At the Mazda MX5 RF launch in February only the 2.0 litre versions were available and remembering how impressed I was by the lasting memory of the original MX5 with its 1.6 litre engine many years ago I was eager to try the 1.5 entry level model in today’s range. It was worth the wait.
I have always liked the folding fabric roof of the original and subsequent models but the new rapid-action Retractable Fastback metal lid does “lift” it to a new higher level of desirability.
The roof folds flat behind the seats or erects on its scissor-like arms at the touch of button, making every British summer’s day a driving opportunity, although you pay £2,000 more over the soft-top equivalent.
The smaller 1.5 litre petrol engine is about 29ps less powerful than the 2.0 stablemate and fractionally slower through the gears with a top speed about 6mph less as well, but the 2.0 litre will give you 36mpg and the 1.5 stretches 8 miles more out of a gallon and its cheaper to insure and much cheaper to tax.
To my mind the savings make sense unless you really must have the 2.0 litre for a reason, and in fact I believe the 1.5 to be better car with its handling and ride.
It’s still quite quick through that wonderfully creamy gearbox with its light clutch, the steering is pin sharp and well weighted and it stops easily and undramatically from speed.
Handling was entirely predictable and safe with a bias towards over steer if you were too enthusiastic with the right foot.
It really has adequate power for two people to enjoy a run through the countryside with enough in reserve to safely overtake and get it on a motorway it will gobble up the miles at a sensible speed without any complaint.
You have to be fairly well organised as the interior oddments room is minimal, while the bootspace is suitable for a bit more than a credit card and thong but you’d struggle with a big hard-shell case and better to use a sports bag. Secondary controls and instruments are well laid out in the cosy cabin area.
Mazda has wisely not been tempted to destroy the MX5 character by making this fourth generation model too big and its agility and ease of parking are also points in its favour.
Now, Mazda anticipate selling 75% of 3,500 MX5 models in the UK with the RF bodystyle which resembles a coupe when closed so it actually looks quite different to the fabric finished stablemate.
About 40% will be ordered with this 1.5 litre engine and to my mind that will make it rarer and more desirable in a few years so you might be saving money when you buy it, when you run it and even when you sell it.
Can you wait to buy one now?
|Fast facts:||Mazda MX-5 RF 1.5 Sport Nav £24,895|
|Insurance: 26E||Mechanical: 131ps 4cyl 1496cc, 6sp|
|Max: 127 mph||0-62mph: 8.3 sec|
|Fuel: 44 mpg on test||Emissions: 142 gkm|
|BIK: 27%, £240FY, £140SR||Warranty: 3yrs/ 60,000 miles|
|Sizes: L 3.92m, W 1.74m, H 1.23m||Boot: 130 litres Kerb: 1050 kg|
|For: Brilliant folding roof stows out of sight and quick to use, excellent powertrain and responses with very good economy, ride comfort for two|
Against: Small boot and oddments room restrict practicality and road noise apparent when roof is closed. © WheelsWithinWales