MAZDA MX-5 RF Exclusive-Line, better than ever

In Car Reviews, Mazda, Sports Cars by Tom Scanlan

Thirty-five years later, the current Mazda MX-5 Mark 4 version has had a few upgrades

Car Reviewed: 2024 Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive-Line

The bottom line is that the MX-5 is as brilliant as ever. The version tested was the Exclusive-Line RF hard-top, powered by the 181 bhp, 2-litre, 4-cylinder engine. The 129 bhp, 1.5 engine remains available.

Other trim versions include Homura (Japanese for ‘flame’) at the top of the range and Prime-Line; these also go for the soft-top MX-5 Roadster. With 135,000 sold in the UK and many fans, it was easy to see why fifty miles through agricultural countryside provided a reminder of just how much fun this car offers.

The Exclusive-Line version has a fulsome list of driver and convenience aids and the 2.0-litre model has a new Asymmetric Limited Slip Differential. The instruments are traditional and straightforward. The steering wheel has a new look. The infotainment screen is now bigger than before, eight inches in width.

The traction control system has been upgraded, enhancing the car’s stability and control. Although the dry roads on the test day were no place to fully test this out, the road-holding, where we could briefly test it, produced some impressive g-force stickability on the Bridgestone Potenza tyres, ensuring a dynamic driving experience.

Outside, new LEDs feature in all the lighting, new, lighter alloy wheels are introduced along with a new paint colour: Aero Grey, quite a pale metallic colour, that, at £570, is a slightly cheaper option than some other already-available colours.

The range-topping Homura comes with Recaro seats, but those in the Exclusive-Line seem to be just as good — very comfortable and supportive. As the car moves along, you immediately notice that the suspension picks up every slight unevenness in the road, but not to the extent that it becomes irksome — after a while, it’s not so much a feature as something that you feel is a subconscious aid.

The ride, therefore, is generally supple enough; more than that, it’s rather good at absorbing rougher surfaces.

What’s the first thing that you want from a sports car? We don’t try to define exactly what a ‘sports car’ is here because, from my experience, everyone has different ideas. So, my own first take is the acceleration.

Looking back to the first incarnation of the Mazda MX-5, introduced to the world in Chicago in 1989, the all-important 0-60 mph figure from its 1.6-litre, 116bhp engine was 9.1 seconds. Back then, that was impressive, exciting, even. The current version more than shades that: Today, 6.8 seconds to 62 mph…as should be expected, even if the car, with all its in-built safety, is now heavier than that first ground-breaker.

The top speed is claimed to be 137 mph. Wow! I don’t doubt it, but why would that be like in such a small projectile?

Just like that first MX-5, this one just loves to rev. It’s as though the red-line, at more than 7000 rpm, is neither a target, nor a limit (as the police might say).

So, floor it and that crisp exhaust tells you you’ve bought a good ’un!
Likewise, before you disappear into the distance, the brakes will stop you in a relative instant if necessary.

The six-speed manual gearbox is another delight: a short lever, quick and accurate shift, great fun to double de-clutch even though you don’t need to.

The RF, unlike the Roadster, has the switch-operated Targa top, which can be opened/closed in a few seconds at speeds up to 6 mph.

On my sometimes, where appropriate, spirited drive along country lanes but often limited to 50 mph and a few miles of easy 70 mph dual-carriageway, the car’s petrol consumption was indicated at 40mpg; the official combined figure is 41.5mpg.

The decent-sized fuel tank’s 45 litres might, therefore, allow a range between fill-ups of more than 400 miles. The emission figure is 153 g/km.

This particular car’s price was £34,870.

Well over a million MX-5s have been built in thirty five years. Absolutely no surprise. And surely worth mentioning and two inspired people back at that time: Colin Chapman and his 1960s Lotus Elan and an American journalist, Bob Hall, who, years later, suggested to a couple of influential Mazda men that the world might be ready for a nice new little two-seater sports car. Thanks, guys!

Author Rating 4.6/5

Car reviewed: Mazda MX-5 RF 2.0 Exclusive-Line

on the road price as tested £34,870

  • 0-62mph 6.8secs
  • Top speed 137mph
  • Engine 1998cc 4 cylinder unleaded
  • Fuel Economy WLTP Combined 41.5mpg
  • Max Power 184PS@7000rpm
  • Torque 200Nm@4600rpm
  • Dimensions MM 3915 L/1735 W/1235 H
  • CO2 emissions 153g/km WLTP combined
  • Transmission 6-speed manual rear wheel drive
  • Bootspace 127 1itres

Tom Scanlan

Motoring Journalist

Tom Scanlan has written for a wide variety of magazines and newspapers, particularly the Reading Evening Post for ten years, having got into motoring journalism in 1973 via the somewhat unlikely back door of the British Forces Broadcasting Service. BFBS produced a weekly radio motoring show for the services overseas and Tom produced it, as well as interviewing experts and eventually reporting on cars.
He is into classic cars and has owned Porsche, Ferrari, pre-war Alvis and Rileys and currently owns his fifth old Alfa Romeo, a 1984 GTV 2.0.
In his spare time, Tom is a professional cricket coach.

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