Mazda’s budget alternative to the Porsche 911 Targa

After showcasing several production-ready concepts based on the new Miata and announcing a new version of the MX-5 for the 2016 New York Auto Show, Mazda has finally unveiled a new Miata at the Jacob Javits Convention Center. Dubbed RF, which stands for Retractable Fastback, this new Miata is the hardtop version everyone expected, but with a significant change from the power retractable metal roof variant offered with the previous generation. Specifically, the MX-5 RF is actually a targa, the first such configuration for the Miata, with a retractable roof panel and rear window.

Is this cool or what?

The MX-5 RF will be sold globally and reach markets such as Europe, Japan, and Australia. Naturally, it will also cross the pond to the U.S., where it will offered alongside the more traditional, soft-top roadster.

Technical specifications remain the same, but due to its new roof, the MX-5 RF is actually entirely new not only for the Miata nameplate, but for the market as well. The fact that there aren’t any other affordable, targa-style convertibles out there makes the MX-5 RF unique. Of course, there are certain things to consider here, such as the extra weight that comes with the retractable roof panel and the lift-up flying buttresses, but the RF is arguably the coolest targa since the Porsche 911.

Updated 10/05/2016: Mazda revealed prices for the MX-5 RF which is now officially into production at the company’s assembly line in Hiroshima, Japan. The car is expected to arrive at dealers nationwide by early 2017.

Continue reading to find out more about the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF.

  • 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF
  • Year:
    2017
  • Make:
  • Model:
  • Engine:
    inline-4
  • Transmission:
    six-speed manual
  • Horsepower @ RPM:
    155
  • Torque @ RPM:
    148
  • Displacement:
    2.0 L
  • 0-60 time:
    7.4 sec. (Est.)
  • Top Speed:
    130 mph (Est.)
  • Price:
    31555
  • Price:
  • car segment:
  • body style:

Exterior

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Mazda MX-5 RF High Resolution Exterior
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2017 Mazda MX-5 RF High Resolution Exterior
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The MX-5 RF may be identical to the standard Miata below the waist, but the new fastback configuration gives it a completely new appearance. Whereas previous hard-top models looked identical to soft-top version with the roof up, the RF resembles a full-fledged coupe when the roof panel and rear windscreen are in place. The new flying buttresses move the cabin toward the tail, highlighting the Miata’s muscular rear haunches and giving it a sporty and more balanced appearance. In short, the MX-5 RF is simply gorgeous and makes me wonder why Mazda took so long to turn the Miata into a coupe/targa.

In short, the MX-5 RF is simply gorgeous and makes me wonder why Mazda took so long to turn the Miata into a coupe/targa.

Another cool thing about this car is the way its roof operates to transform from a coupe into a targa. The system seems identical to the Porsche 911 Targa, with the flying buttresses lifting up to allow the roof panel and the rear window to slide behind the seats. This is done in a matter of seconds at the press of a button. The only snag is that the roof can only be operated at up to 6.2 mph (10 km/h).

Everything else is standard Miata business, with the RF sharing the same body panels with the roadster. However, there is a new exterior color available with the RF. It’s called Machine Gray and the brand says it’s the second premium color following Soul Red. Mazda says it was designed to "accentuate the beauty of vehicle bodies featuring KODO design." It was crafted using its Takuminuri painting technology originally created for Soul Red and contains a reflective layer with extremely thin, high-brightness aluminum flakes. In short, it has a three-coat paint structure consisting of color, reflective and clear coats.

Interior

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF
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The interior of the MX-5 RF is identical to the roadster’s, featuring the same driver-centric layout with simple yet sporty design cues. As a reminder, the ND-generation Miata received an updated dashboard with a significantly cleaner center stack and a color touchscreen on top, redesigned door panels with body-colored upper elements, and more supportive seats with a lower seating position. The new cabin feels more upscale, but continues to offer the sporty experience that made the Miata famous. RF customers should get all that, but with a slightly different experience due to the metal top and the flying buttresses that remain in place behind the seats.

