A new effort to broaden the appeal of the MX-5
Having an MX-5 makes life richer and more fun. With this small, convertible sports car, we want to offer even more people a fun-filled life through driving pleasure.
Many people who would love to own a convertible end up choosing a car with a fixed hardtop roof instead. Hoping to share the wonder and thrill that come with putting the top down with this kind of customer, we offered a Power Retractable Hardtop for the first time on the third-generation MX-5. The first and second generations had both offered a detachable hardtop, but with its motor-driven retractable roof, the third-generation model made the joy of open-top driving accessible to a wider range of people and was a hit with customers around the world. With the hardtop version of the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5, we stayed true to our aim of making open-top driving more accessible, but freed ourselves from traditional ways of thinking and took on new challenges in order to create something completely new, the Mazda MX-5 RF.
Beautiful fastback styling and a new kind of open-air feel
The development of the MX-5 RF was a new undertaking that entailed broadening the appeal of the fourth-generation soft-top model, a car that further hones the pure driving fun that has defined the model since going on sale in 1989.
The basic premise of the soft-top model is top-down driving, and in comparison we expect MX-5 RF owners will spend more time with the top closed. So we began development by throwing our thinking into reverse; our aim was a convertible sports car with gorgeous fastback lines when the roof is closed and an exhilarating open-air feel when open. We asked ourselves what it meant to make a driver’s car with a power-retractable roof, ditched the traditional idea of stowing the entire roof and realized styling that further articulates an iconic sports car design. The cabin is luxurious and quiet when closed, and the rear roof produces a completely new open-air driving feel when the top is down. And with the ability to smartly and smoothly transition between the two, the car will provide thrills in any driving conditions. I believe the MX-5 RF is a car that could only have been created at Mazda, where everyone involved in the creative process aspires to take on new challenges.
Envisioning the future with two MX-5 models
The MX-5 has been tremendously popular with car enthusiasts around the world and will soon reach the 1 million mark in global production volume. While the fourth-generation soft-top model honed the pure driving pleasure of a lightweight sports car, the hardtop model, with its exquisite fastback styling and a new open-top feel, has a personality all its own. I hope the launch of the MX-5 RF will awaken hidden emotions and dormant sensibilities among our customers. And with these two MX-5 models, I hope we can help introduce the joy of driving a convertible sports car to a wider audience and help even more people live rich, fun-filled lives. In order to achieve this, now and into the future, we will continue our efforts to “innovate in order to preserve.”
Mazda MX-5 Program Manager
Changing Style, Unchanging Value, New Name
By the end of the third-generation MX-5’s model life, the retractable hard top model accounted for more than half of all MX-5s sold and was popular with those who wanted all-season comfort and utility.
As a member of the MX-5 family, the fourth-generation retractable hardtop model embodies the core value of “Lots of fun,” which the MX-5 has consistently offered over the past 26 years. At the same time it features a new and unique design and lets occupants enjoy a new kind of open-air driving feel. Therefore, our challenge was to create a name that would more accurately define this new, more premium experience we envision will attract a new kind of buyer, yet preserve the unchanging values that MX-5 fans have admired since the inception of the model.
The result was MX-5 RF, a name that denotes the model’s retractable hardtop and fastback styling, and will surely resonate with enthusiasts and drivers around the world.
Three key values that make the MX-5 RF unique and fun
Beautiful fastback styling that resonates with any car lover
- Appealing fastback styling with a beautiful smooth line joining the roof to the rear end. This is at the heart of all true sports car design.
- Designers worked hard to give the cabin the perfect teardrop shape.
- It features the same compact packaging as the soft-top model, including overall length, width and wheelbase. (Overall height is increased 5mm.).
- The soft touch of real Nappa leather adds a feeling of even higher quality and contributes to the relaxed, sophisticated ambience of the interior.
A new open-air sensation with a feeling of being ensconced securely in the cabin as well as a pleasing sense of freedom
- The MX-5 RF’s retractable hardtop consists of a front roof, middle roof, rear roof and back window glass.
- Detailed studies led to a roof design that, together with the retractable back window glass, realizes a new open-air experience that combines a feeling of being ensconced securely in the cabin with an invigorating sense of freedom.
