2018 Mazda MX-5 RF Review: Folding Fastback Fun


TrackWorthy - 2018 Mazda MX-5 RF (253) uncropped
TrackWorthy - 2018 Mazda MX-5 RF (253)
Targa tops have graced performance cars for more than half a century. One of the most notable is the Porsche 911 Targa, first introduced in 1967. Numerous manufacturers have made targa tops available on their sports cars over the years including Bugatti, Chevrolet, Ferrari, Fiat, Honda, Tesla and Toyota. Mazda joined the targa top community in 2017 with the launch of the Mazda MX-RF (“Retractable Fastback”).

As the name suggests, the electric, fully-automated top on the MX-5 RF retracts and folds neatly into a compartment behind the seats and in front of the trunk. The targa design does not negatively impact trunk space with the top up or down, unlike folding hardtop convertibles, which either have very limited trunk access or diminished trunk capacity when the convertible top is in the folded position.

Mazda has never built an MX-5 coupe–the RF is as close as they have come, but with the added bonus of being able to open up to the skies with the press of a button.


Mazda reinvigorated the back-to-basics two-door roadster segment with its launch of the original MX-5 Miata in 1989. The MX-5 soft-top is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the bestselling two-seater convertible sports car of all time with more than one-million MX-5’s built to date. Mazda introduced the targa version of the MX-5 in 2017 with the launch of the MX-5 RF. A major difference between the soft- and hard- top models is wind noise in the cabin with the respective tops in the up and down positions. At highway speeds, the RF cabin has more wind noise with its top down than then soft top does with its top down. The targa top generates a lot of noise behind the driver and passenger compartment. Conversely, with the tops in the closed positions, the RF cabin is much quieter at 100 km/h than the soft top is with its roof in place. The closed soft top generates a lot of wind noise while the RF does a very good coupe-like job of creating a secure and relatively quiet driver and passenger environment.
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The MX-5 has always stuck to its low weight, low horsepower, 50/50 weight distribution formula. That hasn’t stopped enthusiasts and tuners from adding power by bolting on turbocharges, superchargers and, in some cases, performing engine transplants by removing the four-cylinder engine and replacing it with six or eight cylinder engines generating in excess of 500 hp. Mazda has decided to join the power race and is increasing horsepower by seventeen percent in the 2019 MX-5 RF and soft top. Power will increase from 155 to 181 hp, and torque will increase from 148 to 151 lb-ft. During our time with the RF we never felt that the car was really underpowered. That said, keeping in mind that the RF is carrying an extra 110 pounds versus the soft-top, we would welcome a few more ponies under the accelerator, especially when getting up to highway speed or passing slower cars on rural two-lane roads. But, overall, the MX-5’s 2.0 litre engine does not feel over-worked. Will both MX-5’s benefit from twenty-six more horsepower? Yes. Is it desperately needed? No.
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Our Test Car: 2018 Mazda MX-5 RF GT

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EXTERIOR COLOUR: Soul Red Crystal Metallic


– SKYACTIV-G 2.0L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine
– SKYACTIV-MT 6-speed manual transmission
– Power retractable hard top
– 17″ alloy wheels
– Sport suspension with Bilstein shocks
– Limited slip differential
– Strut tower bar
– Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring
– Rear Cross Traffic Alert
– High Beam Control System
– LED headlights with LED signature lighting
– LED rear combination lights
– Auto headlight leveling
– Auto on/off headlights
– 7″ colour touchscreen display with Mazda Connect
– HMI Commander
– Navigation
– Bose premium audio system with 9 speakers (including driver and passenger headrest speakers and subwoofer)
– USB (2) and auxiliary inputs
– Push button start
– Advanced keyless entry system
– Air conditioning with automatic controls
– 4.6″ colour MID in gauge cluster
– Rain-sensing wipers
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  • Grand Sport Package – $3,600
    • Piano black hard top
    • 17-inch BBS forged wheels (dark finish)
    • Brembo front brakes (opposed piston design/unique rotor) red painted front and rear brake calipers
    • Nappa leather seating with premium KODO stitching
    • piano black power exterior mirrors
  • Soul Red Crystal Metallic Paint – $450
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2018 Mazda MX-5 RF GT base price: $39,300

Price as tested: $46,350

Plus freight, PDI, taxes and fees: $48,145

Our Take

The 2018 Mazda MX-5 RF looks great in its fastback configuration, with the targa top opened or closed. Our Soul Red Crystal Metallic MX-5 RF, with dark BBS rims and red Brembo brake calipers, was eye-catching — it certainly received plenty of thumbs up and positive feedback from onlookers.

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For us, choosing between the fastback and soft-top would come down to how much highway driving we were going to do. If the purpose of buying an MX-5 is mostly for weekend drives in the country, we would take the soft-top. It provides classic top down open-air driving, fewer blind spots, costs less and is 110 pounds lighter than the RF (2,348 versus 2,458 pounds for the RF). But, if we wanted to get more use out of the MX-5, drive it until the snow flies and again once it starts to melt in the spring, we would take the RF. Especially if we were going to use it more as a commuter car involving regular highway driving. With the top in place, the MX-5 RF provides its occupants with a very civilized environment at highway speeds, one appropriate for conversation with a passenger, or with anyone on the phone via the great Bluetooth phone system including speakers in the driver’s seat headrest.

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The MX-5 RF provides miles and miles (or kilometers and kilometers) of folding fastback fun.

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