- Very fun to drive, all the time
- Clever and fast folding hard top
- Peppy engine that sings while revving
- Lacks some key features
- Starting to get expensive
- Terrible interior storage
At the introduction of the Mazda MX-5 in 1989, the fun nature of British sports cars was combined with typical Japanese reliability and affordability – it’s no wonder Mazda has built over one million of them since. 34 years later, the MX-5 is still providing smiles to anyone who gets behind the wheel thanks to its excellent chassis, fun dynamics, zingy engine and quality cabin. We tested the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Black Roof to see if having a heavier and higher centre of gravity in the folding hard top variant of the MX-5 range puts a damper on the MX-5’s spirit.
The RF variant of the MX-5 has a retractable hard top – or almost-Targa – style roof that is reminiscent of the Porsche 911 Targa’s roof. With the decline of the sports car in recent years there is only really one rival to compare to the MX-5 and that is the new Toyota GR86, which is also a coupe. Which to buy?
How much does the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Black Roof cost to buy?
The 2023 Mazda MX-5 range starts with the entry level roadster known as simply ‘MX-5’ at $38,460 plus on-road costs. Almost at the other end of the lineup is the second-from-top RF GT Black Roof, which is priced at $50,790 plus on roads for the manual and $52,790 plus on road costs (around $57,000 drive away) for the automatic we have here.
MX-5 RF GT Black Roof standard equipment:
- 17-inch alloy wheels
- Dusk-sensing automatic LED headlights
- Front and rear LED daytime running lights
- Automatic wipers
- Nappa leather upholstery
- Three-stage heated seats
- Heated exterior mirrors
- Anti-glare rear view mirror
- Keyless entry with push button start and walk away locking
- 7.0-inch touchscreen
- Wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto
- Satellite navigation
- AM/FM/DAB+ digital radio
- Nine-speaker Bose sound system
- Two USB-A ports
- Single-zone automatic climate control
- Limited slip differential
MX-5 RF GT Black Roof safety equipment:
- Four airbags (2x front and 2x side units)
- Auto emergency braking (AEB) with pedestrian detection
- Speed sign recognition
- Cruise control
- Emergency lane keep assist with lane departure warning
- Blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert
- Driver attention monitoring
- Tyre pressure monitoring
- Matrix adaptive high beam
- Rear parking sensors
- Reversing camera
The MX-5 received a five-star ANCAP safety rating when it was released, but this rating has expired.
For a small sports car, we think that the MX-5 is quite well equipped, though adaptive cruise control, a digital speedometer out and auto-folding mirrors would make it better value and easier to live with on a day-to-day basis.
MX-5 colour range:
- Deep Crystal Blue
- Snowflake White Pearl
- Jet Black
- Platinum Quartz Metallic
- Soul Crystal Red (+$595)
- Zircon Sand (+$595)
- Machine Grey (+$595 and fitted to our test car)
The only interior colour options for the RF GT Black Roof are white or the gorgeous terracotta tan option fitted to our test car – the black option from the regular MX-5 is not available.
The closest rival to the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Black roof is the Toyota GR86 GTS, which can be had in either manual or automatic form for $45,390 plus on-road costs, which is a huge $7,400 less than the MX-5. The GR86 GTS adds three more airbags (seven versus four), an alarm, larger 18-inch alloy wheels, a rear fog light, electric-folding exterior mirrors, a larger 8.0-inch touchscreen, a partially-digital driver’s display and dual-zone climate control over the MX-5. However, the MX-5 has Nappa leather trim, Matrix adaptive high beam, rear parking sensors, satellite navigation, auto wipers, a nine speaker Bose sound system and the folding hard top. In reality, the GR86 is better value because it’s more car than the MX-5.
What’s under the bonnet of the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Black Roof?
The only engine offered on the 2023 Mazda MX-5 line up is the familiar 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder that is also used in other Mazda products. It is part of the SkyActiv engine family and in the MX-5, produces 135kW of power at 7,000rpm and 205Nm of torque at 4,000rpm – less than the GR86’s 174kW/250Nm outputs, but it does weigh 143kg less. Like the GR86, the MX-5 sends its power to the rear wheels via a standard six-speed manual or our test car’s six-speed torque converter automatic.
The power unit in the MX-5 is a lively one, revving all the way to 7,500rpm and sounding great while doing so. The engine is also quite responsive to inputs of the throttle and feels like it eggs you on to get the most out of it. While on paper 135kW may not seem like a lot of power in comparison to the plethora of 300+kW EVs around, do keep in mind that the MX-5 RF has a tare weight of just 1,085kg and because of that, it doesn’t need much power for meaningful acceleration. Mazda doesn’t quote a 0-100km/h sprint time, but we’d wager it to be around the 6.5-second mark, which is pretty peppy.
The six-speed torque converter automatic in the MX-5 we tested was quite intuitive, but it definitely wouldn’t be the transmission we’d choose if we were buying an MX-5. The auto’s shifts are quick and it held gears for a pretty good amount of time. Plus, if you want to control the gears yourself there are steering wheel mounted paddle shifters should they persuade you – but if you’re ordering one and are able to drive a manual, it is 100 per cent the way to go because it’s far more engaging than the auto and a car like the MX-5 is all about engagement.
