BRAND-name components pump up the price of Mazda's limited edition MX-5 but those who actually like to drive rather than just be seen in the two-seat convertible won't be disappointed.
The MX-5 is the world's most popular two-door sports car with more than a million global sales and this package follows the philosophy of light weight in place of outright power, so the engine outputs are unchanged.
Red-painted Brembo brake calipers identify the limited edition, along with the 17-inch BBS wheels. Look inside and a pair of Recaro seats replaces the standard pews. A body kit is standard fit, as is a front strut brace to reinforce the suspension when the MX-5 is doing what it does best: carving through back-country corners.
Just 110 of the two-seaters will be sold and owners also get a bespoke Seiko Mazda watch.
The MX-5 RF Limited Edition costs $55,790 on the road. That's about $6600 more than the top-spec hardtop version on which it's based. The extra items, fitted individually, would cost considerably more - Mazda quotes $4200 for the body kit and black alloy wheels alone.
It's worth noting Abarth's version of the MX-5 already has most of the brand-name hardware fitted and the 124 Spider is a $43,500 proposition on the road.
To be fair to the Mazda, the Abarth uses the manually operated soft-top, where the RF Limited Edition is fitted with the powered metal roof, which adds $4000 to an MX-5.
The Abarth runs a 1.4-litre turbo (125kW/250Nm) against the Mazda's naturally aspirated 2.0-litre (118kW/200Nm) - but power isn't the reason people buy these cars, as evidenced by Mazda's almost threefold advantage in sales.
Standard safety gear on the MX-5 includes blind-spot monitoring, lane-departure warning and rear cross-traffic alert. The limited edition is six-speed manual only.
Mazda marketing chief Alastair Doak anticipated more limited versions to keep the MX-5 on buyers' radars and help avoid the sales slump that typically occurs a few years after a sports car is launched.
ON THE ROAD
Slide into the RF Limited Edition and the Alcantara and leather-trimmed Recaros lock you into place. Under way, the suspension upgrades are evident. This MX-5 handles mid-corner hits and highway-speed dips in the road with more aplomb than the regular car without feeling brittle and hard when rolling over smaller lumps around town.
The steering is also notably more direct, e still letting the driver know exactly what is happening to the front wheels. It's as close as you'll get to go-kart steering while still being able to legally drive on the road.
The Brembo brakes are almost overkill, given the MX-5 weighs less than 1100kg. They're effective and easy to modulate on public roads and Mazda says they have more bite and are more resistant to fade than the standard stoppers. For track day fans, that should equate to later braking - and there's nothing quite as satisfying as outdriving a more powerful car in the turns.
The light weight approach becomes evident as the pace increases, with tyre and wind noise evident at speeds above 60km/h. You can't have everything and most of these cars will spend a lot of their time with the powered roof folded down anyway.
One thing hasn't changed - the cupholders are still useless. A runaway container rolling under the pedals is potentially dangerous so owners might wisely finish their drinks before climbing in.
Fuel use is downright miserly. The claimed 7.0L/100km is easily achieved - our extended run returned 7.7L from highway motoring and twisty and hilly terrain.
Three and a half stars
For a little car, $55,790 is a lot of money but the MX-5 RF Limited Edition is a lot of fun to pedal on twisty roads. Given that's the Mazda's purpose, it works, even if in limited numbers.
PRICE A drive-away price of $55,790 makes the Limited Edition the dearest MX-5 by far - about $6600 more than the RF GT (with a black roof) on which it is based. Brand-name components help justify the hike and owners get a Seiko watch created specifically for this car.
TECH Bilstein dampers improve the MX-5's composure through road dips that would have a standard car close to bottoming out, while Mazda says the Brembo brakes and new pad combination are 26 per cent more resistant to fade.
PERFORMANCE There's no official claims of improved acceleration but the 17-inch BBS wheels, Brembo brakes and Recaro seats all trim weight from the car, while the front strut brace improves cornering composure.
DRIVING The already sharp steering on the MX-5 improves again courtesy of the reduced mass of the front wheels and brakes and a sharpened steering rack. It's not a huge leap but does make a good thing marginally better.
DESIGN The "Kuroi" body kit adds a more aggressive front spoiler, side skirts and a rear "under-spoiler", along with winglets at the front of the wheel arches to direct airflow along the body rather than into the wheel wells.
Mazda MX-5 RF Limited Edition
PRICE $55,790 drive-away
WARRANTY 3 years/unlimited km
SERVICE 12 months/10,000km, $948 for first three
SAFETY 5 stars, 4 airbags
ENGINE 2.0-litre 4-cyl, 118kW/200Nm
TRANS 6-speed man; RWD
SPARE None; inflation kit