The orange MAZDA MX-5 RF 30th Anniversary

In Car Reviews, Mazda by Tom Scanlan

It’s orange and still great fun. The standard 2-litre engine is the heart in this 30th anniversary MX-5, so it can go like s**t off a shovel, if you want!


Good thing I’m not six feet tall – if I was, I would be unlikely to fit comfortably into this superb little sports-car. The cabin is cosy, to say the least, and there is very little in the way of storage space…and two small bottles placed in the cup-holders between the seats kept falling out at every bend or corner, which was a bit disconcerting. There are two small cubbies, no glove box and no door pockets. The central console could do with being a touch softer around where your elbows rest. The instrumentation is neat and there is a 7-inch display screen…and you see lots of Racing Orange colour accents.

BUT, having said all that, yes, the RF (standing for Retractable Fastback) is a car that is sure to provide a lot of fun for its fortunate (and less than six feet) owner.

The stylists did an excellent job in producing a very nicely curvaceous car, whatever colour.

The roof takes a mere thirteen seconds to retract and disappear, as it were, or be re-erected, at the push of a button on the dashboard, and deployable at speeds up to six miles an hour – in a car park, for example. Intelligent design means that the roof steals not one cubic inch from the boot: a good thing, too, because, there is precious little boot space to spare.

Of course, you may prefer the roadster, with its easy to operate hood.

Whichever suits, Mazda is celebrating thirty years since the first MX-5 was launched with a limited special edition distinguished by its Racing Orange body and orange accents around the dials and elsewhere in the car. This edition is mechanically identical to other MX-5s.

The brake callipers are another visual stand-out and, more subtle, so are the little 30th Anniversary badges on the car’s flanks.

The launch provided about as much sheer driving enjoyment as I have been lucky enough to experience in quite a while. Yes, some mighty powerful machines have been through my hands in the last few months, and I’ve loved them, but, ultimately, they simply can’t be fully experienced on public roads.

AND Mazda let us loose in the three predecessors, the original Mark 1 and then the Marks 2 and 3. It was fascinating to see how the car has changed and developed over thirty years. The relative simplicity of the first MX-5 was part of its continued charm. As the cars became a little more sophisticated, the essence remained and all of them guarantee hugely enjoyable ownership, if properly maintained.

This current Mazda has up to 160PS and 200Nm of torque at 4600rpm, compared with the original 1.6’s 115PS and 150Nm of torque at 5500rpm.

You can rev today’s engine well over the 7000rpm at which full power is available and blast along quite noisily like that…actually the exhaust note is quite pleasantly mellow…or be a bit more considerate both of the car and anyone nearby and just enjoy the wizard six-speed gear changes. 

Most of all, maybe, it’s the steering and handling that really sets things alight. At first, I found the ride to be on the hard side, but that initial impression was soon forgotten. What superlatives are there that we haven’t heard before…’ it corners like it’s on rails’, ‘it’s glued to the road’, all in all, it’s a delicious feeling through the diamond-sharp steering.

It’s hardly surprising that not only have more than a million MX-5s have graced the world’s roads over the three decades, more than 130,000 of them in Britain, that they are still to be seen every day, from Mark1s onwards.

If you’re quick, you might still get yourself your MX-5 in Racing Orange. It’s £29,895 for the retractable, of which the UK is limited to 180 cars; the convertible, 370 cars, costs £28,095. If there’s cash to spare, there are accessory packs from £1995 up to the £4675 Design Pack — this includes all the features of the lesser packs to create your £35,000 bespoke MX-5. The mind boggles, but, watch out, you premium German two-seaters!


Car reviewed: Mazda MX-5 2.0 184ps 30th Anniversary Edition, on the road price £29,895 estimated 0-62mph 6.8secs Top speed 133mph Engine 1998cc 4 cylinder Unleaded EU6.2 Fuel Economy Combined 40.9mpg CO2 emissions 156g/km Max Power [email protected] Torque [email protected] Transmission 6-speed manual

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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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MAZDA MX-5 RF 30th Anniversary
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