The claimed average fuel consumption figure of the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Black roof fitted with the automatic transmission is 7.2L/100km. Our week behind the wheel with a mixture of motorway and urban driving saw an average figure of 8.4L/100km, which is reasonable and a lot more efficient than the GR86 in our testing. The MX-5 has a small 45-litre fuel tank that requires 95RON premium unleaded fuel.
Does the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Black Roof handle well?
As you’d expect for a small sports car, this is where the 2023 Mazda MX-5 shines, due to its light weight and rear wheel drive platform, it handles exceptionally well. The 17-inch wheels wrapped in sticky Bridgestone rubber do a fantastic job of keeping grip on the MX-5 when cornering. There is a slight amount of body roll but it all adds to the fun and you can’t help but have a huge grin on your face when driving the MX-5. We found the ride on the MX-5 to be quite compliant for a sports car. Yes, you do feel bumps and imperfections on the road but for a sports car, it’s very comfortable.
The steering in the MX-5 is great – it could offer a touch more feel, but it’s well weighted and though we found the steering wheel a little big for this application, we loved steering the little Mazda. The active safety on offer in the MX-5 has is quite good too and doesn’t interfere with the driving experience. The blind spot monitoring is accurate, the forward collision alert isn’t overly sensitive and the speed sign recognition was helpful and pretty accurate – especially given that there’s no digital speedometer.
What’s on the inside of the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Black Roof?
The interior of the MX-5 has not changed since this models introduction in 2015, but that’s not a bad thing as it’s good quality and it looks good as well. The dashboard has a nice flowing design and though the cabin is quite small, once you are in there there is just enough room for your arms and legs but it’s by no means roomy though. The materials are also pretty good in this small sports car, with lovely Nappa leather trim on the seats and door panels and quality metal-like switchgear throughout.
Mounted on the dashboard is a 7.0-inch touchscreen that can only be used with a controller wheel in the centre console at speed. It uses Mazda’s old ‘Mazda MZD Connect’ software and while the screen quality is dated, it’s still a reasonable system to use – the company’s newer system that features in its latest products is due to launch in the updated MX-5 soon – with satellite navigation, digital radio, wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto featuring. The nine-speaker Bose sound system is really good too, especially with the speakers in the headrests.
The storage situation is not fantastic – in fact, it’s pretty poor. There’s no glovebox and only tiny door pockets, while there is a reasonable storage cubby between the two seats on the rear wall and a storage bin behind each seat for hiding more valuable items. Under that are two cup holders – one can be repositioned to sit next to the passenger’s right leg- and in front of the shifter is a space to hold your phone but that’s it. The GR86 has almost twice the storage options, as well as useable rear seats.
The 2023 Mazda MX-5 range is solely a two-seater whereas the GR86 can offer seating for four (though those in the back need to have small or no legs). The folding hard top roof of the MX-5 is an impressive piece of kit – it folds down into its cavity behind the seats and doesn’t impede into the boot at all. It’s fully electric and takes under 15 seconds to fold down or fold up. The MX-5’s seats are quite comfortable and the driver’s chair features under-thigh angle adjustment, though we’d like to see more side bolstering.
The boot space on offer in the MX-5 RF is 127-litres and that’s it. Keep in mind that this is where you will have to store the owner’s manual too, as there is no glove box. The one benefit of the boot is that on longer road trips or weekends away you can squish a few bags in and then nothing moves around. The boot of the GR86 measures in at 237L, though you can also fold the rear seats down to expand the bootspace for longer items.
What warranty covers the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Black Roof?
Like all other new Mazda products, the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Black Roof is covered with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty that is also paired with five years of roadside assistance. In comparison, the Toyota GR86 comes with the same warranty period but no roadside assistance – though the mechanical warranty for the Toyota is extended by a further two years on the drivetrain if you service to logbook requirements.
Servicing the MX-5 occurs every 12 months or 15,000km – the same as the GR86 – and costs $2,114 to service over the span of five years or 75,000km or $422 per service. The Toyota costs just $1,500 (first five services are capped at $300 each) to service over the span of five years or 75,000km.
Should I buy a 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Black Roof?
The 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF GT Black Roof is a car that you can’t help be love. It’s so fun to drive, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to run and looks great. Its cabin is good quality, is comfortable, well featured, offers zingy performance and reasonable fuel economy. Plus, being a Mazda, it’ll be endlessly reliable and have freezing cold air-conditioning as well. For those who want it – we’d stick with the regular roadster – the RF adds extra security and refinement with its hard top roof.
The MX-5 may have pretty much no interior storage, a snug cabin and not have as much power as its main rival but we love it here at DiscoverAuto. Yes, the GR86 is more practical and easier to live with but in our opinion these cars offer different driving experiences, with the MX-5 going for more of a sports luxury vibe to the GR86’s harder and faster nature. Which one is better? That’s up to a buyer’s personal preference of course, but driving an MX-5 with the roof down is a wonderful experience.