There was a time where lighting quick gearboxes was to be in every car then came the Fiesta ST, then the 911R. While an NA is the real go-kart for the streets, the RF is something of desire and refinement so has it ventured too far out from what makes the best selling sports-car in the world. As a side note, I placed an order for one when it was launched back in 2017 and now with more goodies, there’s little reason not to.
VIDEO: Mazda MX-5 RF
BEHIND THE WHEEL: Ford Fiesta ST
BEHIND THE WHEEL: Mazda MX-5 NC
On the outside, the ND look especially small from the back, not so much from the front quarter. Sat behind the long hood, it does not at all feel petite. The shoulder region is a bit tight which is not much of a problem should you be under 180 cm and 80 kilograms. Looking over the huge angular haunches feels commanding on the road and they come in handy when attacking bends. Thin-rimmed steering wheel’s dead centre to the driver and like any EPAS system, feedback’s minimal. Thankfully, it is quick to respond so chuck it into any corner as quickly as you dare to have a good laugh.
A manual transmission is the obvious choice because paying more for an automatic to lose a limited-slip differential makes it all worth it for stalling. Unlike the 370Z, it does not have auto rev matching and LSD is present in both choice of transmissions. Clutch’s light and short throw rifle-bolt gearbox is good fun but isn’t by all means easy if one have not spent enough time with manual boxes. Once getting the hang of it, shifting gear while accelerating even on straights will bring joyous memories of your younger self fantasising to one day be able to drive.
What surprises me every time I get into an MX-5 is the ride quality. Quite amazing how a short wheelbase chassis’s able to deal with imperfect surfaces. Now with 181 horsepowers, Mazda has silenced everyone for labelling the MX-5 as a slow car. The increased shove’s noticeable and it now rings all the way to 7500 rpm. In the RF, conversations can be had without raising much of voice making motorway journeys more inhabitable compared to the roadster. After 600 kilometres of combined driving, there’s still fuel and has yet to scrape neither its chin nor its underpinnings.
Bose’s 9-speaker system in this car is a respectable one for having not much space to work with. Not that it is a particularly fine one but any car made in recent years should at least sound this good. Bass is especially punchy when it comes to music post-2010 but highs gets bright fast with volume. Speakers in the headrest brings the mids out from every track while talking over handsfree is an exceptional experience. Although sound quality does become richer through USB, I’d rather live without wires running about.
This is yet another red car.. the more the merrier? Since it’s got more layers, various shades of red can be seen under different lighting conditions. The downside is things may get tricky and expensive should there be any repair. Due to a dead spot on centre, steering corrections will be made on freeway drives does get annoying. You can forget practicality because 278 litres of boot space will only swallow a couple of soft-sided overnight bags which was less of a problem in the Cayman. Heck, it can’t even fit larger house appliances due to how narrow the aperture is and if this is a deal breaker, something with more doors and boring is for you.
As the skies get dark, adaptive headlamps shine bright, far ahead to keep your eyes happy. Guides you home with satellite navigation, reads road signs, monitors blind spot and watches out for dotted lines. An MX-5 does not need any of these but I’m glad it does because that gives us reasons to take it out, more of the time.
Apple CarPlay/Android Auto
an optional extra
0-100 km/h: 6.8s
Top speed: 220 km/h
$ 52,000 AUD