Mazda MX-5 RF Review

Secure and weatherproof, the Mazda MX-5 is a hard-top convertible version of the classic sports car.

Strengths & weaknesses

  • Good value for a hard-top convertible
  • Excellent reliability record
  • Fun to drive
  • Cramped interior
  • Disappointing exhaust note
  • Little quieter than standard MX-5 with roof closed
Mazda MX-5 RF prices from £11,999.
Finance from £259.64 / month.

Mazda MX-5 RF prices from £11,999   Finance from £259.64 per month

With a cloth roof that can be pushed down in seconds, two seats, lightweight construction and a high-revving petrol engine, the Mazda MX-5 perfectly fits the description of a classic sports car.

It drives like one too, with its ability to dart along twisting roads, with sharp changes of direction and plenty of grip, offering thrilling driving without breaking the speed limit.

But having a glorified umbrella for a roof doesn’t make sense for everyone in damp Britain, especially if you can’t afford two cars.

And that’s one reason why the MX-5 RF was created. Its intricately folding metal roof gives you the option of open-air motoring when the sun is shining, with the ability to make the car secure and weatherproof by closing it in around 13 seconds. The letters stand for Retractable Fastback.

It looks like quite a different car too: tall-slanted pillars at the back of the MX-5 RF, which are visible when the roof is up or down emphasise its long bonnet, in the style of an American sports car.

When open, the hard-top car looks more sheltered than the standard MX-5 but the interior does get noisy with considerable wind buffeting at high speeds. Closed, it’s a little quieter, but remains noisy and cramped.

If you prefer a car with a hard roof, then a Toyota GT86 or Subaru BRZ bring a similar level of performance, without the option of a retracting roof. Other convertible options that have fabric roofs, are generally heavier and more focused on comfort, such as the Audi A3 Cabriolet, Mini Convertible and DS 3 Cabrio.

Apart from the roof, there’s little else that’s changed over the standard MX-5, so you still have choice of a lively 1.5-litre petrol engine that feels sporty, as you need to rev it hard for maximum power; or a more powerful version that gives the car stronger acceleration.

There’s no entry-level SE car, unlike the standard MX-5, so a 7in touchscreen is standard across the MX-5 RF range and includes a rotary controller so it’s simple to use while on the move without requiring you to take your eyes off the road. Sat-nav is included with all cars too.

The MX 5-RF also offers extra luxury options, allowing brand new buyers to blow the budget on Nappa leather seats with an extremely efficient warming function, as well as a premium Bose sound system.

The price for this is considerably more than the conventional MX-5: new buyers will pay around £2,000 more.


Key facts

Warranty 3 years / 60,000 miles
Boot size 127 litres
Width 1735mm
Length 3915mm
Height 1230mm
Tax £200 to £500 in first year, £140 thereafter

Best Mazda MX-5 RF for...

Best for Economy – 1.5 Skyactiv

The smallest engine on offer is also the most economical - on paper it'll do 46.3mpg

Best for Performance – 2.0 Skyactiv

The new 2-litre engine makes a healthy 181hp. The 0-62mph dash is completed in 6.5 seconds, and it revs freely too. This is the one to go for most enthusiastic drivers.


  • March 2017 Mazda MX 5-RF goes on sale. A limited run of 500 Launch Edition cars come with twin-tone roof, BBS alloy wheels, black door mirrors, Alcantara Recaro sports seats and a safety pack with blind spot monitoring and auto high-beam headlights
  • May 2018 A limited edition of 300 Mazda MX-5 Sport Black models arrives with Eternal Blue Mica paint, black rear spoiler and door mirrors, leather seats, parking sensors and automatic windscreen wipers.
  • September 2018 Reworked 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre engines go on sale. Both rev higher and make more power.

Understanding Mazda MX-5 RF names

Engine 2.0 Skyactiv

The MX-5 is only available with petrol engines, a 1.5-litre or a 2.0-litre. Both are branded Skyactiv, which means it's brimming with technology to make it more efficient.

Gearbox Manual

A manual gearbox is by far and away the most popular, but the MX-5 can also be specified with an automatic if you pick the 2.0-litre engine.

