2023 Mazda MX-5 RF Review

Is Mazda's spicy sports convertible still a good deal? The base model RF has some new suspension tech that blew us away, but is it worth it?

Jacob Brooke
Expert reviewer
Updated on
February 9, 2024
Saucey score


  • Awesome handling and style (plus higher redline)
  • Great 6-speed manual with limited slip differential
  • Decent audio quality (Bose would be better)


  • Infotainment system is showing it's age
  • Forget about practicality
  • Lots of halogen lights
Car specs

135kW + 205Nm

$42,770 + On-roads


5-star ANCAP rating

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The Mazda MX-5 is a prolific sports car that has been around for AGES, and this week we got to push the limits of the new G20 RF (Retractable Fastback) model; in 6-speed manual naturally, for maximal saucy fun. We’ll be taking a thorough look at the design of the car - inside and out, the comfort and safety features, we’ll talk about cough…“practicality”, as well as how this car would be to live with.

Most importantly, for the 2022 model year, the Mazda MX-5 received a new feature that promised to enhance its handling and agility: Kinematic Posture Control (KPC). KPC is a technology that applies a slight brake to the inner rear wheel during high-speed cornering, reducing body roll and improving steering response. But does it make a noticeable difference on the road? And how does it affect the MX-5’s trademark character? In this review, we’ll take a closer look at this base spec hardtop to see if it makes a difference.

How much does the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF Manual cost?

The G20 RF Manual (base) spec of the 2023 Mazda MX-5 hardtop series comes with an MSRP of $42,770 before on-roads, $2000 less than the automatic, and $4400 less than the RF GT spec, which comes with premium features like heated leather seats, and the option for a tan interior colour. This makes it the 3rd cheapest way to get yourself into a Mazda MX-5, with the G20 Roadster coming in at $38,460 and $40,460 for the manual and automatic, respectively.

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What do we think of the exterior looks of the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF?

The Mazda MX-5 is the complete embodiment of “less is more” when it comes to exterior design. The design hasn’t changed much with these latest updates, and this isn’t a bad thing, but it isn’t as inspiring as we’d hoped, given the magnitude of recent changes it had received, more on that in the driving section!

We love the look of the retractable fastback MX-5, and how it combines the openness of a convertible, with the privacy and style of the Targa roof. Yes, it does add some weight to the car, but in terms of daily driving, I would be taking the RF every time. Additionally, you can’t beat the party trick of pressing a button and watching the roof fold itself up while an audience of car enthusiasts watches on in silent applause… 

The front of the MX-5 remains sleek and aggressive with slim headlights, tiny “eye duct” daytime running lights, accompanied by slim diagonal lights beside the grille. The bonnet has some beautiful curves emphasising the headlights which look great from the drivers perspective. The swooping lines run along the bonnet to the side of the car where the 17-inch alloy wheels reside in all four corners. Unfortunately the base RF spec is missing keyless entry, but does get keyless go. The model we have is specced in this poly-metalic grey colour, which is a very classy look.

The rear of the car isn’t noteworthy, apart from the aforementioned Targa roof for the RF, and the oversized antenna which remains a comical inclusion on all 2023 Mazda MX-5 models. Unfortunately, apart from the daytime running lights, all the lights on the MX-5 use old-school halogen bulbs, though this is upgraded to adaptive LED headlights in the GT spec.

What’s the Interior like in the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF?

The Mazda MX-5 RF comes as standard with cloth sports seats, which are manually adjustable, quite comfortable and have pretty decent quality speakers in the driver’s headrest, allowing for a comfortable topless audio experience. These actually work quite well for phone conversations. The GT spec above the base comes equipped with heated leather seats, which can be optioned in a tan colour.

Apart from the black cloth seats, material quality is quite good around the cabin, especially in high-touch areas with soft leather armrests, some faux-carbon fibre details, and soft plastic used throughout, which helps soak up road noise and vibrations. The steering wheel has a nice firm feel and looks great with the black leather and white stitching. Up ahead we have a bright and simple analogue gauge cluster with a large tachometer in the centre, a perfect fit for what is essentially a driver’s car. We do get a small digital display on the left side of the cluster which has a few menus, and a small speedometer on the right-hand side.

While the MX-5 is obviously a very small car, the “MZD Connect” infotainment display is still disappointingly micro in nature at 7 inches; it works well with wired Apple Carplay and Android Auto, though it certainly isn’t the brightest or most high-definition display we’ve used. It is a touch-screen unit, though one “quirk” is that you can’t use the touch capacity while the car is moving! All control of the infotainment is relegated to the “command knob” which can be used to navigate the menus and even type, which is a fairly clunky experience, to be honest. 

Climate controls are showing their age in terms of the control knobs, though we admit that they are still extremely functional and intuitive, and apart from the looks, we can’t criticize them much at all. Connectivity is adequate with 2 x USB-A ports, an auxiliary port, no wireless charger, and very limited storage for the latest iPhone models. Overall the tech inside the MX-5 is starting to feel a bit long in the tooth and may be in need of a refresh.

Practicality, while not being the name of the game in a sports convertible, is acceptable inside the cabin, with a large storage area behind the two removable cup holders capable of holding fairly large items and a small bag, and a small storage area for sunglasses and other small items inside the centre armrest.

Overall, the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF is still decently packaged inside, for a base model. It still has a strong identity as a fun, driver-oriented car, though with more and more people choosing to daily drive the MX-5, a bit more inclusion in terms of comfort features and updating the infotainment system will go a long way in the near future.

