2017 MAZDA MX-5 MIATA CLUB RF

Automobile - - All - Stars 2018 -

You’d be hard-pressed to find a ton of fans of the clunky, Power Re­tractable Hard Top ver­sion of the pre­vi­ous-gen­er­a­tion MX-5. So Mazda went back to the lab and came up with a whole new for­mula for its Mazda MX-5

RF, de­vel­op­ing a trick power re­tractable targa top à la the Porsche 911 Targa.

Gone is the reg­u­lar Miata road­ster’s sim­ple man­ual cloth roof, which can be de­ployed and re­tracted with one arm in a mat­ter of sec­onds. In its place is a new and fairly com­plex power roof that stows the metal cen­ter sec­tion un­der a sculpted set of but­tresses fram­ing the trun­k­lid. These changes add up to a car that’s quite the looker— de­pend­ing on whom you ask. Some edi­tors en­joyed the RF’s so­lid­i­fied sil­hou­ette, but oth­ers weren’t fans of its pro­trud­ing rear pro­por­tions.

“The soft­top ver­sion of the lat­est Miata isn’t pretty, but this

Re­tractable Fold­ing Top Doesn’t Di­lute the Fun

RF makes that car look great,” No­orde­loos com­plained. Then again, coun­tered Floyd, “I’m not sure what No­orde­loos is smok­ing, be­cause I think the RF is dy­na­mite-look­ing, top up or down.”

For­tu­nately, the Miata’s leg­en­dar­ily en­gag­ing driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence is nearly un­changed over the road­ster. The RF still dis­plays the road­ster’s pro­nounced and pre­dictable body roll, but thanks to a slightly re­vised sus­pen­sion and re­tuned steer­ing, it’s a lit­tle more di­aled in than its soft­top sib­ling. We’d still want to stiffen it up some if we owned one, how­ever.

Neg­a­tive de­sign cri­tique aside, No­orde­loos was duly im­pressed af­ter a stint be­hind the wheel at Speed­ve­gas. “Great fun around the track’” he noted. “Ro­tates nicely and is a great be­gin­ner car for those want­ing to un­der­stand rear­wheel drive.” So it’s still a great drive, but the ar­gu­ment can be made that the RF’s top adds too much com­plex­ity and weight to the Miata’s base for­mula. — Con­ner Golden

PRICE: $32,430/$36,215 (base/as tested) EN­GINE:

2.0L DOHC 16-valve I-4/155 hp @ 6,000 rpm, 148 lb-ft @ 4,600 rpm TRANS­MIS­SION: 6-speed man­ual LAY­OUT:

2-door, 2-pas­sen­ger, front-en­gine, RWD con­vert­ible

EPA MILEAGE:

26/33 mpg (city/hwy)

L x W x H:

154.1 x 68.3 x 49.0 in WHEEL­BASE:

90.9 in

WEIGHT:

2,445 lb

0-60 MPH:

6.4 sec (est)

TOP SPEED:

135 mph

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