Motoring

Mazda MX-5 RF GT Review – Still epic

The Mazda MX-5 is the very definition of a roadster. It has two-seats is lightweight, plus power is sent to the rear. In fact, since its debut in 1989 the MX-5 has become basically a legend. It has never offered eye popping performance but does combine the perfect mix between driver, car and the road ahead. We’ve just spent two weeks in the MX-5 RF GT manual covering Sydney’s urban jungle and parts the NSW countryside. 

What is it?

Mazda’s slogan Zoom Zoom is most apt when it comes to describing the MX-5. Being a roadster, you’re almost sitting on the rear axle, while that long nose protrudes proudly out front. The RF GT comes with a retractable hard-top as opposed to the soft-top found further down the MX-5 tree. But most importantly it scores the 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder engine that delivers an extra layer of excitement to an already exhilarating platform. 

Our review car was the six-speed manual variant with a beautiful tan leather interior. When topless the RF GT remains comfortable thanks to heated seats and reasonably good protection from the outside world. Although at highway speeds you’d struggle to maintain a conversation with a passenger. But what is pretty cool is the fact there’s a speaker in the rear driver’s head rest, so incoming calls are literally broadcast right behind your melon. Off-putting at first, but handy when the roof is down. 

Behind the Wheel

There are some terms when it comes to motoring reviews that are probably overused, but the Mazda MX-5 does drive like it’s on rails. Although the Mazda MX-5 has always been a tight fit it’s actually a comfortable daily drive. Even though fat heaps like myself and our Dictator Trevor Long look like contortionists sliding into and out of it. In fact, Trevor’s son Jackson quipped that his groaning sounded not too dissimilar to the guttural sounds Jeremey Clarkson makes but he has an excuse, he’s over six-foot. 

This remains a car for the purists with not a turbo in sight, but it still manages to go like the clappers. If you nail the gear shifts the RF GT will probably just slip under seven seconds when it comes to hitting the tonne. But the MX-5 isn’t about straight-line speed. This baby’s best friend is a corner and the more the better. 

The key to any great car is the level of feedback between your fingers and the road. This is where the MX-5 has earnt its global iconic reputation. Its darts around with ease, you can feel every undulation, changes in road camber and any hint of the rear-end reaching its limit. It has one of the most predictable suspension and steering set ups you’re ever likely to experience. 

Plus, all this inherent ability comes minus fancy adaptive suspension or excessive trickery. It just makes do with pre-set front double wishbone, rear multi-link suspension and a limited-slip differential.  

The free-revving 2.0-litre engine is no slouch however, especially when in third which can wind right up to 7,000rpm. The engine note doesn’t disappoint either, while it leaves the cracks and farts to others it still has a very satisfying distinctive bark.

Vital Stats

The 2.0-litre in-line four-cylinder petrol engine pumps out 135kW at 7,000rpm and 205Nm of torque at 4,000rpm. Power is sent to the wheels via a six-speed manual, you can go for a six-speed auto, but seriously you’d need to be semi-comatose to make that call. 

The MX-5 RF GT has a kerb weight of just 1,087kg but does require 95RON petrol or higher. 

Technology 

This is where the purists may start get the shits, but in this day and age it is time for the MX-5 to follow the company line, so to speak. It has all the usual driver assist functions including lane-keep assist and blind spot monitoring. It’s great to see Autonomous Emergency Braking as standard along with a reversing camera with cross traffic alert. 

Somehow Mazda managed to squeeze a nine speaker Bose sound system into the cabin. A 7-inch colour touchscreen sits front and centre and would be familiar to any current Mazda owner. Most new Mazda’s now come equipped with smartphone connectivity that includes Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, sadly the MX-5 misses out.

Trevor took the MX-5 for a run down to Young in South West NSW. At night the adaptive LED headlights really come into play. They have the ability to remain on high beam but divert light away from oncoming motorists. It’s not on the same level as Audi’s Matrix lights, but it’s bloody awesome at this price point.

Trevor Says…

This car is epic, I loved the adaptive high-beam. It takes corners like it’s on rails and the roof goes up and down quickly. As a side note Trev managed to squeeze a stack of gear in the 127-litre boot for a Today Show segment, so it’s not impossible to go for a weekend getaway with a couple of carry-on style suitcases. It should be noted the roof when retracted has no impact on boot space.

Chris Says…

Yeah this is still one of the great cars, I love the new tech on board and the fact in doesn’t have a back breaking firm ride. 

Price

The Mazda MX-5 RF GT is priced from $51,525 for the manual before on-roads. It as a claimed fuel economy figure of 6.9L/100km, which surprisingly we meet. One of the main reasons for that would be a fair amount of highway driving. All Mazda’s are covered by a five-year unlimited kilometre warranty. 

Why Would You Buy One?

This is a perfect second car for a whole range of demographics. It’s also dare I say a gender-neutral car, I never felt like I was being judged if you get my drift, unlike some previous models.

EFTM Scoreboard

I’m not a big fan of soft-tops because usually the weight saving measure changes the original form of the car. So, it was great to be able to drive the hard-top version. At the end of the day there are very few negatives about the MX-5. Sure, it now meets the technological expectations of 2019, but in no way does it stray from its original purpose – that being pure fun. It’s an 8.5 out of 10 from me.

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Mazda MX-5 RF GT Review – Still epic
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