How much can the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF fit in the boot?

As can be expected from any 2 seater convertible sports car, boot space is very limited at 127L. Though we have found this to be quite a useable boot due to its depth. Don’t expect to be able to fit any more than a small duffel or a couple of backpacks due to the size of the opening.

What’s under the bonnet of the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF?

Under the beautifully curved bonnet of the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF is a 2.0 litre 4-cylinder, naturally aspirated engine that produces 135kW of power and 205Nm of torque. This power is sent through to the rear wheels with a god-given 6-speed manual transmission and a limited-slip differential, where peak power is found in the high rev ranges; at 7000RPM. The redline has also been increased from 6800RPM to 7500RPM.

Now on paper, the MX-5 has never been the most impressive car, and as a car journalist it is my job to tell you that “it’s all about the driving experience”. While I never found myself resonating strongly with these sentiments, this latest version of the Mazda MX-5 won me over in a big way through its handling and ability to have fun within the speed limit. That is the aspect of this car that is difficult to get across in words, it’s that low-to-the-ground, 7500RPM redlining, white-knuckled turning, downshifting, wind-in-your-hair feeling that is only possible in a car like the Mazda MX-5. So let's talk about that!

How does the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF drive?

It has been said a million times, and if Mazda keeps playing its cards right, it will be said a million more times; the Mazda MX-5 is a purely fun driving experience. No, it doesn’t have the straight-line performance to knock your socks off, and no it won’t be setting any lap records, but it may just win a beauty contest, and it is guaranteed to put a smile on your face if you are anything at all like us at CarSauce.

So starting with the biggest news first, with the revised suspension technology we received in the 2022 model year - Kinetic Posture Control (KPC). This is unique (for now) to the MX-5 in Mazda’s lineup and is a pure addition to the existing suspension setup on the car, that is claimed to provide a more stable turning posture at higher speeds. That’s all well and good, but does it actually make a difference? After extensive research at CarSauce HQ, the answer is a resounding Yes! The older versions of the MX-5 had a signature pitch while turning where the inside front wheel would almost be lifting off the tarmac, and the Mazda development team found that by essentially breaking the inside rear wheel while turning, this body lean could be minimised. The difference is actually staggering and we could hardly believe the performance of this car up Saucy corner. Well done Mazda!

So how about straight-line line performance? Well, we had the 6-speed manual version of the RF, which comes with a limited-slip differential so we were feeling quite optimistic about the 0-100km/h launch. We clocked it at 7.21 seconds to 100km/h from a standing start, not bad for a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder!

In terms of daily driving, the Mazda MX-5 RF spec is surprisingly comfortable. While the seats are cloth and manually adjusting, they are supportive enough on long drives, and the suspension tune, while being on the tighter end, is quite supple around town. Steering is light enough, while also being well weighted in the twisties. While cruise control isn’t adaptive, it is very easy to initialise and use, with brake support and lane departure warning as standard, and the parking cameras with rear-cross traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring ensure safety and practicality. Boot space isn’t huge, though storage inside the car is decent. 

In essence, this car is far from the most practical car in the world, but we don’t know how they could have done a much better job given its miniature footprint. If you don’t have people/pets/things to take around with you on a daily basis, I can definitely see this being an easy car to live with every day. Then on the weekends you take your special someone out to a fun back road and make them cling onto their seat for dear life! I struggle to recall a time when a car has given me such an emotional reaction like this car, and I greatly recommend watching our Youtube video (linked above) so you can see what I mean.

Is it Safe?

The Mazda MX-5 has achieved a 5-star ANCAP safety rating with dual front, side and head airbags as standard. The base RF spec also comes equipped with the following safety features:

  • Autonomous emergency braking
  • Blind-spot monitoring
  • Limited-slip differential
  • Rear cross-traffic alert
  • Reversing parking camera and rear sensors
  • Tyre pressure monitoring system

How much does it cost to service?

Mazda now offer a 5-year warranty across their range. The MX-5 servicing is every 12 months or 10,000km, for an average cost of $350 per service, or $1750 over a five year period

Final thoughts - should you buy one?

If you are after a car that looks amazing on the road and drives like a go-kart then the 2023 Mazda MX-5 RF could be the perfect car for you. We believe the RF combines the best aspects of a convertible with privacy and comfort, and as a daily driver, it is the better option over the soft-top. While some of the more premium features are reserved for the GT spec and above, which commands an almost $5k premium, we believe the RF manual is the sweet spot in terms of affordability and packaging for someone who prioritises the drive. 

What Mazda has managed to achieve in terms of handling with their Kinetic Posture Control is magical, and if they can make some slight adjustments to the interior technology (let me use my touchscreen…), it is an absolute winner in my books.

Saucey score breakdown

Maintenance Costs and Warranty
Fuel (or EV) Efficiency
Interior Design and Features
Value for Money
Technology and Innovation
Is it fit-for-purpose?
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Jacob Brooke
Jacob Brooke, a respected voice in the world of automotive journalism, brings a wealth of knowledge and insights to his reviews at CarSauce. His keen eye for detail and passion for all things cars shine through in his in-depth analysis and honest evaluations of the latest models of cars. Join him as he guides readers through the car-buying process and explores the exciting world of motoring.
Car specs

135kW + 205Nm

$42,770 + On-roads


5-star ANCAP rating

Buy a Car!
No Obligations, Hassle Free.

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