The world already knows the Mazda MX-5 represents great value fun, now the roadster is that little bit easier to live with thanks to the new hardtop version arriving.
Mazda Australia dealers now have what is called the Mazda MX-5 RF in stock and prices start from $38,550.
Offered in two specification levels - RF and RF GT, the GT version starts from $43,890.
Interestingly, Mazda is expecting the hardtop to outsell the soft-top with a split of 60/40 being projected.
I had the chance to sample the new addition to the MX-5 line-up at the models official Australian launch and came away really impressed.
Fully electric, the roof silently and smoothly lifts up and tucks away without a fuss.
There is a restriction though, you can only bring the roof up or down at speeds under 10km/h and that is certainly below the 30km/h or so limitation that many other convertibles have today.
Still, I reckon the chances are you will be opening or closing the roof at your point of origin, destination, or at a red light along the way.
It takes approximately 10 seconds for the MX-5 RF roof to open/close.
Thankfully, choosing the Mazda MX-5 RF won’t mean you have to live with less boot space - the engineers have managed to save enough space for two carry-on size suitcases (just enough for a couple on a weekend getaway).
In fact, despite all the technical wizardry that makes the hardtop roof open and close, the RF suffers only a 3 litre loss of cargo space compared to the soft-top version.
Not surprisingly, the hardtop Mazda MX-5 is heavier than the soft-top, about 45kgs in total.
Under the bonnet there is just the one engine on offer - Mazda’s 118kW/200Nm 2.0 litre SKYACTIV-G petrol engine.
While buyers get the choice of a six-speed manual transmission or six-speed auto - the answer to this, for my money, is the manual.
Enabling you to really get the most out of the engine, the manual shifter also feels really great in your hand too!
While fuel economy is also slightly better in the manual - 7.0 litres combined, compared to 7.4 litres for the auto.
The new-gen Mazda MX-5 uses around 14% less fuel than the old model.
Out on the road the Mazda MX-5 (in either soft-top or hardtop) is a delight to drive.
I had the chance to drive the manual version across the NSW Blue Mountains and it was truly a memorable experience having the top down and cruising around the bends and up and down the peaks.
The MX-5 grips exceptionally well, the handling is right up there too and the ride, despite running on relatively low profile tyres, is not at all uncomfortable.
The body also feels really tight and reassuring as well and that is often a concern with a ‘roof less’ model like this.
But what really makes the 2017 Mazda MX-5 so much fun is where you are actually sitting in the car.
With this new model you sit back a further 50mm towards the rear of the car and that means you are almost sitting atop the rear axle!
This gives you a really thrilling feel as you zip around the bends.
Inside the Mazda MX-5 cabin you can’t expect too much storage space or convenience, after all this is a dedicated two seat roadster.
But it does suffer from a lack of a decent spot to put your phone. Yes, there is a small area under the arm rest in the centre console, however most people like to have their phone in easy reach (especially if they are using it to stream music/podcasts as I was doing).
The cupholders are also located between the rear seat backs and as you can imagine that isn’t the most convenient place.
While comfort levels in the drivers seat are reduced by a hefty bulge in the floor that somewhat prevents you from resting your left leg up and away from the pedals (especially felt during long highway stretches).
Standard features in the entry-level model include the impressive Mazda MZD Connect infotainment system, Blind-spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, and 17″ alloy wheels.
The MX-5 RF GT adds sat-nav, leather interior, and a BOSE nine-speaker sound system.
While a reverse camera is a $485 option on both model grades (and well worth getting).
The new model is more efficient and drives better than the old one, while the 2.0 litre engine adequately propels the roadster along.
Again, my preference by a long way was the manual version and in regards to the new hardtop RF version - top marks to Mazda for both design and execution.
NUTS and BOLTS – 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF
Engine: 2.0 litre petrol developing 118kW and 200Nm
Transmission: Six-speed manual or six-speed auto
Warranty: Three years
Safety: Five stars
Price: from $38,550