- The model’s unique design featuring a back window glass that retracts when the top is down enables the driver to fully enjoy the pleasing exhaust note coming from the rear, helping to deliver the true pleasure of the open-top driving experience.
- A large acrylic aero board wind blocker helps prevent air from the rear blowing back into the cabin.
- Synchronizing and overlapping the various movements of the roof sections enables MX-5 RF to achieve one of the fastest opening/closing times of any retractable hardtop.
- When the roof is open, the front and middle roof sections are stowed together with the back window glass in the space behind the seats.
- A new power top lock makes it possible to open and close the roof with the simple flip of a switch.
- A new control system enables the roof to be opened or closed, even when in motion at speeds of 6 mph (10km/h) or less. This is particularly useful if it suddenly begins to rain.
- At 4.6 cubic feet (130L DIN), trunk capacity is the same as the soft-top model, even when the roof is stowed behind the seats. The trunk can accommodate two carry-on bags measuring 550mm x 400mm x 220mm.
A quiet cabin with the relaxed feeling of quality ride comfort
- The suspension and Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) system have been tuned specifically for the MX-5 RF, delivering the lively driving performance one expects of the Mazda MX-5 while also delivering relaxing comfort and refined ride.
- A sound-absorbing headliner used on the inside of the front and middle roof panels combines with sound insulation around the rear wheel housings to result in a significantly quieter ride when the roof is closed. This helps provide a high-quality cabin environment worthy of the MX-5 RF.
Other noteworthy product features are as follows
- The powertrain lineup consists of the 2.0- and 1.5-liter SKYACTIV-G gasoline engines paired with either a six-speed SKYACTIV-MT manual transmission or six-speed automatic transmission.
- A human-centric perspective was adopted in pursuing advanced safety based on the company’s safety philosophy, Mazda Proactive Safety.
- The i-ACTIVSENSE advanced safety technologies employed by MX-5 RF include Mazda’s Advanced Blind Spot Monitoring (ABSM) system and High Beam Control System (HBC), which automatically switches between high and low beam.
- MAZDA CONNECT makes it less distracting and easier to take advantage of phone and internet connectivity services while enjoying a drive.
Creating A Compact Sports Car That Envelops You In Beauty
Craftsmanship that realizes the ultimate in KODO design
I wanted to introduce the fun of driving a lightweight sports car to a broader audience, and it was my love for the Mazda MX-5 that gave birth to the design of the new MX-5 RF. If we consider the soft-top model to represent the purist appeal of the lightweight sports car, which we recently honed in a stoic effort to reach new heights, then the retractable fastback represents a new type of MX-5 that aims to be a compact sports car with a natural charm that anybody and everybody will find beautiful.
I figured the addition of a hardtop version of the fourth-generation MX-5 demanded that we introduce a sleek fastback design with a smooth line joining the roof to the rear end if we were to create a look of beauty that would appeal to all. I considered this point critical to the design, and didn’t waver over that conviction for a moment. To convey the fun and charm of the MX-5 experience to a larger, more diverse range of people rather than just sports car fans, I felt the MX-5 RF must embody natural beauty and not attempt to attract attention by merely being different.
This led me to quickly decide to adopt fastback styling. The rub was that this also became the biggest hurdle in designing the MX-5 RF. It may not look like it at a glance, but this is a car with a retractable roof! It’s a car that lets drivers enjoy the pleasure of open-air driving along with a unique sense of being ensconced securely in the cabin! It would be impossible to achieve a combination of this new form of driving pleasure and beautiful fastback styling if I applied conventional thinking. Anything short of creating a new design expression and teaming up with the design and production engineers to approach the project with passion and determination as a team, and the whole concept would be just pie in the sky.
I am hoping the MX-5 RF will surprise a wide variety of people and contribute to increased interest in the MX-5, while increasing the number of people who enjoy the car’s beauty and the pleasure of driving without limiting the appeal to those interested in sports cars.
