By Asian Journal Auto Editor

The Mazda MX 5 RF is a targa roof version of the iconic MX-5 little roadster. The main difference in the new RF is the rear upper part of the body that features dual flying buttresses, giving the RF a very unique profile and transforms the car from a swoopy coupe to a sexy looking “targa.” Operate a switch inside the RF and the flying buttresses lift up, the solid roof and rear glass slides back and down into a self-contained storage area, and the buttresses lock back down again. The entire operation is via electric motors and takes 13 seconds, also of note is the fact, the 4.6-cubic-foot trunk is still the same as the soft-top model, even when the roof is stowed behind the seats. New updates include: a 30mm telescopic adjustment has been added to the steering wheel, new cupholders, new seat recline levers, better fuel efficiency (City 9:0 and Highway 7.0), and a retuned engine note. Maximum engine speed has been raised from 6,800 rpm to 7,500 rpm to provide higher revving. In addition, maximum output has been raised to 181hp @ 7,000 rpm. Torque has been increased from low to high engine speeds, with faster response times for the engine. The RF is premium upgrade to the MX-5 and starts at base $39,900. With engine and transmission choice remains unchanged in the RF, there is a normally aspirated SKYACTIV- G 2.0-litre engine producing 181 horsepower teamed up to either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic gearbox.

We tested a 2018 Mazda MX-5 RF GT with a manual transmission model, in a wonderfully cool Ceramic Metallic paint ($200) with the optional Grand Sport package ($3,600); comprised of:  performance enhances Brembo front brakes, red calipers front and rear, 17 inch BBS forged dark finish alloy wheels, contrasting piano black top, and a Chroma brown Nappa leather seats with KODO stitching. Base MRSP for our tester was $42,900. Options freight and PDE brought the final tally to $48,495.

As standard features on the GT include: Cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, push button start, power locks with keyless entry, auto-down windows, anti-theft alarm, air conditioning with climate control, sport suspension with Bilstein shocks, stability control, traction control, limited-slip differential, Bluetooth  connectivity, LED headlamps,7-inch color touchscreen display, Bose premium audio, and much more. The interior is snug and comfortable with well bolstered seats that allow for high-g maneuvers without sliding around.  Two average-sized adults will feel good and the MX-5’s interior highlights include simple, legible gauges and well-designed ergonomic controls that remains true to its roots with the focus on being a driver’s car.

On the road, the MX-5 is still the one of the best fun ways you can have with you clothes on!  Whether it’s powering around on an open road with top down or even doodling along in rush-hour traffic, the little roadster feels as if it is going much faster than you actually are. The driving experience is so pure in the MX-5, that even novice drivers can carve corners with precision and skill. The steering is light and very responsive with excellent feedback. It’s the epitomes of point and soot driving.

The peppy, willing four- cylinder engine and slick short-throw manual gearbox make driving fun and exciting. Despite the extra weight in the RF, I could not detect any drop in performance. The formula is delightfully simple and works. Beautifully engineered handling, a slick six-speed manual and a responsive four-cylinder engine providing adequate power. If you need affordable top down thrills, but want the comfort, safety and convenience of a closed roof coupe – that transforms into a unique looking Targa. Downsides are few, the interior will be a tight for the larger bodied, and it can get loud in the cabin. Also note the RF is not a cheap option for what is a very small two seater. Still, it is worth the money. If purist daily driving thrills are what you need – look no further than the RF. Simply superb.

2019 Mazda MX-5 RF GT   Priced from $42,900. Price as tested with Options, freight, PDE: $48,495.