Since the Mazda MX-5 debuted in 1989, enthusiasts have been clamoring for a hardtop coupe version. In 2003, Mazda created a limited run of 179 coupes solely for the Japanese market; in 2006, the company added a Power Retractable Hardtop (PRHT) version. But neither has satisfied the MX-5’s loyal fanbase. The humble MX-5 has always hit the mark for affordability and driving pleasure, but a svelte, almost E-Type-like sports car has been the ultimate enthusiast’s dream car. When Mazda teased that it planned to “blow the lid off at the New York Auto Show” fans were excited, anticipating that Mazda would finally unveil the Miata Coupe we deserved. Instead, we got something even better.
Ahead of the New York International Auto Show, Mazda revealed the MX-5 RF “Retractable Fastback.” In place of a fixed hardtop, the RF has an automatically retractable “Targa” top. It also has a pair of buttresses aft of the cockpit, with a removable section of roof between the windshield and the back of the car. In a traditional Targa setup, the roof section would be removed manually, but in the RF a mechanism lifts up the rear buttresses and the top automatically folds and stows behind the driver. These mechanicals have been seen in only a couple high-end cars like the new Porsche 911 Targa and the Ferrari 458 Spider (as well as the not-so-high-end and long-defunct Honda del Sol). The downside of the mechanism is an increase in weight, allegedly to the tune of 110 pounds. According to Mazda the RF uses stiffer springs and a retuned steering system to compensate. The RF will still use the same 155 horsepower 2.0-liter SkyActiv inline-four as the drop-top MX-5.
Yet despite whatever small effect the added roof may have on the MX-5’s performance, it’s a welcome addition to everyone’s favorite little roadster, especially to those in markets with less-than-desirable weather conditions. Rain or shine notwithstanding, the MX-5 has always looked like a car twice its price — the addition of that roof makes it even better.