Mazda MX-5 Chief Designer
The design goal for the MX-5 RF was to create the ideal form for a hardtop version of the MX-5. In other words, it was to achieve an entirely new roof design that combines a beautiful cabin with the silhouette of a hardtop and the same level of open-air comfort and freedom afforded by the soft-top version. To this end, Mazda set about creating an uncompromising design based on the following four ideals.
- A beautiful silhouette: In contrast to the open-air styling of the soft-top model the MX-5 RF will often be appreciated for its hardtop styling with the roof closed. This demands that the cabin presents a beautiful silhouette when the roof is closed.
The rear roof features side sections that slope down gently toward the rear, while also tucking in at the sides to create a perfect teardrop shape for the cabin. The flowing roof line along the A-pillars, roof sides and rear roof, which are painted in the body color, combine with the straight body line that runs from the low hood through to the rear deck, realizing an elegant, beautiful fastback silhouette that accentuates its styling.
While the overhead roof panels and back window glass are stowed out of sight, the rear roof stays in position when the top is down. This differs from any other hardtop model on the market to create a truly unique new design expression.
- Compact packaging: With the exception of a 5mm increase in the height of the roof, MX-5 RF maintains the same overall length, width and wheelbase as the soft-top model. This compact packaging properly expresses the stability and dynamism of the MX-5’s road-gripping stance.
- A new open-air experience: MX-5 RF features unique styling when the roof is open by which the overhead roof panels and back window glass are stowed away out of sight. The result is a pleasing sense of freedom combined with a reassuring feeling of being wrapped securely in the cabin. This combines with the enjoyable exhaust note coming from the rear of the car to amplify the fun of open-air driving.
- Independent trunk: MX-5 RF does not sacrifice practicality for the sake of offering a retractable roof. In addition to the efforts of the designers and packaging engineers to realize a beautiful silhouette while adopting the hardtop, the independent trunk also secures the exact same luggage capacity as on the soft-top model.
- Machine Gray: This is a newly developed body color first introduced on the CX-9 midsize, three-row crossover SUV. Machine Gray was developed to express the beauty of a machine’s strength and precision. With strong contrast between light and shadow and a sleek, high-density finish, it gives the impression that the vehicle’s body has been sculpted from a solid steel ingot.
- Roof color: The sides of the roof and rear roof are color matched to the body color. The top of the roof is available in either piano black or the body color.
Major interior design features include body panels that wrap around and extend right into the door trim, as well as a cockpit zone centered on the driver and around which all major controls are laid out in perfect symmetry. Special attention to every detail focused on transcending its existence as a mere automobile to become a sports car that owners will truly love. As with the soft-top model, the aim was to create a cockpit design that brings a smile to the face and gets the heart pounding simply by looking at it or sitting in the driver’s seat. Benefitting from its hardtop, MX-5 RF significantly improves ride quietness and heightens the feeling of high quality.
The basic design features are essentially the same as on the soft-top model. This includes the elaborate three-meter cluster and sharp-looking, compact steering wheel, as well as the horizontal layout of the instrument panel and strong sense of front-rear movement conveyed by the door trim. The two points that differ on the MX-5 RF are as follows.
- Meters: The information display to the left of the three-meter cluster adopts a dedicated 4.6-inch color TFT LCD screen that displays an animation of the roof when it is opening or closing.
- Hardtop open/close button: A button for opening and closing the roof is positioned on the panel below the dials for the air-conditioning system.
Seat design and interior colors
The higher level of quality and soft touch of Auburn-colored Nappa leather seats enhances the interior’s relaxing and sophisticated ambience. Gray stitching is used on the seats and center sections of the door trim.
|Body type||Two-door open-top|
|Seating capacity||Two passengers|
|Overall length* x width x height||
154.1 inch x 68.3 inch x 49.0 inch
(3,915mm x 1,735mm x 1,245mm)
|Wheelbase||90.9 inch (2,310mm)|
|Engine||SKYACTIV-G 2.0 direct-injection gasoline engine|
|Transmission||Six-speed automatic transmission
Six-speed manual transmission
|Front suspension||Double wishbone|
|Steering||Rack-and-pinion type Electric Power Assist Steering|
|Brakes (front/rear)||Ventilated discs / Solid discs|