By Patrick James on 2018-12-09 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0
184ps SE-L Nav
THERE'S a reason why the MX-5 is the best selling two-seater sports car in the world
It looks good, is affordable and is impossibly stylish. It is also a driver's car, even more so now with the 2019 upgraded engines.
The latest version is the best yet, with either with soft top convertible or this hard top roadster.
The electric-powered, roof arguably the best in the business, is fully automatic and folds away in just over 10 seconds, enough time to get it up or down while sitting at traffic lights or moving off slowly at speeds of up to six mph.
The three piece ligthweight construction disappears along with the rear window glass while the fastback buttresses return to their external position. giving that distinctive sports coupe styling.
Boot space therefore, is uncompromised at 127 litres, enough for a couple of modest cases or three or four shopping bags.
The two uprated power trains are the 1.5-litre and two-litre petrol engines with fuel efficient SKYACTIV tecnology.
The 184ps engine on this model now revs up to 7,500rpm making it a real driving experience, with the engine almost daring you to take it to the rev limit for peak performance.
The extra power to the rear wheels delivers enhanced performance too, with the 0-60mph sprint delivering in under seven seconds, while the tuned exhaust delivers a throaty rasp under acceleration.
The interior is simple but classy, with black leather seats trimmed with red stitching and an intuitive layout. Standard is climate control air-conditioning and dark grey dashboard panel and multi-functin steering wheel inserts, while telescopic adjustment has been added to the steering. This model also features integrated Bluetooth, front fog lights, cruise control and auto-dimming rear-view mirror and alloy pedal set.
Mazda's MZD-Connect in-car connectivity and integrated navigation system is standard on all models. Accessed via the seven-inch colour touch-screen display and Multimedia Commander, in addition to navigation functions, it works with compatible internet-enabled iPhone and Android smartphones and controls the impressive sound system.
On the road there are few better handling cars. It stays planted to the road on tight corners and any back end twitch is easily corrected. The ride is firm, but it's worth it for the fun factor.
The sports suspension has a double-wishbone front and multi-link rear layout and is also equipped with a limited slip differential that ensures optimum traction under all driving conditions.
Despite improved soundproofing, things can get a bit noisy with the roof down and the fat tyres on certain surfaces, at higher speeds, but that's all part of the fun.
But it is quiet and refined when pottering around town.
Despite the power upgrade, economy is surprisingly good, easily matching the claimed 40-odd mpg figure, but CO2 emissions are on the high side at 156g/km, but still down on the previous power unit.
Being a Mazda, reliability is all but guaranteed as are residual value - another reason they are so popular. The car is quite practical for a two seater with that decent boot space, while there is extra space behind the seats for odds and ends as well as a pair of cup holders.
Safety kit is the best yet with deployable active bonnet system for pedestrian protection, front and side airbags are standard, and the side airbags feature a special bracket on the outside shoulder of the seat to protect occupants' heads even with the top down. This model adds lane departure warning, front and rear smart braking, traffic sign recognition and driver attention alert.
Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 184ps SE-L Nav
Mechanical: 184ps, 1,999cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving rear wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 136mph
0-62mph: 6.8 seconds
Combined MPG: 40.9
Insurance Group: 26
C02 emissions: 156g/km
Bik rating: 32%
Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles
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