Motors

MX-5 raises the roof, Mazda-style

Mazda is giving its MX-5 a novel 'retractable fastback' folding hardtop roof

MAZDA'S brilliant MX-5 roadster is already a firm Drive favourite, and the sports car's appeal is about to broaden further, writes William Scholes.

The manually folding soft top on the latest version of the MX-5 - so feather-light and simple to operate that even a child can do it - might be a simple affair but it is so perfectly suited to the car's pared-back ethos that there was a thought that Mazda would not bother with the folding hardtop 'roadster coupe' version that it offered with the previous generation.

But that car was good business for Mazda and popular with customers who demanded a little more refinement and the additional security, perceived or otherwise, of a metal roof.

So while a folding hardtop version of the new MX-5 might not be a surprise, the manner of its execution certainly is.

Rather than opt to follow the template of the last roadster coupe - itself something of a marvel of engineering - Mazda has come up with a novel 'retractable fastback', or RF, version for its new model.

The standard roadster has developed into a coupe, or fastback, giving the MX-5 a brawny but sleek silhouette.

Party pieces include a retractable back window but the real showstopper is the power roof that opens and closes at the touch of a button, leaving the roof's buttresses in place.

Electric motors lift a section of the rear bodywork in one piece, while another piece of electro-mechanical trickery slides the roof section underneath it, before the whole assembly sinks flush to the rear deck.

The whole process takes around 12 seconds, at speeds of up to 6mph. It's thought the RF assembly adds around 50kg to the weight of the soft-top MX-5. The RF's roofline is just 5mm higher than the roadster's, while it is the same width and length.

As with the last MX-5 roadster coupe, the RF's roof stows away very compactly, and the boot space is the same 130 litres as that found in the soft-top, though it's hardly voluminous to begin with nor is practicality the main reason for buying a car like this...

The same 1.5-litre and 2.0-litre engines that work so well in the roadster will be available in the RF and while a six-speed manual gearbox with a beautifully tactile gearshift is standard, a six-speed automatic is also available, an RF-only option.

The RF's suspension and steering settings have been tweaked to reflect its more refined nature.

Mazda will probably charge a premium of around £2,500 for the RF, meaning it should start at around £21,000, and the car is expected on these shores next year.

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