After producing more than one million MX-5s, Mazda created an additional personality for its world famous sports car – the Mazda MX-5 RF. Designed with the objective of making the MX-5’s legendary handling attractive to an even wider audience and appeal to customers who might shy away from a traditional soft-top, the RF marked the next chapter in the evolution of the world’s best-selling two-seater sports car.

Standing for ‘retractable fastback’ the RF is a stunning hardtop interpretation of the 2016 World Car Design of the Year winning fourth-generation MX-5. The beautifully engineered three-piece fully automated roof delivers a unique look roof up or down, at the same time as maintaining the perfectly proportioned lightweight sports car dynamism of the MX-5 Roadster. Externally Prime-Line and Exclusive-Line models benefit from a body-coloured retractable hardtop, while, the range-topping Homura model uses a stand-out Piano black retractable hardtop. Mazda MX-5 RF Homura models finished in Jet Black Mica paint feature a Jet Black Mica roof rather than Piano Black.

Shorter, lower and wider than the third-generation MX-5, with the smallest overhangs and lowest centre of gravity yet, the Mazda MX-5 RF’s athletic proportions reflect the MX-5’s focus on driving pleasure in an unmistakably contemporary and vibrant way, yet at the same time the Retractable Fastback respects the design principles that have been a key part of the Mazda MX-5’s allure for over 30 years.

Originally born of the desire to recreate the simple beauty of the classic British roadster, the Mk1 MX-5 is a design icon and the genesis point of an unmistakable lineage that has seen the MX-5 stay true to the classic roadster principles of a long bonnet, a rear-set cabin and a short tail. These values of compact dimensions and sporty proportions remain at the heart of the RF’s design, yet with its teardrop-shaped cabin and fastback roofline there’s no mistaking the unique look of the Retractable Fastback.

Thanks to successfully blending Mazda’s Kodo: Soul of Motion design philosophy with traditional fastback styling cues, the RF represents the perfect balance between tradition and progress. In keeping with the principles of Kodo, it conveys motion even at standstill, and like MX-5 Roadsterits visual appeal is anchored by its taut proportions – in fact aside from a 5mm increase in overall height - the RF retains identical dimensions to its soft roofed brother, retaining a planted stance on the road that is perfectly complemented by its powerful and assertive lines.

Its sleek nose features ultra-compact LED headlamp units and a low-slung bonnet with powerful character lines that flow towards the edges of the sweptback windscreen. In profile the clean panels look as if they shrink wrap around the car with the body appearing to tuck in to the corners. With minimal gaps between the roof pillars and the surrounding body panels this elegant execution means you could mistake the RF for a fixed-roof coupe.  

Yet at the touch of a button the front and centre sections of the roof disappear entirely behind the seats along with the rear window glass, while the sporty fastback buttresses remain in place to give the RF a completely distinctive roof down look, adding a new dimension to the MX-5’s lithe profile.

As with the MX-5 Roadster, a prominent hip-line emphasises the rear-wheel drive layout and perfect 50:50 weight distribution by building a sense of energy from the rear, while the tail itself makes an equally bold statement. Hinting at power and stability, the integrated bumper dramatically tapers out to the wheels from the lights, while the higher positioning of the bumper allows for a taller deck, enhancing aerodynamics and downforce without the need for a spoiler. Sharing the circular forms of the original MX-5, the classically shaped taillights are another highlight, yet the modern LED lighting signature is unique to this generation and unmistakably new.

The most compact MX-5 ever produced, the 2023 MX-5 range is complemented by a choice of seven body colour options: Artic White, Deep Crystal Blue, Jet Black, Machine Grey, Zircon Sand, Platinum Quartz and Soul Red Crystal. The 1.5 Skyactiv-G 132ps models are marked out with 16” Black alloy wheels, while the Exclusive Line 2.0-litre trim is marked out with Bright Silver alloy wheels, while the range-topping Homura flagship model is marked out by 17” BBS Gun Metallic alloy wheels.

The Mazda MX-5 RF is yet another example of the ‘innovating to preserve’ ethos that dominates Mazda’s approach to the legendary MX-5. Its unmistakable coupe inspired fastback profile delivers a more assertive look, yet it stays true to the proven focus on lightweight affordable roadster simplicity. In the words of Nobuhiro Yamamoto, Mazda MX-5 ambassador “With the Mazda MX-5 RF we freed ourselves from traditional ways of thinking and took on fresh challenges in order to create something new. Our aim was a roadster sports car with gorgeous fastback lines when the roof is closed and an exhilarating open-air feeling when open.”

While Masashi Nakayama, Chief Designer of the Mazda MX-5 RF, added “the secret to designing the MX-5 RF was to look deep inside, strip away trends and eccentricities, and uncover the form that resonates within the deepest layers of a person’s sense of beauty.” Unsurprisingly, the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF leaves its award-winning styling unchanged.