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Mazda MX-5 RF 1.5 SE-L Nav review

Date: 21 March 2017   |   Author: Tristan Young

Standard equipment: Climate control, 7-inch colour screen with sat-nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth, cruise control
Engines: Petrol: 131hp 1.5, 163hp 2.0
Trims: E-L Nav, Sport Nav
Transmissions: 6-speed manual, 6-speed auto

It has to be said that two-seat convertibles aren't the biggest news in fleet. However, when the third-generation Mazda MX-5 gained a folding hard top, it did start to appear on a few choice lists.

The new car is now hoping to appeal to a few more user-choosers again now that Mazda has added a folding hard top.

In the new car, however, rather than a full-sized folding roof, Mazda has opted to differentiate this version from the soft-top far more by styling it to look more like a coupe, with only the top section of the roof and the rear screen folding away. In other words, even when folded a lot of the roof is still up. While Mazda doesn't use the phrase, the car is much more of a 'targa top' (a semi-convertible car body style) than a full convertible; instead, Mazda calls this model the RF.

MX-5 RF Interior

This approach brings with it advantages and disadvantages. As with the previous generation, the hard top is much more secure than the fabric-topped version. It's also much more refined and you feel more cocooned. However, there are some compromises. In roof-up mode, the overall improvement in refinement means you then notice smaller, specific noises, such as a whistling from the upper edge of the passenger window as if it's open just a tiny amount, although this isn't the case on the driver's side.

Also, the large rear buttresses of the fixed part of the roof compromise over-the-shoulder visibility. While this is also the case in the soft-top with the roof up, it's not when the roof is down.

These, however, are small points if you're determined to choose an inherently compromised two-seat convertible. For fleets, the only real downside is the additional weight of the roof and its folding mechanism. The extra weight means that with the 131hp 1.5-litre engine, the CO2 figure rises from 139g/km to 142g/km, or from 24% to 25% in benefit-in-kind bandings. Pick the 160hp 2.0-litre petrol and the CO2 and BIK band remain unchanged from the soft top at 161g/km (29%).

MX-5 RF Rear

That additional weight, approximately 45kg, may not seem like much but it has a marked impact on performance in the 1.5, which was the pick of the two engines available in the standard model. In the RF the 2.0-litre is the one to go for because it's more powerful and very nearly as quick as the soft top.

The good news is that both versions retain the brilliant combination of a fun driving experience and ride comfort that all MX-5s are famed for. What gives it this mix is precise steering, a low driving position and a great gear-change, plus a suspension that allows some body roll and not only tells you what's happening under the wheels, but also cushions against bumps.

What's more, when the powered roof is folded (which takes 15 seconds) there's no compromise in boot space. The other positive for fleets is that all MX-5s have strong residual values because of the combination of a great drive, stylish looks and solid reliability. The spin-off is a seriously low whole-life cost figure.

It's these positives that make the MX-5, in RF form, a car that's actually a decent perk car, as long as two seats aren't an issue. If your policy is flexible enough to cope with this point then it's well worth including on a choice list.

Mazda MX-5 RF 1.5 SE-L Nav

P11D £21,995
On sale Now
Residual value 39.1%
Depreciation £13,395
Fuel £7,080
Service, maintenance & repair £2,263
Cost per mile £53.69
Fuel consumption 46.3mpg
CO2 (BIK band) 142g/km (25%)
BIK 20/40% per month £91/£183
Boot space 130 litres
Engine size/power 1,496cc/131hp


  • Hard-top adds security and boosts refinement
  • Looks even better
  • Visibility reduced
  • Less efficient than soft-top
  • Wind noise still an issue