Mazda MX-5 RF | Basically Speaking

BY Azfar Hashim

The MX-5 RF is the perfect medicine to cure any sort of depression, but first...

Photos by Azfar Hashim

Every once in a while, it's definitely nice to drive a - for no better word - basic car. The sort that has no frills, nothing fancy; adds a big smile to your face the moment you unlock the car and get behind the wheel. Even when you're having the crappiest day of your existence.

The Mazda MX-5 has that effect. In a market where everyone's busy trying to squeeze so much technology along with mind-numbing engineering effort into a shell, Mazda decided to give us a sporty little cabriolet that is so much fun to drive, you're probably willing to sell off a cornea/kidney/liver to buy one. While we also cannot ignore Toyota's 86 and Subaru's BRZ which has similar 'back-to-basic' concept, the MX-5 still stands out further simply due to the fact that you have the option to drive it with or without the roof.

And now we have a MX-5 with a retractable metal roof. At first glance, it looks perfect for all you sun-worshippers in need of a small cabriolet; but similarly do not want to worry about coming to a slashed roof in the morning just before you head off to work…

With the roof in place, the MX-5 RF looks perfect. Everything is proportionate; Mazda just proved even they could come up with something equally sexy as the BMW Z4 and Mercedes-Benz SLC. If you worry about being nitpicked for a roof that doesn't fit as solidly, here, there's no such concern; thus proving that in terms of roof engineering for cabriolets, Mazda is on par with the said German pair.

A simple button to open/close the roof

A simple button to open/close the roof

While opening or closing the roof, you can also observe the amount of work put in by Mazda's engineers: All the mechanisms work like clockwork, which should impress anyone used to German engineering, even.

Red stitches: Fancy...

Red stitches: Fancy...

With the solid metal roof proving not to be brittle, I must note that the rest of the cabin could do with some little bit of improvement. While there's no way to fault the built quality, there are areas around that could do with fancier plastic. The dashboard needs more soft plastic to give that premium edge; more leather bits on the door panels as well, for the same reason.

That aside, I am glad to report the controls and displays are focused toward the driver; to be blunt, they're idiot-proof. Oh and before I forget, the seats do require additional thigh support which could come in useful when you're attacking corners after corners along those Malaysian b-roads.

It's rather obvious Mazda wanted to justify their asking price by throwing in premium items as standard. You get Bose speakers within the cabin, blind spot monitor, lane departure warning system, engine auto start/stop, MZD Connect in-vehicle system. A better list compared to the 86 and BRZ, if you were to ask me...

Powered by Mazda's Skyactiv-G 2.0-litre engine and paired to a 6-speed automatic, the MX-5 RF here goes about its daily duty pleasantly. It isn't the fastest roadster, but when you do need the power, it's available without any signs of struggle; however the engine note higher up the rev range, particularly from the 4,500 rpm mark, could come across as coarse.

Thankfully, expressway drives remain a relaxing affair with (a) the cabin decently dampened, and (b) Bose sound system doing its thing. Again, this shows that Mazda's engineers had paid enough attention.

In terms of handling, this little roadster here is fairly balanced with the chassis displaying a high level of confidence. That said, you need to be an overly excited amateur to get it to understeer; again, I must emphasise the MX-5 RF is balanced. The steering though, is something you need to get used to - it responds to your input instantaneously, yes, but may come across as a tad artificial.

Three words to end life's misery

Three words to end life's misery

So it has a solidly designed (and engineered) roof, remains fun to drive after some getting used to and last but not least, works well as a daily driver. To sum it up, a damn good car to have.

Alas, it boils down to the price. For $173k, does it sound too much for a fun, back-to-basic sort of car?