame seems a little more rigid. Less body movement in corners (but still plenty to run with) and far less exterior noise on the open road. Roof down, there is less wind around your gills but you still get the fresh air ‘outdoor’ driving experience – it’s arguably noisier but the jury is still out for me. Having the hard top shell also gives you an added sense of safety, you feel more ‘in’ the vehicle, less exposed. And I found this increased sense of well-being was perfect under the relentless rain and buffeting winds from my weather ‘date’.

With a small break in the weather, a neighbour and I made a Targa dash to the store. Now normally two men, top down in a Targa sports car, one wearing a ‘salmon’ coloured T shirt and listening to ‘80’s pop music from less than closet bound artists blaring out of from the 230 Watt Bose System would give me cause for concern but in the MX-5 RF it’s just simply all about the drive. The roads were dry and the revs were high, I wanted to use the manual gearbox to its full extent and I wanted to hear the tyres give off some traction slipping sounds. The MX-5 RF enjoys being played with. It’s not too blistering fast so getting into trouble is very limited but it will give you plenty of smiles as you corner hard on the roads you know well.

It’s safe to say that New Zealand has already had more than enough rain for now this year and although the MX-5 RF performed admirably in the wet weather, getting in and out still meant I was subjected to the storm that lurked outside. On top of all this, convertibles are there to ride roof down whenever and wherever possible so for that reason alone I must say, next time Mazda I wish we can go back to the keys/Sun combo.

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