The good news here is that the complex mechanism of the hard-top won’t impact trunk space, which remains unchanged from the roadster.

Drivetrain

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF High Resolution Exterior
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In the U.S., it will use the 2.0-liter, SkyActiv-G rated at 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet and the same choice of six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions

The MX-5 RF gets its juice from the same drivetrains available with the standard Miata. In the U.S., it will use the 2.0-liter, SkyActiv-G rated at 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet and the same choice of six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions. There’s no word on performance, but given the extra weight, the RF should be a tad slower from 0 to 60 mph. While the roadster needs around 7.2 seconds to achieve the benchmark, the targa will probably do it in at least 7.4 ticks.

In other markets, the MX-5 RF will use the smaller 1.5-liter SkyActiv-G unit. Also a four-banger, this engine cranks out 129 horsepower and 111 pound-feet of torque and mates to a six-speed manual gearbox only. With this mill, the MX-5 RF should need more than 8.5 seconds to hit 62 mph from a standing start.

Prices

Pricing for the MX-5 RF starts from $31,555, which represents a $6,640 premium over the standard Miata. For that amount, you get the base Club trim with the six-speed manual. An upgrade to the automatic transmission will set you back $730. Next in line is the Grand Touring version, priced from $32,620 with the manual and $33,825 with the automatic. The most expensive model is the Launch Edition, which comes in at $33,850 with the manual and $34,925 with the automatic. Options include a Bremo/BBS package for $3,400,available with the manual model only, and Advanced Keyless Entry for $130. The latter is standard on Launch Edition models and automatic Miatas. The Soul Red and Machine Gray paints cost $300, while Crystal White Pearl Mica is priced at $200, but available for Grand Touring models only.

MX-5 RF Club 6MT $31,555
MX-5 RF Club 6AT $32,285
• Brembo/BBS Package (6MT only) $3,400
MX-5 RF Grand Touring 6MT $32,620
MX-5 RF Grand Touring 6AT $33,825
MX-5 RF Launch Edition 6MT $33,850
MX-5 RF Launch Edition 6AT $34,925
• Advanced Keyless Entry (Standard on 6AT and Launch Edition models) $130
Soul Red Metallic $300
Machine Gray Metallic $300
Crystal White Pearl Mica (GT models only) $200

Competitors

Fiat 124 Spider

2018 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth
- image 667942

Granted, the 124 Spider doesn’t have a metal roof or a targa top, but it’s the closest thing you can buy as the Italian roadster was developed on the same underpinning as the Miata. But, even though the architecture underneath and the interior are almost identical, the Fiat features its very own design language inspired by the original 124 of the 1960s and an Abarth-tweaked engine under the hood. Power comes from a 1.4-liter turbo-four shared with the Fiat 500 Abarth and rated at 160 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. More power can be had from the Abarth version, but Fiat has yet to launch the U.S.-spec model. In Europe, it gets 10 extra horses, but the North American model could have a more powerful engine. A hard-top version based of the recently unveiled WRC-spec Abarth could also be offered, but probably not before 2018.

Find out more about the 124 Spider and 124 Abarth here and here.

Lotus Elise Sport

2016 Lotus Elise Sport
- image 655480

When it comes to sports cars with targa roof configurations, there are very few options out there. What’s more, most are significantly more expensive than the Miata and can’t be purchased in the U.S. One such example is the Lotus Elise. Its entry-level Elise Sport trim uses a 1.6-liter, four-cylinder engine rated at 134 horsepower and 118 pound-feet of torque. While it’s less powerful than the MX-5, the Elise is significantly lighter at 1909 pounds and more than a second quicker from 0 to 60 mph, needing only six ticks to achieve the benchmark. But, on top of not being available for U.S. consumption, the Elise Sport is also a lot more expensive, starting from £29,900 in Britain, which converts to around $42,250 as of March 2016.

Read more about the Lotus Elise Sport here.

