MX5 gets toughened up and we love it.
Over the years the Mazda MX5 has been unfairly branded as a bit of a softie.
And, while the latest one is a lot sharper to look at, perhaps you want to toughen it up a bit more.
Fear not, because the hard-top RF is here.
The fourth generation car has been heralded as something of a return to form for the legendary sports car and now the RF (Retractable Fastback) moves that on further.
It’s aimed at those who like the more comfortable experience that comes with a hardtop.
But what it also does is give the MX5 an even more sporty and more serious look.
We can thank the rear pillars for that. Even with the top down the RF looks like it seriously means business.
If the soft top smacks of a fun day in the sun, the hard top says ‘don’t mess with me’.
That lid comes and goes with the press of a button – unlike the manually operated soft top.
When closed, you’ve got yourself a tidy coupe.
If the heavens open, that top can be returned at speeds of up to 6mph.
The fact that, even with the top down, you have those pillars behind your head, means that wind noise is reduced and you can have a conversation at 70mph without a problem.
And, those differences aside, the car is all about sharpness.
That means in looks, but, more importantly, in the drive.
It’s back to its best - lightweight, fun and everything a two-seater sports car should be.
It’s lighter than the last generation car and, of course, the front-engined, rear-drive layout makes it much fun on the road.
It feels perfectly balanced – the rear end itches to get out when you get the power down.
A and B roads are the perfect habitat for the MX5 - it feels completely connected as far as handling goes and the six-speed manual gearbox is just perfect, with a tight and direct short-throw that is just a sheer joy.
The RF gets the same engines as the convertible, both lively SKYACTIV units.
The 1.5, with 131ps, makes 62mph in 8.3 seconds, while its bigger 2.0-litre sibling makes 160ps and find the same speed a second quicker. Top ends are 127mph and 133mph respectively.
Base cars get 16in alloys, a lovely burbly dual exhaust, audio controls on the steering wheel, a USB point, cloth upholstery and a bit of leather on the wheel and gear knob.
Move up the range for climate control, touch screen sat nav infotainment system, digital radio, a nine-speaker Bose sound system, cruise, parking sensors, heated seats, auto wipers and lights and 17in alloys.
All of that means that the MX5 can really be as basic or as loaded as you like.
Its everyday usability is reflected in the economy figures – 47mpg and 139g/km on the 1.5 and 41mpg and 161g/km on the 2.0.
For a car that’s this much fun, those are a real bonus – and they’re not unachievable, either – we managed 40-45 without any effort at all in normal driving.
However you spec it, the MX5 remains at its heart a fantastic sports car.
Sure, it has some excellent rivals in the form of cars like the Toyota GT86 and BMW M2, but there’s nothing really quite like this car.
And now you have the choice of pure soft top or meatier hard top.