Mazda MX-5 RF 1.5

Sport Nav

 Mazda MX-5 RF, front action 4
 Mazda MX-5 RF, front action 3
Mazda MX-5 RF, front action 2
Mazda MX-5 RF, front action
Mazda MX-5 RF, side sunburst
Mazda MX-5 RF, side action
Mazda MX-5 RF, side static 2
Mazda MX-5 RF, rear action
Mazda MX-5 RF, side top folding
Mazda MX-5 RF, dashboard 2
Mazda MX-5 RF, dashboard
Mazda MX-5 RF, roof detail

SOME things in life are worth waiting for.

When we drove the Mazda MX-5 RF back in February at its launch only the 2.0-litre versions were available and remembering how impressed I was by the lasting memory of the original MX-5 with its 1.6-litre engine many years ago I was eager to try the 1.5 entry level model in today's range.

It was worth the wait.

I have always liked the folding fabric roof of the original and subsequent models but the new Retractable Fastback metal lid does "lift" it to a new higher level of desirability.

In seconds the metal roof folds away flat behind the seats or erects on its scissor-like arms at the touch of button and it makes every British summer's day a driving opportunity, although you pay £2,000 more over the soft-top equivalent.

The smaller 1.5-litre engine is about 29ps less powerful than the 2.0 stablemate and fractionally slower through the gears with a top speed about 6mph less as well, but the 2.0-litre will give you 36mpg and the 1.5 stretches eight miles more out of a gallon and its cheaper to insure and much cheaper to tax.

To my mind the savings make sense unless you really must have the 2.0-litre for a reason, and in fact I believe the 1.5 to be better car with its handling and ride.

It's still quite quick through that wonderfully creamy gearbox with its light clutch, the steering is pin sharp and well weighted and it stops easily and undramatically from speed.

I liked the compliant ride and the way it soaked up bumps, although you could clearly hear the system working away when the roof was closed but it was not so noticeable when open.

Handling was entirely predictable and safe with a bias towards over steer if you were too enthusiastic with the right foot.

It really has adequate power for two people to enjoy a run through the countryside with enough in reserve to safely overtake and get it on a motorway it will gobble up the miles at a sensible speed without any complaint.

You have to be fairly well organised as the interior oddments room is minimal, while the bootspace is suitable for a bit more than a credit card and thong but you'd struggle with a big hard-shell case and better to use a sports bag.

Mazda has wisely not been tempted to destroy the MX-5 character by making this fourth generation model too big and its agility and ease of parking are also points in its favour.

Now, Mazda anticipates selling 75 per cent of 3,500 MX-5 models in the UK with the RF bodystyle which resembles a coupe when closed so it actually looks quite different to the fabric finished stablemate.

FAST FACTS

Mazda MX-5 RF 1.5 Sport Nav

Price: £24,895

Mechanical: 131ps, 1,496cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed: 127mph

0-62mph: 8.3 seconds

Combined MPG: 44

Insurance Group: 26

C02 emissions: 142g/km

Bik rating: 27%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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