Porsche 911 Targa

2017 Porsche 911 Targa 4 High Resolution Exterior Wallpaper quality
- image 649691

Arguably the most iconic targa model in history, the 911 Targa plays in a completely different league price- and performance-wise. Recently updated to Porsche’s new turbocharged 3.0-liter flat-six, the base Targa 4 comes with 370 horsepower and 331 pound-feet of torque. Sprinting from 0 to 60 mph takes only 4.5 seconds, while top speed is rated at 179 mph. More power comes with the Targa 4S, which benefits from 420 horses and 368 pound-feet. The 0-to-60 sprint drops to four seconds, while top speed increases to 187 mph. The Targa 4 starts from $108,600, while the 4S retails from $122,600. Definitely not the kind of sticker buyers will cross-shop with the MX-5 RF’s.

Find out more about the Porsche 911 Targa here.

Conclusion

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF High Resolution Exterior
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Up until now, the MX-5 Miata was the most exciting vehicle Mazda has released in years. The arrival of the MX-5 RF changes that, simply because it is the first true hard-top model based on the iconic Miata. Sure, it may be heavier than the roadster and Mazda did nothing to compensate that by adding more power and torque, but the MX-5 RF is gorgeous to look at and maybe more importantly, it will like become the most affordable targa-roofed sports car in dealerships starting 2016. If that’s not exciting, I don’t know what is!

  • Leave it
    • * Metal top means more weight
    • * Not as exciting as the Lotus Elise performance-wise

Press Release

Mazda revealed the Mazda MX-5 RF (“retractable fastback”) today on the eve of the New York International Auto Show. The latest version of the legendary sports car offers a new dimension of open-top driving fun while at the same time staying true to the purpose of Mazda’s previous retractable hardtop MX-5: Making the roadster experience accessible to a broader range of drivers.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF High Resolution Exterior
- image 670213

In doing so, Mazda has broken with conventional thinking to create something entirely new. Featuring fastback styling with a smooth roofline that slopes down to the rear, the MX-5 RF’s unique rear roof and retractable back window deliver a distinctive new convertible feeling.

The power roof opens and closes with the press of a button while moving at speeds of up to 10km/h. The roof itself stows away compactly and efficiently: Despite the sleek design, the MX-5 RF offers the same boot space as the soft-top model. Also like the soft-top, the new version will be available in Europe with a choice of two revvy petrol engines – the SKYACTIV-G 1.5 and SKYACTIV-G 2.0 – mated either to a delightfully crisp shifting six-speed SKYACTIV-MT gearbox or – exclusively for the MX-5 RF – a six-speed automatic.

Another highlight of the MX-5 RF is the selection of body colours. They include Machine Grey, a new premium colour specially designed to accentuate the subtle yet dynamic surfaces of Mazda’s KODO – Soul of Motion exteriors. Developed in the belief that colour is one of the elements of form, Machine Grey expresses the beauty of a machine’s strength and precision. By intensifying the contrast between light and shadow with a sleek, high-density finish, it gives the impression that the vehicle’s body was sculpted from a solid block of steel.

2017 Mazda MX-5 RF High Resolution Exterior
- image 670214

Paint application is crucial here. Mazda progressed its Takuminuri painting technology originally created for Soul Red, Mazda’s first premium colour, to achieve a precise, high-quality finish that looks as if it were hand-painted by a master craftsman. The system uses a three-coat paint structure consisting of colour, reflective and clear coats. The reflective layer, which contains extremely thin, high-brightness aluminium flakes, shrinks during the drying process to about one-quarter the thickness of most reflective layers. This causes the flakes to lie flat with regular spacing between each flake for a high-density finish that gives the entire surface a sheen when illuminated and a genuine metallic look. Jet black pigment, meanwhile, is used in both the reflective and colour layers. It is visible through the spaces between the aluminium flakes, giving them a black hue and thus heightening the contrast. Machine Grey will be available on a range of Mazda models, including the all-new Mazda CX-9 slated to go on sale in North America this spring.

The MX-5 RF is on display at the New York International Auto Show, which opens to the public from 25 March to 3 April. Mazda is holding a press conference from 11:20-11:45am on 24 March, the second of two press days.

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