MX-5 BACK ON TRACK TO MUCH-LOVED TRADITION

Mazda_MX-5_RF_GT_frontAlmost a year ago I accused the MX-5 of ‘going soft’, when I wrote, “the Mazda, born in 1989 in the tradition of the compact British cloth-top convertibles of the post-war era.

“The latest (iteration) to appear is the MX-5 RF (for retractable fastback), a sleek fastback with a smooth line joining the roof to the rear of the car – a far cry from the pared-back proportions of the original MX-5.”

Maybe someone back at Mazda HQ was listening because the latest version of the best-selling roadster has been given a makeover to hark back to those early days of new-found driving excitement without reproducing its privations.

The latest Mazda MX-5 has been imbued with more power, torque and technology in all its three variants, from the entry-level Roadster, through the mid-range RF to the top-dog RF GT.

The 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre four-cylinder units have boosts, to 97 kW and 152 Nm, and 135 kW and 205 Nm respectively. The 2.0 has its redline lifted to 7500rpm.

Mazda_MX-5_RF_GT_rear

The driver is pampered with telescopic steering wheel movement to find the most suitable driving position; safety is boosted with a rear camera and new standard safety technologies across all models, while new-look alloy wheels have been added to all models.

Prices have taken a nudge north, with the RF GT 2.0 manual (the test vehicle) putting on $1070 to $45,960, plus on road costs.
Mazda Australia director of marketing, Alastair Doak, says the update gives a driving experience that is true to the original, while refining and enhancing the thrilling drive that is unique to our iconic two-seater.

STYLING
With the metal roof up or down, the Mazda MX-5 RF (for retractable fastback) GT is true to the tradition of the Triumph, Austin-Healey, MG and Lotus of old.

The RF features the same compact front and centre as the soft-top model, including length, width and wheelbase. Overall height has increased by 5 mm. The RF’s retractable hardtop consists of a front, middle and rear roof, and back window glass. When the roof is open, the front and middle roof sections are stowed together with the back-window glass in the space behind the seats.

With the roof up, the appealing fastback styling comes into its own with a beautiful smooth line joining the roof to the rear end. What is considered at the heart of all true sports cars. The RF GT has its own 17-inch bright finish wheels.

Mazda_MX-5_RF_GT_interior
INTERIOR
There are five interior trim options for MX-5, with Mazda’s Chroma Brown nappa leather available as an option for RF GT. The test car featured black leather.
The simple and clearly set out three-meter instrument cluster is unchanged with the information display to the left of the cluster having a dedicated 4.6-inch colour TFT LCD screen that displays an animation of the roof when it is opening or shutting. The button for operating the roof is positioned on the panel below the dials for the air-conditioning system.

INFOTAINMENT
Mazda’s MZD Connect, with its central-dash positioned screen and centre console control knob, makes for safe and easy access to functions, including internet connectivity and access to social networking services while driving. It also offers hands-free phone operation, access to Twitter and other communication functions, as well as satellite navigation.

The RF GT boasts a nine-speaker Bose premium sound system, the same as on the soft-top. The premium Bose includes a pair of headrest speakers on the driver’s side delivering more music pleasure and clearer phone conversations.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS
With the aim of matching the free-revving feel of the 1.5-litre motor, engineers got into the Skyactiv-G 2.0 unit, pushing up the red line to 7500 rpm, boosting power from 118 kW to 135 kW and torque from 200 Nm to 205 Nm.
This saw changes made to the air flow intake and exhaust systems, piston shape and weight, crankshaft and connecting rods, achieving increased air intake, improved combustion speed, reduced exhaust losses and mechanical friction.
SAFETY
Mazda MX-5’s five-star ANCAP safety rating has been further improved, with the addition of a rear camera to all grades, and more advanced i-Activsense safety technologies to the standard package, including smart city brake support (forward and traffic sign recognition.

DRIVING
It was clear that to match the extra engine power, the manual transmission had been revised, delivering a sharper response and more direct driving feel than in the previous model.

Attention to shift timing at turn-in and torque control at turn-out meant they were more attuned to precision in sporty driving situations. The engine note had been made more meaty too, which thanks to a large acrylic see-through wind deflector, cut cabin air turbulence while maintaining rear visibility, was pleasing to both driver and passenger.

Fuel economy was just that – sparing, with use kept under 8 litres per 100 kilometres around town and a miserly 5.1 litres per 100 kilometres on the motorway and easy paced country roads.

Raising and stowing the retractable metal roof was no hardship, with operation fully automatic at the press of a button.

Cabin controls and instrument set-up would be familiar to most MX-5 owners, with little changing from the previous model, or indeed, any of the modern Mazdas.

Improvements are limited to the detachable cup holders having been made more rigid for less wobble and easier to fasten and remove, while seat levers have thicker internal frames to give a more solid feel when gripped.

SUMMARY
The MX-5 RF GT is for those who want to relive the joy of traditional small sports car motoring without forgoing the comfort and convenience of modern living. A gem.

AT A GLANCE

MODEL LINE-UP
MX-5 Roadster 1.5: $34,190 (manual), $36,190 (automatic)
MX-5 Roadster GT 2.0: $41,960 (manual), $43,960 (automatic)
MX-5 RF 2.0: $39,400 (manual), $41,400 (automatic)
MX-5 RF GT 2.0: $45,960 (manual), $48,960 (automatic)
Note: These prices do not include government or dealer delivery charges. Contact your local Mazda dealer for drive-away prices.

SPECIFICATIONS (Mazda MX-5 RF GT 2.0L 4-cylinder petrol 6sp automatic)

ENGINE:
Capacity: 1.998 litres
Configuration: Four cylinders in line
Maximum Power: 135 kW @ 7000 rpm
Maximum Torque: 205 Nm @ 4000 rpm
Fuel Type: Petrol 95 RON
Combined Fuel Cycle (ADR 81/02): 7.2 L/100km
CO2 Emissions: Euro 5

DRIVELINE: Six-speed SkyActiv-Drive manual, RWD

DIMENSIONS, WEIGHT AND CAPACITIES:
Length: 3915 mm
Wheelbase: 2310 mm
Width: 1735 mm
Height: 1235 mm
Turning Circle: 9.4 metres
Kerb Mass: 1087 kg
Fuel Tank Capacity: 45 litres

BRAKES:
Front: Ventilated disc
Rear: Solid disc

STANDARD WARRANTY:
Five years / unlimited kilometres

About Derek Ogden

On graduating with an honours degree in applied science in London, Derek Ogden worked for the BBC in local radio and several British newspapers as a production journalist and writer. Derek moved to Australia in 1975 and worked as a sub-editor with The Courier Mail and Sunday Mail in Brisbane, moving to the Gold Coast Bulletin in 1980 where he continued as a production journalist. He was the paper's motoring editor for more than 20 years, taking the weekly section from a few pages at the back of the book to a full-colour liftout of up to 36 pages. He left the publication in 2009.
Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.