Mazda MX-5 RF Engines

1.5 SKYACTIV-G Petrol and 2.0 SKYACTIV-G Petrol

The power from the MX5-RF’s engines might be typical of a family car but the light weight of the pint-sized sports car means that it doesn’t need a great deal to really get it going.

It’s less energetic than the standard MX-5 because the 45kg folding hardtop roof has an effect on the car’s overall weight, meaning that the least powerful 1.5-litre petrol engine has to work a bit harder.

It can feel a little sluggish when attempting to overtake or tacking a steep incline and you’ll be changing gears frequently, although this is arguably not a bad thing in a car that makes you feel engaged with driving.

It’s not really an issue with the more powerful 2.0-litre engine; especially as from September 2018 this engine had a mechanical overhauling. Power went from 158hp to 181hp (up 15 per cent) and the difference is palpable. There’s more grunt and more shove from a lower RPM, and it will also now rev to 7500 rpm, whereas older engines will only rev to 6800rpm.

An automatic gearbox is optional with the 2.0-litre engine but most buyers opt for the full sports car experience and a manual gearbox.




Fuel economy


Acceleration (0-62mph)

Top speed

1.5 SKYACTIV-G Petrol






2.0 SKYACTIV-G Petrol Manual






2.0 SKYACTIV-G Petrol Auto






Mazda MX-5 RF Trims

SE-L Nav +, Sport Nav, GT Sport Nav

Choosing your MX-5 RF’s trim level is simple, as there are only three options, all of which are well-equipped.

Even entry-level SE-L Nav + models have 16in alloy wheels, bright LED headlights, and electrically adjustable heated door mirrors.

The 7in dashboard screen is comes as standard, with sat-nav, digital radio, Bluetooth for wirelessly connecting your phone and a USB port. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are not available, though. SE-L + seats come in premium cloth trim with red stitching and there is a leather-wrapped steering wheel, gearshift knob and handbrake lever.

Upgrade to Sport Nav + trim and the seats are finished in leather, the sound system is a Bose unit and there's a much smarter auto-dimming rear-view mirror, as opposed to the fairly thin and flimsy standard mirror. Externally, there are 16in gunmetal alloy wheels on 1.5-litre models and 17in wheels on 2.0-litre models.

Manual versions of the Sport Nav + 2.0-litre models receive some sophisticated technical additions: sport suspension and a limited slip differential, which improve grip in corners, enabling the car to turn faster. It’s most noticeable if you take the car on track days.

GT Sport + is top of the range and gets all of the niceties of the models above, plus, the useful addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Other extras on the more expensive models include smart keyless entry and rear parking sensors, which aren't really required on such a neat little car but sometimes prove handy.


Mazda MX-5 RF Reliability and warranty

The Mazda MX-5 is highly rated by owners and was ranked 4 out of 75 for reliability in the 2018 Auto Express Driver Power customer satisfaction survey.

The survey didn’t provide a separate score for the RF model, which has a more complex roof-folding mechanism, but the company’s track record suggests that it shouldn’t be of too much concern: Mazda was the second most reliable brand overall in the survey.

The warranty is a fairly standard three-years / 60,000 miles, which is no better than average.

Used Mazda MX-5 RF

The MX-5 has long been the best-selling sports car, so demand is high.

There are currently 24 Mazda MX-5 RFs available on BuyaCar, with prices ranging from £11,999 to £22,784 for nearly-new models. Monthly finance payments start from £259.64 per month.

Launch Edition cars are worth looking out for, thanks to their desirable additions such as Alcantara Recaro seats, metallic paint with two-tone roof and BBS wheels. The strong specification does mean that there’s a premium to pay, though.

Automatic versions are more popular than you might think, so there’s typically a number of different colours to choose from; all come in Sport Nav specification.

Mazda RF: used car prices 1 year old 2 years old 3 years old

Best for performance Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0-litre

£11,999 N/A N/A

Best for economy Mazda MX-5 RF 1.5-litre

£11,999 N/A N/A

Other Editions

MX-5 (2015)

The latest version of the hugely popular Mazda MX-5 roadster is the best yet