By Mike Torpey on 2018-02-03 - Driving Force news editor and responsible for organising our daily output. He was staff motoring editor of the Liverpool Echo for 20 years.
Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0
VENTURING out in the winter sun may be crisp, sharp and bracing for a leisurely walk, but for convertible car drivers it can quickly lead to purple fingers and chattering teeth.
Unless of course you can afford an executive open-top dripping with creature comforts designed to keep out the cold.
Most of us can't but are still caught up in that curiously British obsession that sees us drawn like moths to the lightbulb in the direction of a cabrio.
We actually buy more convertibles than the Italians, French and Spanish - despite lacking their warm, drier climate - as we try and soak up every available ray of sunshine.
But what if there was a way of preserving the open air experience with a little more protection from the elements - and at a decent price too.
RF actually stands for Retractable Fastback and gives the model a unique appearance, as well as extra weather protection for the two-seater's occupants when the roof is down.
The hardtop consists of front, middle and rear roof sections plus a rear screen and when the top is lowered the front and middle portions are stowed together, while the rear glass sits behind the seats, leaving the rear roof section in place.
And if that sounds more like paying lip service to a genuine convertible, well it actually looks attractive too - add the exclusive Ceramic paint, with its ‘frost on the windscreen' look, and the effect is really cool.
Power comes via a 1.5-litre petrol engine with 131PS or the tested model's more powerful 2.0-litre unit developing 160PS and featuring a limited slip differential and 17-inch wheels.
Out on the road the RF is a treat to drive with plenty of punch, terrific balance and positive feedback from the large steering wheel.
In fact the only disappointment for me personally is that the pedals are too close together, though that's nothing new with the MX-5 or sports cars in general for that matter.
Otherwise this car has a really bright and modern cabin with soft black leather seats and crimson stitching.
And for those days when you simply have to keep the lid in place Mazda has used a sound-absorbing headliner in the front and middle roof panels which combines with sound insulation around the rear wheel housings to deliver a much quieter driving experience than before.
Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Sport Nav
Mechanical: 160PS, 1,998cc 4-cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via six-speed manual transmission
Max Speed: 134mph
0-62mph: 7.4 seconds
Combined MPG: 40.9
Insurance Group: 29 (1-50)
C02 emissions: 161g/km
Bik rating: 31%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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