THE Mazda MX-5 RF won’t become a replacement for the award-winning Roadster that launched a new generation of the carmaker’s two-seat sports car, the company says.
Mazda has equipped the targa-roofed MX-5 RF with a richer list of features than its 2016 Wheels Car of the Year-winning soft-top sibling, as well as building in an almost $4000 gap to the highest-priced rag-top version.
The features and price gap are expected to help Mazda avoid a repeat of the sales cannibalisation that followed the release of the hard-topped Roadster Coupe version of the third-generation Mazda MX-5. It grew in popularity to eventually outsell the cloth-topped Roadster more than nine to one, with Roadster sales slowing so much that Mazda dropped it in 2012.
However, Mazda says it believes it now has enough product differentiation in place that the Roadster’s sales appeal will stand out from the RF’s.
“It is the first time we have offered two engines (limited-edition NB SP Turbo aside), and this has given us a much broader price point,” marketing director Alastair Doak said.
“So from that point of view, the price gap in the range will mean that the RF – which will be a flagship for the MX-5 range – won’t replace the Roadster.”
At $38,550, the 2.0-litre RF will cost almost $4000 more than the most expensive version of the soft-top, and about $6500 more than the base 1.5-litre Roadster.
However, the price gap will also be offset by the fresh look, increased security, and improved refinement brought about by the targa’s metal roof and fixed side panels.
It also prices the MX-5 RF less than $3000 more than the range-topping Toyota 86 GT, which sells from $35,990.
The newcomer introduces more driver assist systems and luxury features to the MX-5 badge. These include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning and automatic high-beam headlights as well as the availability of Nappa leather seat trim, though these will eventually filter down to the convertible.
The richer equipment list is on top of retuned suspension and steering components, as well as increased sound deadening materials to make the targa quieter, though the company claims there has been no discernible change to “driving pleasure” despite its 45kg weight penalty.
Doak said the RF gave the MX-5 a different look and character that would “appeal to a broader range of customers who might not have considered an MX-5 in its purer soft-top form anyway”.
“So I think a combination of those two things means we’re telling a much broader MX-5 story than we’ve ever had in the past, and because of that it won’t substitute,” he said.
Unlike the previous-generation RC, Mazda believes the RF will only account for about three in every five MX-5 sales, though Doak admits this is only an educated guess.
Still in its first full year on sale, the ND Roadster is on track to break the 1500 unit sales barrier in 2016, making it the series’ most successful in its 27-year run in this country. The convertible had attracted almost 1390 sales in the first 10 months of this year.