• Here’s How the Mazda Miata’s Retractable Hardtop Works

Think of it as a baby Porsche 911 Targa

So the Mazda MX-5 Miata RF is here – hallelujah! This is the hard-top model Miata loyalists have been wanting for four generations now. The RF, or Retractable Fastback, combines the closed-roof quietness and all-year functionality mixed directly with an open-air driving experience on warmer days. But how did Mazda squeeze a folding hard-top into the impossibly small Miata?

The answer: very smartly. In fact, the mechanical bits and electric motors that operate the top, along with the actual aluminum top section and rear glass, all fold neatly into the space already reserved for the conventional soft top. That’s impressive.

What’s more, the Miata RF only compromises 0.1 cubic feet of trunk space over the soft-top model. And no, your luggage runs zero risk of getting smashed by the retracting mechanicals. The trunk is completely separate from the top’s storage compartment. Of course, don’t expect to haul home a bulk purchase of mega-roll toilet paper; the trunk only has 4.6 cubic feet of space.

Operating the top only takes about 13 seconds. A dash-mounted toggle switch does the deed. The car just has to be rolling below six mph. Want to see it in action? Keep reading for the full step-by-step process.

Continue reading for a video of the Miata RF’s Targa top.

Skip to 1:45 to see the top in action.

Step One: The Switch Toggling the switch starts the process by lowering the side windows roughly an inch.

Step Two: The Fastback The most recognizable body panel on the Miata RF is, of course, the fastback-style roof panel that slopes behind the rear window. This piece raises upward and rearward, affording the roof panel and rear window room to move.

Step Three: Collapsing Roof With the coast clear and nothing in the way, the roof splits into three sections: the rear window, the B-pillar hoop, and the main roof panel. First, the rear window drops slightly down, allowing the B-pillar hoop to travel over. The hoop then is first into the storage compartment, followed by the rear window. Both pieces lay upside down. The main roof section then clamshells on top, nearly resting its headliner on the inside of the rear window.

Step Four: The Fastback Close At this point with the hardtop out of the way, the fastback section lowers down. It mates up with the vertical B-pillar posts, creating that fastback look, but without the main roof section. It’s a similar look to the Corvette C7 Stingray with its removable top stowed. The big difference is the Miata stows its top all by itself at the push of a button. There’s no unlatching the roof panels or hoping you don’t scratch the paint as you gently lower the roof into the trunk area.

Step Five: Window Perhaps the only major oversight on Mazda’s part are the side windows. When lowering the top, the side windows lower roughly an inch for clearance sake. When the top is finished lowering, the windows automatically roll back up. However, when raising the top, the windows do not automatically roll up. If you forget to close them, your Miata will have a closed hard top, but partially open side windows. Why the windows don’t automatically close is beyond me. I’ve almost walked away from the car a few times with the windows cracked. This could spell disaster should it begin raining… or someone decides to break in.

That bug aside, the Miata RF’s roof action is mesmerizing and addicting to watch.

Mark McNabb
Mark McNabb was a contributor at TopSpeed from 2013 to 2018. Growing up, Mark always had a mind for tinkering on random items throughout his home and dad’s garage, including a 1953 Ford Mainline and 1971 Corvette Stingray.  Read full bio
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