The third-gen MX-5 roadster was only available with an electronically-operated hard-top, which sucked for many reasons. It added unnecessary weight, which for a low-powered sports car isn’t ideal, and getting the roof down took more time – a full 15 seconds by our timer.
There still seems to be demand for the old tin-top though and Mazda aims to satisfy this part of the market early next year with the launch of the MX-5 RF (short for ‘Retractable Fastback’).
A fabric soft-top is fine during the warmer months but come frostier climes, a hard-top has its advantages when fending off the elements. That’s why the RF is expected to make up the bulk of MX-5 sales in the UK.
The roof works in a similar way to that of the Porsche 911 Targa. Rather than folding away the entire roof, just the central section directly above the occupants is peeled back to leave the coupe-like rear section in place.
The roof can be operated at speeds up to 6mph and when the top is lowered, the front and middle portions are stowed together, while the rear glass sits behind the seats, leaving the rear roof section in place to create a unique open-topped look.
Engine choice remains the same as the regular MX-5, comprising the 129bhp 1.5 and 160bhp 2.0-litre petrol engines. In the conventional MX-5, these units hit 62mph in 8.3 and 7.3 seconds respectively, but the extra weight of the hard-top is expected to add about a fifth of a second.
While the soft-top was only available with a six-speed manual gearbox, the RF will be offered with a six-speed automatic too. Lumping an auto gearbox into the MX-5 hasn’t been particularly successful in the past, resulting in a slower less reliable car, but after the auto-variants of the CX-5 and Mazda6, we’re more optimistic this time.
Prices start from £22,195 for the entry-level 1.5-litre model, reaching £28,995 for the two-litre Launch Edition, numbered to 500 units with exclusive styling and equipment. The first models will be handed over to their UK owners from March 2017.
For more articles like this, receive our weekly e-newsletter, including partner deals and all things motoring, register your email below.