The Mazda MX-5 RF will keep you grinning from ear-to-ear

The Mazda MX-5 is a legend. It’s been around since 1989 and the new Mazda MX-5 RF will add to its legendary status.

Brian Joss – Even now 28 years later, it’s still a head-turner. “What a lovely car you have,” a woman remarked as she pulled up next to me while I was out shopping. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that it wasn’t mine.

Nonetheless I enjoyed the compliment. Another young girl asked me with a straight face: “Why is it that only old men drive such sexy-looking cars?”

The Mazda MX-5 RF: rolling off the production line in Japan. Picture: Quickpic

That, I didn’t like so much.

When I was out and about near Stellenbosch a businessman came to talk to me about the MX-5 as he was interested in buying one. He told me he owned a third generation soft-top and was intrigued by the MX-5 RF (Retractable

Fastback) , the hard top which has a  retractable roof that folds down or up in 13 seconds at the flick of a switch, and you can do it while you’re on the road, at speeds of up to 10km/h.

Wherever I went the MX-5 attracted admiring looks, often at traffic lights where the “windbags” thought I was up for a wheelie when the lights turned green. But I had to disappoint them as it’s not a muscIe car so I let them burn rubber.

The Mazda MX-5 is a roadster. A roadster is a two-seater, and initially in America, was the word for a two-seat car with no top. However, once roadsters made their way to different parts of the world they evolved in to convertibles. To be blunt it is not a supercar like the Porsche 911, Golf GTi  or a Mustang, for example, although the MX-5 RF is a super car in anyone’s language. The Mazda MX-5 RF may not have rubber-burning capabilities but it is great fun to drive and the 2-litreengine does pack a punch. It was especially at home on some of the more twisty roads which is where the rear-wheel drive showed its mettle.

The Mazda MX-5 made its debut at the Chicago Motor Show where it took the world by storm. The first generation Mazda MX-5 was hailed as the renaissance of the roadster and the car revived the whole segment. MX stands for Mazda Experimental and 5  was the next number in the sequence of ‘M’

concept cars, according to one website. Over the next 28 years the MX-5 would go through many changes until it had a complete overhaul in 2005 and was unveiled at the Geneva Motor show. In April 2009 the MK 3 model was revealed with the introduction of a Powershift automatic gearbox for the United Kingdom market. To comply with emission standards and more stringent safety requirements a new engine,  the BP-ZE 1.8 litre four cylinder model, was used in 1993, and in 1999, the Mazda MX-5 had a design change. Designer Tom Matano was quoted as saying, “We like to think of it an MX-5 that has been to the gym, adding muscle and tone”.

Mazda never lost sight of its vision for the MX-5 also known as the Miata:

build a lightweight two-seater convertible that is fun to drive. When it was introduced all those years ago,  rear-wheel drive convertibles were as rare as hen’s teeth.  Mazda changed all that and you can see the metamorphosis in the Retractable Fastback which was launched this year.

The design of the RF grows on you; the more you look at it, the more you like it.  One ” kykdaar” described it as cute.

The MX-5 is powered by  Mazda’s famed 2.0-litre SkyActiv petrol engine mated to a 6-speed automatic transmission which is smooth and responsive. It puts out 118 Kw @ 6000 rpm and torque of 200 N.m  @ 4600 rpm. It’s also

economical: I recorded figures of just under 7litres/100km in a town and country cycle. Mazda claims 6.7litres/100km so my numbers are good. The fuel tank has a capacity of 45 litres. Mazda says it can go from 0 to 100 km/h in

8.6 secs and it has a top speed of 194 km/h.

The Mazda MX-5 RF is a small car. It weighs just 1 318 kg thanks to the manufacturer’s so called gram strategy,  a method it uses to shave weight from every component in every car. It is 3 915 mm high, 1735 mm wide and

1235 mm long.

The boot has a capacity of 127 litres with space for a carry-on bag or two.

There is also a multi-purpose box that can be used to store tools and other small items. It’s not a place to pack your monthly shopping.

Inside, as we have come to expect from Mazda, it is neat and uncluttered and all controls are close at hand. There is no glove box on the passenger side but there are two lockers, one in the centre console and one on the backboard between the driver’s seat and passenger’s seat.

Other mod cons include Adaptive Front-lighting System (AFS); Lane Departure Warning (LDW); Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), which sounds an alert when a vehicle is detected in the blind spot. And very useful it was too. There’s SatNav, a reverse camera and a seven inch infotainment centre and a Premium BoseR 203 watt amplifier with nine speakers. Other nice to haves are rain-sensing wipers and a rear-view mirror with auto dimming function.

In a word, the driving experience is great. It’s a car for all roads:  a smooth blacktop, , gridlocked traffic, country by-ways and pot holed surfaces, which it sucks up with ease, thanks to the supple suspension. The Mazda MX-5 RF is grin-inducing from the moment you get in, pressing the button to start it, grabbing the steering wheel and putting the gearshift into drive. Then it’s all go, go, go. The weather didn’t play along so we kept the hard top closed which was a pity. You can also see the status of the roof in the display centre.

Production of the Mazda MX-5 reached one million units in April this year, so one million people can’t be wrong. The fourth-generation model has won a string of awards, including 2015-2016 Car of the Year Japan, World Car of the Year and World Car Design of the Year 2016. It has held the Guinness World Record*1 for the best-selling open-top two-seater sports car for many years.

Summing up: The Mazda MX-5 RF is great fun to drive; it can handle all sorts of road conditions and can be used for your daily commute or as a long-distance cruiser. I was quite reluctant to give it back and was quite sad to see it disappear into the sunset. The 2.0L RF Roadster Coupe Automatic (to give it its full nomenclature) is R532 800 (check with your

dealer) and comes with a 3-year unlimited kilometre factory warranty; a 3-year service plan, a 3-year roadside assistance and a 5-year corrosion warranty.

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