What’s not to like about a convertible sports car with sleek fastback lines when the roof is closed and an exhilarating open-air feeling when open?

The new dimension of open-top driving fun comes from the Mazda MX-5 RF ‘fastback’, the latest addition to extend the appeal of the world’s best-selling two-seater sports car.

For fans of slick engineering, the electrically-retractable hardtop – part plastic, part steel, part aluminium – is a source of endless fun.

At the touch of a button, in just 13 seconds the top lifts, folds and stows neatly away, leaving the rear roof section in place.

The result is a combination of open-air freedom with the feeling of much more protection than with the previous generation’s retractable hardtop.

It is also quieter than the former model thanks, says Mazda, to a sound-absorbing headliner in the front and middle roof panels combined with sound insulation around the rear wheel housings.

Priced from just over £22,000, the RF is perfect for British summer motoring as I found when bright sunshine turned to torrential rain in a matter of minutes. With the fast-operating roof, which can even be activated while moving at up to 6mph, I didn’t get wet once.

Aside from a tiny (5mm) increase in overall height, the RF thankfully possesses all the feedback, feel and fun of the nimble compact soft-top with the same chassis and the addition of specially-tuned suspension, steering and brakes.

The test car’s six-speed manual transmission keeps the same sporty 40mm gearshift stroke as the previous MX-5 and there is now an optional six-speed automatic gearbox. So, despite the 1.5-litre test car weighing 40kg more than the convertible, the little charmer remains just as agile and engaging.

It is also very sophisticated with in-car connectivity and an integrated navigation system as standard on all models. Accessed by a seven-inch colour touchscreen display and a knob between the seats, it controls not only the navigation but compatible Internet-enabled iPhone and Android smartphones to access a variety of free mobile content.

A special sound system has also been developed with Bose using nine speakers including some in each headrest, plus a 13-cm woofer in a bass enclosure in the footwell and a digital amplifier.

The roof operation status is animated on a colour screen housed in the left-hand instrument dial that also displays trip information, fuel level, coolant temperature and compass bearing.     

With more than 120,000 MX-5s sold in the UK since the original was launched there will undoubtedly be a queue forming for the latest model.

Sport Nav models have a lane departure warning system, while optional on 2.0-litre Sport Nav models, a safety pack adds high beam control and blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert.

Storage space inside the car remains at a premium with a lockable centre box behind the front seats and a front console tray at the base of the central stack designed to accommodate mobile phones and iPods, along with a set of USB and SD card slots. There is also a pair of removable cupholders, which slot into various spots around the cabin. 

Thanks to the clever roof mechanism the RF’s boot is virtually the same size as that of the convertible, which is perfectly capable of swallowing three decent bags of shopping.

As a motoring colleague remarked at the launch of the original MX-5 in 1990: “There’s only one thing wrong with this car – it hasn’t got an MG badge on the bonnet.” That, of course, is another story.

Auto facts

Model: Mazda MX-5 RF 1.5 Sport Nav

Price: £24,895

Insurance group: 26E (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 47.1mpg

Top speed: 127mph

Length: 391.5cm/154.1in

Width: 173.5cm/68.3in

Luggage capacity: 4.6 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 9.9 gallons/45 litres

CO2 emissions: 142g/km

Warranty: Three years/60,000 miles