THE Mazda MX-5 folding hard-top is back and brings with it a new name, or more correctly, a new acronym – RF, for Retractable Fastback.
Revealed ahead of the 2016 New York Motor Show, which kicks off tomorrow, the Mazda MX-5 RF puts the emphasis on the design of the car with a more distinctive teardrop profile to the coupe-like roof.
“If we consider the soft-top model to represent the purist appeal of the lightweight sports car … then the retractable fastback represents a new type of MX-5 that aims to be a compact sports car with a natural charm that anybody and everybody will find beautiful,” said Mazda MX-5 chief designer Masashi Nakayama.
However, the second-generation MX-5 with a folding hard-top roof maintains its clever mechanism that allows the roof to fold in 12 seconds, making it the fastest-folding hard-top on sale, and at speeds up to 10km/h. The hard roof adds 40kg over the rag-top version's weight.
Mazda Australia marketing director Alastair Doak says the RF opens up the MX-5 to a “wider range of sports car buyers” with the added security of a fixed roof making it appealing to people who park the car on streets.
However, he is refusing to name the most obvious contenders – the 2012 Wheels Car of the Year award-winning Toyota 86 and its Subaru BRZ twin – as competitors.
“We won’t target any specific rivals, we’ll just sell the message of MX-5 and MX-5 RF; it’s just an extension to the range,” said Doak.
The Mazda MX-5 RF folding roof is fully electric, with a new locking function eliminating the need to manually latch the final piece of the roof in place, as was the case with the previous car.
As with the third-generation NC MX-5 that made its debut with the folding hard-top, the ND Mazda MX-5 RF gets the same 130-litre boot and interior space.
The length and width of the car are unchanged, with the MX-5 RF’s roof sitting 5mm higher than that of the soft-top version.
The compact roof breaks into three components on its carefully choreographed journey into a small compartment behind the seats.
With the arrival of the MX-5 RF, Mazda has also added another colour, Machine Gray, designed to look like liquid steel.
Mazda says the MX-5 RF could arrive in Australia late in 2016 but will more likely be a starter for early 2017.
It’s expected to cost at least $4000 more than the soft-top Mazda MX-5 and will only sell with the bigger, more powerful 2.0-litre engine.
Expect pricing to start around $39,000 for the basic RF, and $45,000 for the RF GT that will add features such as leather seats, sat-nav, auto wipers, climate control air-conditioning and a Bose sound system.