Mazda MX-5 RF Looks Bad, But Doesn’t Bite

The vehicle’s retractable roof lets the sun shine in, but not completely.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

April 7, 2017

2 Min Read
Mazda MX5 RF starts at 31555
Mazda MX-5 RF starts at $31,555.

SAN DIEGO – The soft-top convertible version of the Mazda MX-5 Miata looks like a playful puppy that chases a ball all day.

In contrast, the retractable-roof rendition of the MX-5 emits a sleeker, darker demeanor. Stylists went for the bad look. But, no, it doesn’t bite.

Mazda says the ’17 MX-5 RF (retractable fastback) is designed to broaden the range of open-top driving. In other words, it’s for drivers who occasionally may want to let the sun shine in but don’t want a rag top or a roof that completely folds away.

“It’s a different type of customer than the MX-5 buyer,” says Mazda North American Operations spokesman Jeremy Barnes. “Some RF owners may never put the top down. They just like its grand-touring look.”

He describes the canvas-top MX-5 as more of a “true sports car,” while the RF offers more of a “GT coupe experience.”

The latter costs more, starting at $31,555 compared with $24,915 for its softy sibling. “We expect a more affluent buyer for the RF,” Barnes says.

The entire roof doesn’t go away completely. The car is a semi-convertible or targa. The “flying-buttress” rear pillars stay put as the aluminum roof does a 13-second contortion act, ending up nestled in the trunk.

MX-5 RF designers set out to showcase the fastback appearance. They pulled the cabin rearward to create more dynamism, says Julien Montousse, MNAO’s design director, adding it has “a dark attitude about it.”

The RF replaces what was called the MX-5 PRHT (power retractable hardtop). Its roof was more bubble-shaped and lacked the dramatic flying-buttress rear pillars. 

Mazda says it refined the new model’s roof motors to work in a more confined space and operate while the car is moving at a speed of up to 6 mph (10 km).

A 2.0L 4-cyl.engine powers both MX-5 models. It produces 155 hp at 6,000 rpm and 148 lb.-ft. (200 Nm) of torque at 4,600 rpm. 

The hardtop roof unit adds about 100 lbs. (43 kg) to the RF that weighs in at 2,445 lbs. (1,063 kg).

“The weight difference would be comparable to a child sitting next to you,” says Montousse.

That would be a big kid; a German Shepherd seems more like it.

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