RE: Mazda MX-5 RF: PH Fleet

RE: Mazda MX-5 RF: PH Fleet

Friday 1st February

Mazda MX-5 RF: PH Fleet

Time might be up with our 2.0-litre MX-5, but the replacement is here already...

It hopefully says much of the latest Mazda MX5's abilities that the departure of VX68 HFO has left a real void, as much emotionally as it has physically. This from someone hardly enamoured by the prospect of MX-5s before October, finding the current ND generation a little underwhelming; with hot hatches as good as they now are and an obsession with the Toyota GT86, it was hard to see how the MX-5 could compete for my affection.

Not for the first time, I've been proven wrong. While niggles still exist, this refreshed MX-5 has addressed many of the problems that plagued the Mk4 MX-5, while still feeling true to everything that the car is meant to represent. Crucially as well it offers something different; once upon a time the MX-5 would have faced affordable, rear-drive roadster rivals from MG, Toyota, Honda and so on; now the only true adversary is the 124, which of course owes its entire existence to the MX-5. As cars continue their seemingly inexorable path towards a homogenous, uninviting norm, Mazda deserves credit for sticking with its formula and delivering on the promise.

A significant part of that is in the engine; with every single hot hatch beyond the pricier M140i and RS3 now offering some form of transverse, front-drive (or Haldex 4WD), four-cylinder powertrain, to be in a rear-drive roadster with an atmospheric engine that genuinely thrives on revs - peak power is at 7,000rpm - is as refreshing as it is relevant. Because while the world has turned to turbocharged alternatives, Mazda has proven the traditional methods can absolutely still work. If a car is made light, then it doesn't require a complicated downsized engine to meet targets - this MX-5 revs to 7,600rpm, yet has delivered very nearly 40mpg with us and has an official CO2 of 156g/km. Win-win.

The joy of this particular MX-5 has been in its ability to combine those attributes with a tremendously enjoyable, usable, fairly practical overall product. Despite changes, it's not all about the engine; the interior tweaks have improved the driving position; the roof-up refinement is really good; keeping the car small makes it a cinch in town; and the manual gearbox is fabulous at any speed.

Moreover, even allowing for the additional technology now included - CarPlay, heated seats, electric roof, sat-navΒ and so on, which has all proved its worth over the past few thousand miles - the MX-5 most definitely feels like an MX-5. That was demonstrated in our Christmas twin test with the original, both cars feeling light, fizzy and really good fun. It's hard to think, in fact, of a recipe that's stood the test of time quite so well as the MX-5's.

Problems? It still isn't the most accommodating car, but those over six foot can just about be squeezed in. By the same token the boot is fine for smaller, squishier bags, you will struggle with anything long - my hockey bag doesn't fit, for example. Still, the laws of physics can't be entirely defeated; the MX-5 is 25mm shorter than a Ford Ka, let alone a Fiesta, and so you just need to be realistic about what can be jammed in and what can't.

For me, it would still be nice to have less float to the handling, as there's still a little more slack to direction changes than is really ideal. Handily BBR has a set of performance springs that should sort the problem, while also improving the slightly top-heavy stance - Β£600 very well spent, I'm sure. Beyond that, I honestly wouldn't change a thing - this MX-5 RF has been absolutely brilliant. Along with everything above, it hasn't used a drop of oil, any air or required any attention - just petrol and screenwash.

To be sure of just how brilliant it is, though, the replacement is already here in the form of a 1.5-litre MX-5 roadster, also in updated form. The smaller engine was typically regarded as the more exciting one before the facelift, so it'll be interesting to compare the two experiences as the spring nears. For now, with winter very much in force, the (far simpler) roof will certainly be staying up...

2018 Mazda MX-5 2.0 Skyactiv-G RF GT Sport Nav+
On fleet since: November 2018
Run by: Matt
Mileage: 4,690 (delivered on 1,721)
List price new: Β£27,795 (as standard; price as tested Β£28,815 comprised of Β£350 for Apple CarPlay and Β£670 for Machine Grey Metallic paint)
Last month at a glance: A fond farewell to the MX-5, and a happy hello to another

Previous reports:
Does more power mean a more fun MX-5?
MX-5 making mischief as a track day tearaway

Images: Olgun Kordal



Original Poster:

1,972 posts

106 months

Friday 1st February
quotequote all
A fair assessment but it's just so flipping ugly & top-heavy looking in RF form.
For the money I'd happily sacrifice it's chuckability for the space, better appointments quality & image of a lightly used Mercedes SLK. Both a tad girlish but I care not a toss.


