It’s been a year and a half since the Mazda MX-5 arrived on our shores, but the long-awaited folding hardtop variant, the MX-5 RF, has finally arrived. More of a targa than a full convertible, it effectively replaces the original soft top version that has been on sale since August 2015.

As we’ve reported earlier, purists can rejoice at the fact that a manual transmission option has been introduced with the RF, joining the existing automatic. Prices stand at RM242,717 for the manual and RM248,182 for the automatic, on-the-road inclusive of insurance, a five-year/100,000 km warranty and a three-year/60,000 km free service package. By comparison, the soft-top auto retailed at RM226,376.

Setting the RF – which stands for Retractable Fastback – apart from the standard soft top model is the three-part power-folding roof. The front and middle portions fold and stow under the rear buttresses, creating a cabin that Mazda says combines the freedom of open air with a sense of security. While it’s electric compared to the soft top’s lightning-quick hand operation, the roof takes just 13 seconds to open and close.

Inside, a sound-absorbing headliner on the front and middle roof panels and sound insulation around the rear wheel wells are designed to offer a significantly quieter cabin with the roof closed. The suspension and steering have also been retuned to improve ride comfort, whilst retaining the roadster’s trademark agility, performance and driver involvement.

The roof adds five millimetres to the overall height, as well as 58 kg to the kerb weight – the automatic model tips the scales at 1,138 kg versus 1,080 kg for the soft top, while the manual is slightly lighter at 1,112 kg. Boot space remains the same, at a rather restrictive 130 litres.

As with the soft top, power comes from a 2.0 litre SkyActiv-G direct-injected four-cylinder engine that develops 158 hp at 6,000 rpm and 200 Nm at 4,000 rpm. Drive is sent to the rear wheels via either a six-speed SkyActiv-MT manual transmission or a six-speed SkyActiv-Drive automatic with paddle shifters.

Standard kit includes LED headlights with adaptive front lighting and high-beam control, LED daytime running lights, LED tail lights, 17-inch gunmetal grey alloy wheels, keyless entry, push-button start, auto lights and wipers, single-zone auto air-con, cruise control, an MZD Connect infotainment system with a seven-inch touchscreen and a nine-speaker Bose sound system with headrest speakers.

Safety-wise, both models come with four airbags, ABS with EBD and brake assist, stability control and lane departure warning. The car gets a four-star Euro NCAP safety rating and five stars from ANCAP.

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