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August 29, 2022

Review: 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF

One year. That’s how long the owner waited for his Snowflake White Mazda MX-5 RF. The on-going global chip shortage and supply chain disruptions meant he pretty much went through the five stages of grief—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. He was, admittedly, close to throwing in the towel until he got a call that his roadster had arrived.

The MX-5 is in such short supply that every car arriving goes straight to an owner in a list. Supply is so tight that unlike most other models, the reservation list is pooled together regardless of which dealership a reservation was done at. Orders are served in a first come, first served basis. Dealers aren’t even allowed to stock a unit if it doesn’t have a would-be owner.

This brings me to this particular example. With no available demo unit from Mazda Philippines, this is the only way for me to sample what the 2023 MX-5 RF had to offer. Luckily for me, the owner obliged and lent me the keys for a couple of days for as long as I returned his car washed and fueled up.

Now, driving an MX-5 during the monsoon season isn’t exactly the most ideal scenario, but this variant, the RF (short for Retractable Fastback) makes it more ideal. Instead of having a hand-operated canvas top, this one has a power-operated hard top. It takes just 13 seconds for the three-piece roof to do its ballet transforming it from a coupe to a sort-of-targa. I purposely called it a “sort-of” targa because unlike a typical targa which has a fixed rear glass, the MX-5 RF’s rear glass also folds away during its transformation.

For purists, they’d say that the MX-5 RF and its flying buttresses looks weird. I don’t subscribe to that adage. If anything, it gives it its own unique flavor.

Surprisingly, the MX-5 hasn’t seen any exterior changes coming into the 2023 model year. Sure, the exterior (and engine cover) badges now reflect the new corporate font, but that aside, it’s pretty much the same vehicle launched way back in 2016 (2017 for the RF). Given how it still looks very contemporary in the fast-paced world of automotive design is reflective of its timelessness.

The roof is probably the most complicated thing on the MX-5 RF. The rest of it sticks close to its inspiration—British sportscars of the 50s and 60s. For that, this is one straightforward, yet elegant roadster. New for 2023 is the availability of Terracotta nappa leather seats. The wonderfully soft (and fragrant) full-grain orange-brown leather seats match the stitching that runs across the dashboard and door trims.

There’s some tech to unpack (and I’ll get to that later), but big picture-wise, it’s very clear that designers wanted you to concentrate on one thing: driving. There are no door pockets or a glove box save for a tiny lockable compartment and a lidden bin between the seats. There’s a cubby hole just big enough to hold a modern smartphone near the USB ports (Apple CarPlay and Android Auto is still a wired affair here), but that’s about it. There are two cup holders, but they’re positioned in a way that discourages drinking (or eating) while driving.

The MX-5’s interior feels decidedly shrink-wrapped around the driver. It punishes you if you slack off in your driving position, or if you put on some extra kilos. It seems Mazda’s “gram strategy” extends pretty much to the driver and his would-be passenger.

Subjectively, if there’s one thing Mazda got right versus the GR86 and Sbuaru BRZ is its trunk space. While the Toyobaru twins do have the larger hold, the presence of the spare tire robs a lot when it comes to its usefulness. The rear seats can be dropped, but if not, it’s not particularly deep. It can’t even accommodate a 1.5-liter bottle of Coke standing up. On the other hand, with no spare tire to deal with (it’s got an inflator kit), the MX-5 RF can easily store at least two overnight bags or one check-in luggage. Oh, and it’s worth reminding that the roof doesn’t eat into any of that trunk space.

Now, to the most important aspect: the drive. The Toyota GR86 and Subaru BRZ took a full model change to finally come close to the MX-5’s numbers. None of these cars are fast, but yes, the Toyobaru twins are quicker to the century sprint, if only just. However, when it comes to subjective, seat-of-the-pants feel, it’s the Mazda that remains the gold standard. It’s the one that simply tugs on your heart strings and gives you an emotional, visceral, and dare I say it, almost old-school analog feel.

For one, the MX-5’s performance is approachable. It doesn’t need to be pushed to its absolute limit to be enjoyed. It’s the type of car that grows with you, and enables you to explore your driving abilities with. And at every step, it’s guaranteed to give you the time of your life. A lap around the Clark International Speedway or just a quick coffee run both induce a grin that’s hard to wipe off. The secret is down to two things. For one, it feels light. Instead of pushing itself through bends, the MX-5 tip-toes around them like a well-choreographed ballet. Second, there’s how Mazda manages to turn a common enemy of sportscars—body roll—as part of its charm. For 2023, Mazda started controlling some of that using Kinetic Posture Control, but it still leans in to give you a sense of enjoyment.

