Mazda MX-5 RF Review 2024

Mazda MX-5 RF At A Glance

Honest John Overall Rating
The Mazda MX-5 RF adds an electrically-folding hard-top roof to the standard Mazda MX-5, which some buyers will appreciate for the extra security and refinement that it offers.

+Just as good to drive as the soft-top. More secure. Arguably more stylish.

-More wind noise than the roadster with the roof down. Limited headroom for taller occupants.

Looking for a Mazda MX-5 but wanting a bit more security and refinement than you’d get with the soft-top? The answer could be the Mazda MX-5 RF. It’s just like a regular Mazda MX-5, but with a folding hard-top roof and stylish coupe design. Is it worth the extra cost over the soft-top? Read on for our full Mazda MX-5 RF review.

RF stands for ‘Retractable Fastback’. It uses a two-part metal roof that neatly slots into the same space as the fabric roof of the regular Mazda MX-5. It folds up and down electrically in around 13 seconds and works at speeds of up to 6mph – so you don’t even have to come to a complete stop to drop the roof.

Traditionalists will argue that a hard-top roof goes against the Mazda MX-5’s lightweight sporting ethos, but it adds just 45kg to the car’s overall mass. It’s just as good to drive as the regular Mazda MX-5, which means it’s a lot of fun and certainly a true sports car.

The Mazda MX-5 RF’s roof also means it competes against a broader spread of cars, such as hot hatches and coupes. Its main rivals are the Audi TT Roadster, the desirable BMW Z4, and Japanese rival, the Toyota GR86.

The Mazda MX-5 RF is offered with the same engines as the roadster: a 1.5-litre petrol or a 2.0-litre that makes the car noticeably quicker.

It’s also available with an automatic gearbox (an option not available on the soft-top). We wouldn’t bother with this unless you really must; the manual gearbox is a delight to use.

With the roof up, the Mazda MX-5 RF is slightly more refined than the regular car. With it down, though, the targa shape means there’s quite a lot of wind noise – especially with the windows dropped.

Another downside is the reduced headroom in the Mazda MX-5 RF. It’s already quite tight for tall drivers, while the hard-top eats into precious space. We’d certainly recommend trying one before you buy if you’re more than six foot tall.

With prices for a new Mazda MX-5 RF starting from nearly £28,000 (at the time of writing) and topping out at more than £34,500, it’s more expensive than the soft-top model.

It’s probably not worth the extra cash for the majority of Mazda MX-5 buyers, and we think the negatives slightly outweigh the positives.

That said, if you really want the security of a hard-top roof, the Mazda MX-5 RF is just as fun to drive as the regular car and still offers roof-down thrills.

Looking for a second opinion? Read heycar’s Mazda MX-5 RF review here.

Ask Honest John

Enjoyable hot hatch for an old man?

"Am I searching for the holy grail? As an older chap I am now looking for slower thrills - seeking an enjoyable drive with the following features: Small car (city car/supermini/no larger than Golf), sub 11 second 0-60, enjoyable, snickety manual gearbox, characterful, rorty sounding petrol engine, supple suspension capable of coping with potholed roads, reasonable interior quality, ideally not too “in your face”, fairly anonymous looking, ideally less than 10 yrs old but open to suggestion (the newer the better to see me out), budget £30,000. I really do not want to go very fast!! Hoping you can help with your extensive knowledge!"
Although you have said you want a hot hatch, the first car that springs to mind is the Mazda MX-5. It ticks a lot of the boxes you are looking for, and the 1.5-litre version is quick enough while offering more supple suspension than the 2.0-litre versions. It offers a very focussed driving experience and is fun to drive even when not travelling quickly, so it should provide the thrills you are looking for without risking your licence. If you are set on a hot hatch then we would suggest looking at cars like the Hyundai i20N, Volkswagen Up GTi or the Suzuki Swift, which are sporty without being too showy or straying into super-hatch performance levels.
Answered by David Ross

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
More Questions

What does a Mazda MX-5 RF cost?

Buy new from £24,400(list price from £28,015)