Mazda MX-5 Miata RF first drive review: the Miata coupe (targa?) we’ve always wanted

As soon as sports car fans discovered the Miata was a fantastic roadster, some started asking for a stylish coupe version. That was probably a couple days after the first Miata hit the street in 1989.

I’d argue that the 2017 MX-5 Miata RF answers that call.

Coupe, roadster, or targa?

The latest version of the Miata isn’t technically a coupe, but it works better as one than it does as a roadster. The difference between it and the standard roadster is a power top mechanism that adds 113 pounds to the overall weight and lends an unmistakable beauty to Mazda’s two-seater…with the top up, that is.

With the top down, the graceful line that flows from the hood, up the windshield, over the roof, and down into the trunk is broken up. It leaves something of an awkward hole in the center of the car and the overall effect doesn’t look as good as the simpler top-down look of the roadster, which features a relatively flat line running the length of the car, broken up only by the rise of the windshield.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

Putting the top down is a simple process that requires the flip of a switch and 13 seconds of your time. The piece that constitutes the rear pillars and a bar that joins them moves up out of the way, allows the roof piece to come down and stow away, then returns to that same position, turning the Miata RF not into a roadster, but what I would argue is a targa.

A targa isn’t bad, but it’s not as free and open as a full roadster. Those essentially stationary rear pillars block vision to the rear sides pretty severely, so much so that I wish this car came with a backup camera, which it doesn’t. That “targa bar” also creates something of an enclosed feeling that is the antithesis of a convertible.

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF

The targa-type roof, does, however, provide an aerodynamic structure that the air flows over naturally, making the cabin a bit quieter than the roadster’s and allowing easier conversation. And with the top up, the coupe-like metal structure is certainly more sound-proof than the cloth top, creating a more isolated experience. Still, the Miata is a loud car by any measure, letting in lots of road noise.

High price of entry

Mazda’s pricing makes the RF a premium model in the Miata lineup. Depending on the trim level, the RF costs $2,555 or $2,755 more than it’s roadster counterpart. Not only that, but it’s only offered in Club and Grand Touring trims, making the base Sport trim exclusive to the roadster. That means buyers must pay a minimum of $32,390 for an RF Club model, or $6,640 more than a base Sport roadster.

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