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How the Mazda MX-5 RF just got so much better

The sports car just endeared itself to spirited drivers

With the hard roof, you have the best of both worlds. PHOTO FROM MAZDA

I’m not a fan of soft-top convertibles or roadsters. I don’t care if it’s a Ferrari: If a car counts fabric as its roof, I hate it. I’m sure that feeling the wind against your face at 180km/h is fun, but it’s not for me. Maybe because I don’t want the black soot from the diesel vehicle ahead of me to soil my ride’s pristine upholstery. Or maybe because I would hate to see my car’s canopy getting slashed by envious losers in the parking lot. Or maybe because I just don’t like the way roofless automobiles look, period.

So pardon me if I was never really a hardcore admirer of the Mazda Miata (aka the MX-5). In spite of its reputation as an excellent two-seat cruiser, I just couldn’t bring myself to look past the awkward shape of its soft top. When the fourth-generation ND model was unveiled, only one thought crossed my mind: If only Mazda made a hardtop version, this car would be perfect.

The hard top is stowed away with a push of a button. PHOTO FROM MAZDA

Imagine my delight when Mazda introduced the MX-5 RF (retractable fastback) that featured a power-folding solid roof. And then imagine my absolute glee when the automaker invited me to Japan in February 2017 to drive the car on a racetrack. With Mazda Philippines president Steven Tan revealing on that trip that the RF was on its way to our market, everything was right again in the motoring world.

There was one problem, though: The MX-5 RF for the Philippine market was only available with a six-speed automatic transmission. This was disappointing—almost unacceptable—to me. I had always believed (and still do) that sports cars should have a stick shift.

Thankfully, even this has now been rectified.

That’s what we're talking about! Thank you, Mazda. PHOTOS FROM MAZDA

Mazda Philippines has finally brought in the MX-5 RF with a six-speed manual transmission. You can visually distinguish it from its AT-equipped twin by its black roof. Also, the RF MT comes with a limited-slip differential, a clear advantage it has over the RF AT. The price? P2,200,000—P50,000 cheaper than the one with an automatic gearbox.

As with the RF AT, the Philippine-market RF MT is powered by a 2.0-liter four-cylinder Skyactiv gasoline engine rated at 158hp and 200Nm.

With the stick shift and the LSD, this is a much better car. PHOTO FROM MAZDA

If I were in the market for an MX-5, I would definitely know with full certainty what variant to get. It’s the one with a retractable hard roof and the one that allows its driver to manually change gears. Perfect. Just perfect.

Vernon B. Sarne

Vernon is the founder and editor-in-chief of VISOR. He has been an automotive journalist since July 1995. He became one by serendipity, walking into the office of a small publishing company and applying for a position he had no idea was for a local car magazine. God has watched over him throughout his humble journey. He writes the ‘Spoiler’ column.