With just 1,125 kilograms of push around, the MX-5 doesn’t need a huge engine. The 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G is the perfect match for this platform—putting out 184 horsepower and 205 Nm of torque. The engine note, while subline, is amplified using a sound tube in the engine bay. Of course, the sound’s still all mechanical compared to the speaker-based system found in the Toyobaru twins. The high-compression (13:1) and high-revving nature requires a strict diet of at least 95 RON octane. However, it’s best to go for a fuel that makes your car perform at its peak such as Petron Blaze 100—the country’s only 100 octane and Euro 6 compliant fuel.

Upon returning the MX-5 RF to its owner, in retrospect, I wish I drove it more, or at least drove it through a route that wasn’t comprised mostly of straight-line highway driving or stop-and-go traffic. I wished I checked Accuweather for a window when the sun shone more. Regardless, I didn’t dwell too much on those things. Seat time in the MX-5 is always an experience, and it’s a reminder that its formula for thrills—lightweight, tossable, and approachable—remain timeless in an age of increasingly complex, computerized sportscars.

2023 Mazda MX-5 RF

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Ownership 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF
Year Introduced 2016 (Refreshed: 2019, 2022)
Vehicle Classification Sportscar
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 2-door Sportscar
Seating 2
Engine / Drive F/R
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 184 @ 7,000
Nm @ rpm 205 @ 4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 95~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 9.20 km/L @ 15 km/h,
14 km/L @ 54 km/h
(fueled with Petron Blaze 100)
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 3,915
Width (mm) 1,735
Height (mm) 1,235
Wheelbase (mm) 2,310
Curb Weight (kg) 1,125
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, Double Wishbone
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Parking Brake Manual
Tires Bridgestone Potenza S001 205/45 R 17 (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 4
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear
Parking Camera Yes, Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR w/ pre-tensioners x 2
Rear Seatbelts Not Applicable
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Lane Departure Warning
Smart City Brake Support
Exterior Features
Headlights LED, Active
Fog Lamps No
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Tailgate Manual
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual, 6-way, Heated
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way, Heated
Seating Surface Nappa Leather
Folding Rear Seat Not Applicable
Sunroof No
Trip Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes
Rear View Mirror Auto-dimming
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
Smartphone Connectivity Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 9, Bose
Steering Controls Yes


  1. A multi-millionaire w/ enough loose change to splurge on such toy cars wouldn't need a spare tire alright... he always got someone to cover his back wherever he goes... hope this car can accommodate full set golf clubs too... as they don't really care about the prices of fuel and the maintenance that go with it, perhaps SUVs and/or pick ups are more the preferred toys by those personalities these days... well, only those w/in their circle would know!

    1. Doubt if it could fit a set of golf clubs...unless you put them in the passenger's seat.

  2. I wish they upgrade the exterior and interior for its next iteration but keep the manual and the driving experience

  3. This site reeeeaaaaally loves mazda. 🤔

    1. Because there's a lot to like. It's not perfect, but they make pretty darn good cars.

    2. What's not to like about Mazdas aside from interior space?

    3. What's not to like? Monotonous repetitive exterior design, lack of availability of parts, inconsistent quality of casa service, low resale value, and very high price. Yeah and that too, tighter than usual interior space. They sure are good cars especially the turbocharged ones like the cx5, cx9 and 6, and maybe the mx5 since its pretty much the cheapest convertible. But the others are not worth the price they're asking.

    4. Other brands also have a particular design language. Still, Mazda's design language is arguably among the best looking of the bunch. Many brands even Toyota are also hit with the current parts availability issue, not just Mazda. Same with the quality of casa service, depends on the dealership with most brands here. Low resale value? Try looking at the 2nd hand car marketplace for skyactiv models and you'll be surprised. High price on the surface but are comparable to their competitors if you take into consideration the 5 year free PMS from the Mazda 2 to the CX-9 save for Chinese brands.

    5. Recall when Uly reviewed the current gen pre facelift CX9 TOTL - he was so upfront about the overheating issue.

    6. @anon 6:14pm, the mazda 2 is already at 1.2M. The 5 year free pms doesn't even offset the price difference over its competition

    7. Honda City RS hatchback already at 1.138m
      Nissan Almera Turbo already at 1.1m
      Mazda's 5 year pms is worth 130-150k.
      So Mazda 2 is actually priced at around 1.050m

      Try again.

    8. ^
      More like 60k to 80k. And no base models. That's why mazda is failing with sales. 😆

    9. btw toyota is still da best! 😜

    10. 60-80k twice a year casa pms? Do you even own a modern car? Toyota best in popularity, yes. Their cars? Not so. Cheap interior materials and design at their pricepoints.