3,267 posts

156 months

Friday 1st February
quotequote all
As you mention, one is built for image the other is built for driving fun.
I go for driving fun every time.
Well done Mazda for continuing to produce a wonderful car that has brought driving fun to so many for 30 years.


40 posts

19 months

Friday 1st February
quotequote all
There’s no disguising the fact that the rf is one ugly car, I’ve not even seen one being driven how many have Mazda actually sold!.


3,267 posts

156 months

Friday 1st February
quotequote all
Leonardo101 said:
There’s no disguising the fact that the rf is one ugly car, I’ve not even seen one being driven how many have Mazda actually sold!.
According to How Many Left, Audi sold 2000 TT's in 2018. Mazda sold 3000 MX-5's.

sideways man

689 posts

82 months

Friday 1st February
quotequote all
It will be an interesting comparison between 1.5 and 2.0 long termers.
Most testers preferred the handling of the smaller car; will this outweigh any performance defecit.... watch this space!


76 posts

50 months

Friday 1st February
quotequote all
Small, light, fun, fizzy engine, manual,cheap, reliable and no roof.
Really, thank you Mazda.


983 posts

177 months

Friday 1st February
quotequote all
Brilliant little car ,I like the targa top styling and unlike the 125 grand Porsche it's not fabric ! ,Hope Toyota does launch new MR2 to compete .


268 posts

175 months

Friday 1st February
quotequote all
You’ve got to get the roof down in winter, driving with the roof down (or the sunroof open if that’s what you’ve got) and the heater on full blast is one of life’s joys, on a crisp winter day.


14 posts

88 months

Saturday 2nd February
quotequote all
Here's a great in-depth review of the ND. It really shows the depth of engineering and the commitment to light weight with extensive use of Aluminium.

I'm on my 4th Mx5, the 1st being a standard MK2, 2nd a standard MK3, 3rd a MK3.5 BBR Super 200 with Ohlins, and currently in an MK4 BBR Super 200, again with Ohlins.

I sold my BBR NC to buy an M135i, but after just 2 months the BMW was sold and I was back on the hunt for another MX5. The BMW, out of the box, was a flawed diamond. I thought about giving it to Birds for their Diff, and putting Bilstein B12s on it, but the discovery that the Active Sound Module made ALL of the engine noise, coupled with the side-saddle driving position meant I was never going to be happy with it. That was one over-rated car.

The MX5, even with it's "answer to eveything" status, is still under-rated. It is an incredible platform to build something special, with the only downside being ultimate chassis stiffness. This can be mitigated somewhat with simple additions such as Polyurethane door stoppers and some bracing.

Getting the power over 200bhp is very expensive (£3400), the Ohlins suspension is not the cheapest (£2,400 fitted), but the end result is basically a MK2 Escort / E30 M3 style driving experience. I call mine the GT5 RS! :-)

Basing one on a winter-purchased, low-mileage car (I've seen a 2017, 2000 mile SE-L go for £15k) could see you with a "good as new" car, with enough grunt to get you to 60 in 5.6 secs and handling you would need an Elise to beat, all for about £20k. The hilariously cheap consumable prices, and the ability to top 43mpg on a long run, results in very low day to day running costs. We're talking £50 for a Brembo OEM-quality brake disc, and £100 a tyre for Bridgestones or Michelins. Downsides? OK, you won't have warranty, but it's highly unlikely you'll experience any engine-related issues with a cam-swap and better breathing. For me, it is the best proposition out there for the driving enthusiast that does not have dedicated garage space for a Caterham. It is cheap to insure, cheap to tax and will simply not break or deliver a £2k bill like the alternatives could.

Anyway, another glowing report for the MX5. Oh and by the way, a brand new SE-L, in black, can be had for £18,395 from coast2coast cars, including 1st year's VED and delivery!

Edited by fioravanti on Saturday 2nd February 09:43

Edited by fioravanti on Saturday 2nd February 10:22

Edited by fioravanti on Saturday 2nd February 10:26