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Mazda brings back the Miata’s retractable hardtop with the 2017 MX-5 RF

The last generation of Mazda MX-5 Miata featured an optional retractable hardtop, a feature that added practicality and likely increased the little roadster’s appeal. But retractable hardtops are heavy, so surely there was no room for such a frivolous feature in the new, back-to-basics Miata, right?

Apparently, there is. On the eve of the 2016 New York York Auto Show, the 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF dropped its hardtop for the first time in public. As with the previous hardtop model, the RF (“retractable fastback”) is meant to broaden the appeal of the Miata by attracting buyers willing to trade some lightness for a little more convenience.

Most convertibles don’t look that good with their tops up, but Mazda managed to give the Miata RF a pretty fetching shape. The roof has a nice curve, and terminates in nice flying buttresses at the back. When stowed, it’s more like a 1970s or ’80s targa top than a full convertible, but at least Mazda says there is no sacrifice in trunk space even with the multi-piece metal contraption stowed. Roof operation only takes a push of a button, and can be done at speeds up to 6.2 mph.

Engine choices should mirror those of the soft-top Miata. In Europe, the Miata RF will be offered with 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter four-cylinder engines from Mazda’s Skyactiv line, but only the 2.0-liter to make it to the U.S., with six-speed manual or automatic transmissions. In the U.S.-spec soft-top Miata, the 2.0-liter engine is rated at 155 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque, which goes to the rear wheels, as it should.

Performance may be a little less spritely in the RF, as the hardtop likely adds some weight. Mazda wasn’t willing to go into specifics, but let’s just say that hardcore enthusiasts will want to stick with the soft top, but those with a more leisurely attitude might find the hardtop satisfactory.

We’ll find out for sure when we get some seat time in a 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata RF. Hopefully, that will happen before wintertime.

Update: Mazda’s 2016 MX-5, the RF’s soft-top brother, has been named the 2016 World Car of the Year and 2016 World Car Design of the Year at the New York International Auto Show.

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