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RPM TV Website | December 11, 2018

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Mazda’s retractable fastback MX-5 makes production debut

Mazda’s retractable fastback MX-5 makes production debut
Deon Schoeman

The retractable hardtop version of Mazda’s iconic, fourth-generation MX-5 roadster has finally made its production debut, after its global introduction at last year’s New York Motor Show.

Known as the MX-5 RF (for Retractable Hardtop), the two-seater gains an electrically operated targa-style hardtop, and a more coupé-like silhouette, in an effort to extend the appeal of the roadster to a broader audience.

The MX-5 RF is meant to offer the best of both sports car worlds: the refinement of a hardtop coupé, and the wind-in-the-hair thrill of a convertible. However, the effective aperture with the roof stowed is quite small, and the mechanism is quite complex, resulting in a 40 kg increase in kerb mass.

Compared to the canvas-top roadster, the RF version also gets retuned suspension settings, partly to compensate for the additional weight and the different weight distribution, but also to create a softer, more refined ride. The steering gains extra assistance, too.

Visually the most obvious differences are to the roofline, with a fastback-style profile that changes the aesthetic character of the Mazda quite dramatically. It lacks the outright purity and purpose of the roadster, but adds a measure of sophistication.

Under the skin, the RF will still be offered with the same two engines, both normally aspirated four-cylinder units. The smaller 1,5-litre mill delivers 96 kW and 150 Nm, while its 2,0-litre sibling is good for 118 kW and 200 Nm.

However, in line with its aim to be less hardcore, the RF 2.0  also gains the option of a six-speed auto box, in addition to the six-speed manual. The SA market is expected to get the 2,0-litre version only, but with the choice of manual or auto gearboxes.

The RF is marginally slower than the roadster, but performance is still brisk, with the 2,0-litre manual accelerating from 0-100 km/h in 7,4 sec, while top speed is 215 km/h. The auto version is significantly tardier though, only managing 8,4 sec for the 0-100 km/h sprint, and posting a 194 km/h top speed.

Local sales of the MX-5 RF are likely to commence before mid-year, with pricing at a premium to the roadster model.

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