For 28 years, the Mazda MX-5 Miata has adhered to Mazda’s oft-cited jinba-ittai ethos, a Japanese phrase drawn from samurai horse archery that translates to “horse and rider as one.” The purity of connection required to accurately shoot arrows astride a moving animal, as distilled into an automobile, makes for a light, simple, and fantastic sports car. Also, horses don’t have roofs and neither do Miatas, if you’re doing it right.
A Tale of Two RFs
For all this, the RF should really stand for “Roof Folds” rather than “Retractable Fastback,” since the entire fastback doesn’t retract and it isn’t really a fastback.
However you come down on that distinction, for many the RF will justify its $2755 price premium over the least expensive comparable Miata softtop for its additional year-round capabilities. (The RF isn’t available in the base Sport trim, coming only in sporty Club and luxury-minded Grand Touring spec; GT to GT, the difference is $2555.)
The RF is notably quieter inside than the cacophonous roadster, at least with the top raised, thanks to a thick headliner—it reduces headroom by 0.6 inch, according to Mazda—and sound-deadening material added to the top of the transmission tunnel. Nary a squeak or rattle came from the mechanism during our drive, either.
So why make the top retract at all? That’s a good question, one that Mazda itself grappled with internally. There was consternation over whether to do another PRHT or to create a proper coupe, with many among Mazda’s ranks opining that a retractable top of some sort is critical to the Miata’s image. They won, and the company believes the RF will garner about half of all Miata sales, as did the PRHT. Plus, the RF looks incredible.