Finally, a folding tin top that looks great and isn’t a Mercedes.
Amen to that. Although the MX-5 is in a market of about one now that the MR2, Smart Roadster and MGF have vacated the two-seater arena, Mazda reckons that loads of potential buyers have been put off by the conventional soft hood. The Roadster Coupe doesn’t replace the existing soft-roofed MX-5, it just adds width to the range.
Looks great but there’s probably not enough room for a toothpick with the roof stowed.
Not so. You see the Mazda designed the third generation from the beginning to have the option of a folding tin top. So the Roadster Coupe’s roof folds into exactly the same compartment as the regular soft top and is the only one in the world that doesn’t intrude into the boot. The fact that the roof is so short compared to that of a saloon-based folding hardtop like the 206CC certainly helped Mazda but you can expect rival carmakers to be taking a close look at the Mazda’s packaging.
How does it work?
You still have to release the catch on the header rail before pressing the button on the dash but the roof folds away in just 12sec making it the quickest folding hardtop in the world. It’s even quiet, the four motors whirring discretely throughout. The rear window line isn’t as neat as the roadster’s and the rear deck has had to be raised fractionally to package the roof. But when the roof is stowed beneath its flush tonneau cover it’s actually neater than the soft top.
But what about all that extra weight?
It’s not as bad as you might think, adding a modest 37kg to the stock roadster’s 1170kg kerbweight. But then that weight is located fairly high on the car and the MX-5 isn’t exactly over-endowed with power: until the 200bhp MPS arrives the most it can muster is 158bhp.
So how does it drive?
Largely the same as the roadster. Mazda has actually softened the suspension anticipating the sort of customers the Roadster Coupe will attract, so there’s a bit more roll and straight-line performance, particularly from the already weedy 123bhp 1.8, takes a little bit of a hit. The 2.0 takes 0.3sec longer to reach 62mph (now 8.2sec) but the new roof is actually more aerodynamic and top speed climbs 5mph to 136mph. The slightly artificial feel to the steering remains, as does the engine’s pained sound when revved but the gearchange is slick and the rear-drive layout makes it great fun in the wet. As with the roadster there’s very little scuttle shake and roof up it’s actually quieter than the soft top or the existing optional hard top.
So how much for this record breaker?
Mazda wants to pitch the Roadster Coupe as a slightly more upmarket alternative to the regular car so you can’t have a stripped out steel-wheel car. The bottom rung is a five-speed 1.8 at £18,120 or around £1700 more than the equivalent soft top, but air con, mormally a £560 option, is thrown in for free on all Roadster Coupes. Go for the top spec six-speed 2.0i Sport with the excellent Bose stereo and you’re looking at signing a cheque for £21,265. That’s perilously close to BMW Z4 money – but then the BMW only has a boring old cloth hood.
Unless hideously strapped for cash it probably makes sense for most people to spend the extra for an MX-5 with the folding metal top over the roadster. It’s quick, quiet, doesn’t steal luggage space and doesn’t really affect the handling.