After wating a lot, here we are! The road test of the Mazda MX-5 ND! We had this car ready for a review since March. It’s, in fact, my new car. The “black beast” is gone and has left room for a Mazda MX-5 Soft Top 2.0 Sport.
For us of Car-Shooters, however having only the Soft Top version was not enaugh and here, with the arrival of an MX-5 RF 2.0 Exeed for a test drive, we took the opportunity to test them together. With a wonderful sunny autumn day we are driving on the roads leading to Monte Amiata in Tuscany. The yellow leaves on the ground are a perfect scenario while we are heading to the top, where we can make our protagonists rest to observe them closely before departing again in the pursuit of fun.
Let’s start by the guests! We are testing a Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exeed with Gray Machine color with Brown Nappa seats. Personally I find it’s the perfect match for RF. Who choose the Mazda MX-5 RF in my opinion is a different customer compared to the true purist who loves the Soft Top and and giving a touch of elegance to this Hard Top version is a good idea.
RF is the acronym for Retractable Fastback and differs from the Soft Top version for the presence of a really fast mechanical metal roof. It can only be opened from standstill or at really reduced speeds in just 13 seconds and you will switch from a coupe to a spider without ever noticing it. Once open air is different from the counterpart with the Soft Top, the style is the Targa one, with only the top of the roof disappearing.
Mazda MX-5 RF in this Exceed version offers a complete equipment for a customer who does not look for a sporting behaviour, proposed instead in the Sport version which we will see when we talk about my Miata.
On board the RF you will notice the LCD display on the dashboard that shows the roof opening and closing animation and other useful navigation information and the on-board. Unfortunately this interesting LCD display is not present in the Soft Top version. Everything else is unchanged and it follows the MX-5 style. Now let’s talk about my Miata. This is a Mazda MX-5 Soft Top 2.0 Sport from 2017.
The Sport version differs from the Exeed thanks to the BILSTEIN suspensions and springs, the LSD, the Strut Bar in the engine bay and the magnificent RECARO sports seats. This combination, coupled with the black lining and Soul Red color, makes it really aggressive, I like it!
To personalize my car I added some original accessories like the aluminium pedals, the LED interior lights also for the feet area and other minorities. I will have the opportunity to add more in the future. I like for example the Mazda aesthetic kit for exteriors or the alcantara parts for interiors that match well with the RECARO seats. In addition, I have the black side mirrors covers because I find that best match with the front.
Our two Mazda MX-5 are eager to give us emotions on the corners of this fantastic road! Let’s the fun begin! By alternating between driving my car and shooting pictures, we cover lots of km, with Francesco that drives the Mazda MX-5 RF. I have the opportunity to talk with him to see what are the real differences betweekn these two Mazda Miata ND versions.
Let’s start from mine, the most sporty and fit for the purists. The MX-5 Soft Top 2.0 Sport is perfect for those who are looking for a car to be used on everyday roads, but at the same time want to be prepared for sport driving and track days. The presence of the Soft Top makes driving experience more engaging, with less acoustic insulation coupled with the manual roof opening that is really simple and fast.
The vehicle behaviour is certainly stiff, thanks to the Strut bar, but is not exaggerated, the combination of ground clearance and calibration of the BILSTEIN suspensions is perfect for the Italian roads (famous to be not perfect). You will never find yourself in trouble with potholes or ramps. The body roll is present but does not affect the driving experience, I think it helps to give you a clear perception of what the car is doing every moment.
Those who want to personalize the setting of the car will find everything they need to lower or tighten the MX-5 ND further with aftermarket parts. For sport driving, you will really appreciate the presence of the LSD, only present in the Sport version here in Italy, which makes the car perfectly predictable and easy to control in over steering and even more precise in the corners. Moving to the interiors, the RECARO seats are the icing on the cake, really comfortable and good looking.
What changes with MX-5 RF Exceed version? Surely you lose most of the sport attitude but not necessarily this is a problem. As As I said, I see the RF more like a car for every day, more suitable for those who do not necessarily search for sports driving but wants to enjoy an en plein air trip. Here, the suspensions are much less stiff, the driving behaviour is more relaxed and more comfortable, the metal roof ensures better thermal and acoustic insulation and why greater security against thieves.
The presence of the metal roof raises the position of the car’s center of gravity, but the Mazda engineers, working really well on the setting, have managed to solve the problem making the differences almost imperceptible with the Soft Top version. The metal roof adds anyway 50kg to the car.
Let’s go to the common points between these two Mazda Miata. The first one worth mentioning is definitely the engine. The 2.0-litre 4-cylinder SKYACTIV delivering 160 hp is longitudinally mounted in a position to ensure the 50:50 weight ratio between front and rear of the car. Torque and power are good also thanks to the weight of the car. The car speeds up as the engine revs rises, like any aspirated engine. Mazda preferred to remain faithful to its origins without downsizing with the aid of turbo, I greatly appreciate this thing.
The sound? With stock exhaust the car can do better, but aftermarket and OEM solutions are multiple. One curiosity about this engine is i-ELOOP technology. During the journey when you leave the throttle or you press the brake an energy recovery system is activated to charge a capacitor (which accumulates energy faster than a conventional battery) that is then discharged by powering the various electronic devices of the car for the benefit of greater efficiency. To match with this great engine there is a gearbox that we can define the state of the art at the moment. It’s pleasantly precise, you can control it with the only movement of the wrist. Taking the MX-5 with the automatic gearbox is almost a sacrilege! Try it and you’ll be surprised.
Inside everything is done according to Mazda’s ideas, the driver is at the center of the attention and while driving the car is really communicative. We also find as usual the MZD system in the middle of the console that does its job fine while missing the latest CarPlay and Android Auto technologies that seems to come with an upgrade … sooner or later. To accompany MZD Connect there is an excellent BOSE sound system, available on Sport and Exceed, which is good for both closed and open roofs situations thanks to a specially designed amplifier.
What is missing? The ability to adjust the steering back and forth, in search of lightweight Mazda technicians preferred to avoid a telescopic steering wheel but with my height of 1.84m I would preferred to bring the seat back and have the ability to approach the steering wheel towards myself. In any case, this does not penalize the driving experience, but I certainly believe that my height is the limit to comfortably drive the Mazda Miata ND.
Always in line with the Mazda tradition, both versions offers LED headlamps with automatic high beam, line-change assistant, blind corner assistant and everything you need. In conclusion, our two protagonists today are really two special cars.
The key to having fun on the road is not only having lots of HP! Just have a well balanced car, predictable in its behaviour in order to turn off all the electronic controls and to drive a beautiful road with the smile in your face and the wind on the hair. Thanks to this recipe, the Mazda MX-5 ND is also a great car to approach the rear wheel drive and learning how to drive a sports car. In conclusion, the Mazda MX-5 ND, Soft Top or RF, will be a great car that will surely meet your expectations.
Testo: Edoardo Mascalchi
Foto: Edoardo Mascalchi, Francesco Giovannini, Marco Dellisanti, Federico Schipani