Mazda MX-5 RF (2017) Review

Looking for a Mazda MX-5 RF (2017 on)?
Register your interest for later or request to be contacted by a dealer to talk through your options now.

Mazda MX-5 RF (2017) At A Glance

5/5

+Coupe style and folding hard top. Just as good to drive as the soft-top. Available with an auto.

-Very limited headroom for taller occupants with the roof up. Poor over the shoulder rear 3/4 vision. Lots of wind noise with the roof down at motorway speeds. Avoid the auto unless you really have to.

Want a Mazda MX-5, but worried about the lack of security or refinement provided by a fabric top? The MX-5 RF – Retractable Fastback – should fit the bill perfectly. It’s just as good to drive as the soft-top yet still provides wind-in-the-hair thrills - but make sure you fit in it because headroom is tight.

The roof mechanism isn’t hugely complex, so the two-part metal top fits neatly into the same space as the fabric roof of the regular MX-5. The trade-off is a pair of coupe-like pillars that give the RF a targa-like profile, rather than traditional convertible looks. It takes 13 seconds to fold up or down and works at speeds up to 6mph.

Despite the way it looks, the RF feels like a proper convertible on the road. It’s also more refined and quiet when the roof is in place, thanks to the thicker metal top. The downside is the reduced head room versus the soft-top – which was already tight for tall drivers.

Aside from the roof, the MX-5 RF is largely the same as before. The dashboard has an identical layout, the boot is the same size and the engine range is mirrored with a 131PS 1.5-litre petrol and a 2.0-litre petrol with 160PS (132PS and 184PS respectively from 2019).

The 2.0-litre's available with a choice of a six-speed manual or six-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox. The manual is lovely to use - possibly one of the best manual gearboxes available on a new car - that opting for the automatic feels like a shame, especially as the auto is a bit clumsy on the upshift. 

The handling is as good as the soft-top too – if not a tiny bit better - thanks to some extra stiffening in the chassis and bespoke suspension settings, making the steering more sharp and immediate. It’s an absolute joy to drive, with beautifully weighted controls and superb precision through bends.

It costs a little more and there is no basic SE trim level, but the RF feels worth the extra. It looks good, drives well and has the added benefit of better security and improved refinement over the convertible. It might not have the same pure roadster feel, but it’s a better all-rounder. If you can fit that is. 

Mazda MX-5 RF 2017 Road Test

Looking for a Mazda MX-5 RF (2017 on)?
Register your interest for later or request to be contacted by a dealer to talk through your options now.

Satisfaction Index

Satisfaction Index What is your car like to live with?

We need your help with our latest Satisfaction Index, so that we can help others make a smarter car buying decision. What's it like to live with your car? Love it? Loath it? We want to know. Let us know about your car - it will only take a few minutes and you could be helping thousands of others.

Help us with the Honest John Satisfaction Index now

Ask Honest John

Can you recommend a reliable, good-looking, two-seater sports car?
"I have £30,000 cash to spend on a two-seater sports car. Now, hopefully, with better weather and improved prospects on the horizon, what would you advise to buy? The looks and street cred are important, preferably a classic look and I want something reliable. Performance is not a top priority. Don't want MG, Triumph or an MX-5. Any ideas? Many Thanks."
How about a Jaguar F-Type? It's a very stylish choice available as a coupe or convertible. A Porsche Boxster or Cayman could be a good alternative. None of these will be cheap to run, though. A Mazda MX-5 is unbeatable if that's what you're after.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Garage says brakes are rusty and need cleaned due to lack of driving. Is this right?
"My daughter in law took her Mazda MX-5 for a service this week. It's about eighteen months old and she has had it since June 2020. Due to lockdown, though, she's not driven too much. The dealer rang her to say that there is a build-up of rust on the brake discs and, whilst not dangerous, they could do with skimming/cleaning to remove the build-up at a cost of £260. Should anything like this have been picked up before she bought it? Is this also likely to be true of most cars which are not driving as much as normal? Thank you."
It's very common that cars which don't get much use do see a build-up of slight surface rust on the brake discs. This of course reduces the car's braking efficiency, but I wouldn't expect the build-up to be so bad that the discs need cleaning. A good run with lots of regular, gentle braking should do the trick and clean them up.
Answered by Keith Moody
I want to buy a soft-top convertible and liked the hard-top version I tested. Do I need to test drive the soft top?
"I've test-driven a hard-top Mazda MX-5 and really liked it. The plan was to buy a soft-top but the dealer only had a hardtop to test drive. On the basis that this is only being driven for fun, mainly with the top down, do I need to test drive a soft-top before buying? I've seen a couple of 30th-anniversary additions (bright orange) with 10,000 miles for around £25,000. Is this a sensible buy or should I look for a more standard offering? Which would have a better residual value? Many thanks and keep up the great work."
If you liked the MX-5 RF, you're not going to be disappointed with the soft-top, especially as it'll be a weekend car driven mainly with the roof down. We'd recommend a 30th Anniversary model. They look great and it'll feel more special as a weekend car than one in a more subdued colour. As only a limited number were sold in the UK (370 Convertibles and 180 RF models), it's likely to hold its value slightly better than a standard car. Mazda sells a lot of special edition MX-5s so don't rely on that too much, but it certainly won't be difficult to sell in the future.
Answered by Andrew Brady
Can I drive with my convertible's roof down during the lockdown?
"I know it is a really trivial question, but I have to use my Mazda MX-5 for essential journeys and I was wondering if the coronavirus-related regulations prohibit me driving with the top down?"
Not at all - as long as you're only using your car for an essential journey (e.g. a weekly shopping trip, getting medication etc). You may be more likely to attract the attention of the police driving an MX-5 with the roof down but, assuming you're not doing anything wrong, go for it.
Answered by Andrew Brady

What does a Mazda MX-5 RF (2017) cost?

Buy new from £28,395 (list price from £30,555)