All Stars

2018 All-Stars Contender: 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club RF

Retractable folding top doesn’t dilute the fun

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 RF makes that car look great,” contributor Marc Noordeloos complained. Then again, countered editor-in-chief Mike 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 legendary, 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 soft-top 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 rear-wheel drive.” So it’s still a great experience, but the argument can be made that the RF’s top adds too much complexity and weight to the Miata’s base formula.

Is it too much complexity and weight to earn the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF a 2018 All-Stars trophy? Find out on Saturday, March 10, when we announce the winners at the 2018 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance—and right here on automobilemag.com.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Club RF Specifications

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

Buying Guide
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2017 Mazda Miata

2017 Mazda Miata

MSRP $29,530 Club Soft Top (Auto) Convertible

EPA MPG:

26 City / 33 Hwy

Horse Power:

155 @ 6000

Torque:

148 @ 4600