NEW YORK — Count the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF as a genuine surprise. We were expecting a Miata hardtop of some sort, but nothing like the innovative "retractable fastback" roof design that Mazda delivered.
Vaguely similar to the Porsche 911 Targa's cunningly complex roof mechanism, the Miata RF's buttress-like rear pillars lift up and back before the roof piece and glass rear window disappear into the area normally reserved for the easily retracted soft top. The pillars and the blacked-out span that connects them then return to place. The black elements in the buttresses that look like quarter windows are in fact just filled-in panels.
This unique solution was the result of the new-for-2016 Miata being too small behind the passenger compartment to fit the sort of full retractable hardtop that was available on the previous-generation model. Like that car, however, the Miata RF's trunk is not affected by its newfangled rigid roof.
Mazda did not indicate how much weight this adds to the Miata, but for reference, the old retractable hardtop added 82 pounds. The RF is otherwise mechanically identical to the regular Miata, including its sole engine choice for the United States.
Mazda also didn't announce pricing, but the difference between the old Miata and the retractable hardtop model was $1,760.
Edmunds says: An oddly complex alternative for what is arguably one of the easiest-to-use soft tops on the market today.