“IF IT works, keep reinventing it” could be the first rule of Japanese manufacturing. Certainly, Mazda has applied it to the MX-5, the sports car it launched in 1989 with a bit of inspiration from the Lotus Elan.
The MX-5 is now in its fourth generation, and the latest variant is the RF (retractable fastback), a sleeker and altogether more refined version of the world’s favourite two-seater.
The fastback is an American concept — Steve McQueen’s Mustang in Bullitt is a classic example — a body style with a streamlined rear end that gives the car a crouching stance. So it is perhaps fitting for it to be applied to a car originally conceived by the US motoring journalist Bob Hall. In the case of the MX-5, it transforms the playful roadster into something meaner and, in silhouette, not a million miles from the Jaguar F-type.
Prices are expected to start at £21,000 when the RF arrives in Britain early next year, £2,500 more than Mazda asks for the basic model.
Its roof mechanism operates at the touch of a button, lifting the rear section, tucking away the roof panel and then lowering the rear section again. It’s a nifty contraption but won’t work if you’re doing more than 6mph.
The system, which you can see in operation above, has drawn comparisons to that of the Porsche 911 Targa 4, a car that will set you back more than four times as much: £90,240, to be exact.
The MX-5 fastback offers the same boot space as the soft-top version and, like the soft-top, will be available in Europe with a revvy petrol engine in either 1.5 or 2-litre guise. The motor is mated to a manual six-speed gearbox or — exclusively for the RF — a six-speed automatic.
It will be available in a new colour called Machine Grey, a sort of pewter with what Mazda claims is special paint technology that makes the car look as though it is carved from a single ingot.