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2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF - near Campbell River


The Fastback You've Been Waiting For, Only Better

Mazda pulls a page from Porsche's book—seriously.


Ever since the fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 Miata debuted last year, our imagination has run wild concocting new body styles like a Miata coupe, a Miata retractable hardtop, and even a Miata shooting brake. But we didn’t predict the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Retractable Fastback (RF), which combines a power-retractable targa top with a gorgeous fastback roofline. In other words, it’s the Miata coupe you’ve been waiting for, only better.

The Miata RF’s power-folding targa top operates like the Porsche 911 Targa’s intricate roof in concept, although it’s somewhat simpler in practice. The 12-second roof-opening process can be performed at speeds up to 6 mph and works thusly: The two roof panels over the occupants’ heads fold while the rear window lowers itself behind the seats and the two flying-buttress supports lift up to accommodate the folded top. Those sail panels, by the way, are a visual trick, wrapping around a conventional trunklid that opens to a cubby with the same 4.6 cubic feet of cargo space as in the Miata softtop.

Why did Mazda abandon the previous generation’s more conventional folding hardtop that brought so many buyers into the Miata camp? According to Mazda’s North American president Masahiro Moro, the fourth-generation ND Miata’s shorter overall length doesn’t leave enough space to accommodate a full retractable hardtop like that on the third-gen NC Miata. The RF’s slightly smaller foldable roof fits in the same cubby space that the regular Miata’s softtop folds into behind the seats, keeping the car’s weight balance and interior space uncompromised. That the design allowed Mazda to craft this wonderful roofline that has already won us over is purely a bonus.

Retractable Hardtop is Dead, Long Live the Retractable Fastback

With the top up, the Miata RF looks like a true Miata fastback coupe, with those gently sloping flying buttresses giving the car a vague resemblance to the Jaguar F-type coupe. We love it, although from the rear, the visual trick is revealed, as the back window stands flat like that on early C3 Corvettes. With the roof down, the RF reminds us of the 1990s Honda Civic del Sol—although Mazda surely would rather we compare it with the 911 Targa. Our only real complaint about the new roofline is the addition of strange rear-three-quarter windows that are actually blacked-out trim pieces made to look like windows. We expect the thriving Miata aftermarket will devise a half-dozen alternatives in no time.

Uncompromised Mechanicals

Mazda isn’t yet talking specific weight figures, but we’re told that the mass difference shouldn’t vary far from that between the previous retractable hardtop and its softtop sibling. That suggests the RF will carry 130 to 150 extra pounds, which we’re hoping is nominal enough to keep the 10Best Cars–winning Miata’s wonderfully nimble driving dynamics intact. The only other significant difference is that the RF’s roofline is 0.2 inch higher than the softtop’s, not that you’d be able to tell by looking at it.

The drivetrain is unchanged from the Miata we know and love, with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder available in other markets and a 2.0-liter Skyactiv four-cylinder as standard equipment in the United States. Six-speed manual and six-speed automatic variants remain on the menu. The preproduction car Mazda is showing at the 2016 New York auto show has an automatic and is trimmed in Machine Gray paint with red nappa leather inside. The colors, inside and out, are new to the Miata, with the gray paint sourced from the 2016 CX-9 crossover and the interior being the first red Miata cabin we can remember since the 1993 LE special-edition model. Look for more information to come on the Miata RF’s trim-level structure later this year. We predict it’ll be available in the Miata’s top Grand Touring trim at first, with other variants possible to follow.

As for pricing, the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF should add about $2000 to the MX-5’s bottom line if the previous retractable hardtop is any indication. Now excuse us, because we’re off to fantasize about the next Miata variant—MX-5 pickup, anyone?


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