Text by Iñigo S. Roces
Photos by Mazda
Summer is just on the horizon, and while the looming vehicle excise tax may rain on our new car purchases later in the year, for some lucky few that are in the market, there’s a vehicle perfect for the coming summer and that rain that will follow.
In a country showered by frequent torrential rain, it’s not surprising that news of a new Miata is quite talked about. The coming MX-5 RF (Retractable Fastback) seems perfectly conceived for those that seek the driving pleasure of an open-top sports car but want the security of a hard top.
The RF is the same sporty roadster, built with the realization that not every day will have fair weather. As part of a tour showing off Mazda’s history, heritage and ideals, Berjaya Mazda, had brought us to the Mine Circuit, just outside of Hiroshima in Japan to test it. It was a very brisk four degrees.
The cold weather could hardly dampen our spirits as the day provided an opportunity to test not just the MX-5 RF, but the MX-5 1.5, as well as the new CX-5. This isn’t just some teaser. Both the RF and CX-5 will be arriving in the Philippines soon.
The MX-5 RF doesn’t simply attach a hard top to the roadster, but provides the option of targa top-style driving as well. From the front, it’s nearly impossible to tell it apart from the soft top. From the side, it bears supercar styling. The rear is easily the most striking angle as the vertical rear screen could fool you into thinking it were a mid-engine sports car.
Inside is the very same interior of the soft top. This version presented to us was equipped with a terra cotta leather option, contrasting nicely with the black dash and grey color.
Opening up the top is easy as it simply requires holding down the button as the targa top is detached and stowed. Three beeps signify it’s completely up or fully retracted. This all happens in a matter of 13 seconds and can be done up to a crawl of 10 km/h.
Not surprisingly, this hard top weighs much more than its clothed sibling. As such, the RF has raised the pressure in the shocks, and made adjustments to the front stabilizer bar and rear springs. The result is a ride that’s nearly identical to the roadster.
Fitted into the RF is the same 2.0-liter as the soft-top, paired to a six-speed AT with paddle shifters. The engine doesn’t feel taxed by the heavier mass at all, willingly revving and accelerating at your foot’s command.
As expected, the handling is great, with the vehicle being incredibly obedient and precise, keeping the exact line you want around the track. There’s just enough roll to let you know the suspension is loaded, before it starts to stiffen up and you can pour on the throttle. This is the result of Mazda engineers tuning the electric power steering – not just on the MX-5, but on all new Mazda models – to return a more precise feeling of “jinba-ittai”(horse and rider as one). In truth, we never would have noticed it without them pointing it out. Yet the gist of it is, it takes less steering corrections to keep one’s line through the curve, as how much the steering wheel turns more accurate corresponds to how much the tires turn.
The bottom line is, given our menu of both 2.0-liter equipped MX-5 and RF, the difference will be purely aesthetic. It all depends on how much of the open road you want to experience and what silhouette of the MX-5 you’d prefer. Either way, it’s a delight to drive. Berjaya Mazda is already accepting reservations for the RF.