    11. Highly doubt that you'll only spend 60-80k twice a year casa pms for 5 years. Normally ranging from 5k-25k depending on mileage/year. Try doing pms outside and you'll void the warranty.

    12. It is impossible to spend 130k - 150k in 5 years.

      To keep the warranty with my new cars, I usually only do change oil and sometimes ATF change in casa which costs:
      Labor 1.5k - 2k
      Oil 4L FS - 1.6k - 2k
      Oil filter - 400
      Materials, etc - 500 - 1k
      Brake cleaning 800 to 1k

      I always ask to remove BS add ons like engine treatment, engine flush, fuel treatment, etc. which saves around 2.5k to 3k.

      Things that be done outside case, does not void warranty in my experience as long as you use original:
      Air filter
      Cabin filter
      Brake pads

    13. oh anonymous 12:42 AM, asan ka na? napakitaan ka lang nitong isa ng breakdownng presyo, natameme ka. palibhasa tatay mo lang kasi nagaasikaso ng maintenance ng sasakyan ninyo. 🤪

      btw toyota is king. wag na kayo maghanap pa ng iba. 💯

    14. Anon 12:18 PM - just curious, ano2x mga Toyotas mo?

    15. Hilux 4x4 j gamit ko sa bukid. ikaw?

    16. So we're playing the imaginary car game? Pasali! I have a Supra, a GR Yaris and a GR86.


    18. Anon 3:40 PM Don't you think the newer LC300 would be a more appropriate choice if my intention was to just brag? Oh and I'd mention more than 2 Toyotas, probably would have included a couple of Lexus as well. What an idi*t.

    19. Wow 2k for 4L fully synthetic? Stuck in 2002?

    20. 2k not far off from the price range. Hyundai offers fully synthetic for 600 plus pesos per liter. Ford is around 400 plus pesos, they use Shell's fully synthetic.

    21. These m0rons still don't seem to get the concept of a unified design language. Lulz. I suggest you don't buy any Euro brand ever, because all of those follow a single design motif for their entire lineup.

      Nasanay kasi kayong mga tagobo sa mishmash chopsuey designs ng Toyota at Honda hahaha.

  4. Parang may laman comment mo ah 🙊

  5. Uly, kindly review the GAC GN6. You liked the GS4 crossover, hope you will like the GAC MPV.

    1. Will do. Was lined up for that until they needed it for some event. Never got to re-scheduling it again.

  6. When will the Mazda MX-5 get a full model generation change? And will it be electrified?

  7. Some of those people who criticize Mazda here without knowing the spiritual experience of driving one, are the ones that NEVER ACTUALLY drove one.

    (Even though they say it's impractical to own one—and I'm one of them driving a real-life 3, I guess call us impractical. But sure, we drive our cars outside instead of arguing with anonymous people here boasting spec sheets and PS/NM metrics.)

  8. The stigma of being a 'gay car'

    1. That used to be with the old models. I feel like that is not applicable anymore with this one.

    2. The last Mazda we owned was a 1st generation 3 with the 2.0L engine. It was actually a pretty decent car to drive and had a nice premium-ish interior, definitely better than its contemporaries back in the day.

    3. The only ghey thing here is your comment. GTFO.

    4. This is just psychological projection ftom your closet ghey mind. If anything, the stereotypical ghey car is a huge red pickup truck. Insecure manlings need to compensate by driving those impractical & crude vehicles. That also explains the popularity of Turd World PPVs & pickups here in PH. 💁

  9. Mazda MX-5 or Toyota GR 86?

    1. Definitely MX-5 because for one, it doesn't have a report of an engine failure.

    2. Id go with GR86. Modern and proper. No stigma.

    3. Some men truly have fragile masculinity.

    4. MX-5 is always the answer. Those Toyabaru twins got uglier & needed a 400cc engine size increase just to rcatch up to both the MX-5 & Civic RS.

  10. Can anyone tell me what's the actual ground clearance of the car, please? Thanks!

  11. Thanks for your review of the MX-5 RF. Am eying the RF A/T since this will be a daily driver and an occassional weekender. Only concern is the fit. Am 6”1’ and just shy of 200lbs. May I know your height for reference. Sitting in hours long traffic can be so tiring in Metro Manila in a sedan that long ago swapped the sedan for a CX-5. That has served me well. Now with less home-office-home travel, wondering if the MX-5 can be the vehicle that I can enjoy open-top driving. (No problems with the CX-5 in 7 yrs ownership and that is why am eying another Mazda)


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