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The 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF Is Your Discount Targa

Lust after a Porsche 911 Targa and its trick roof, but balk at the six-figure price? Mazda has your number.

The fourth-generation MX-5 Miata roadster is still winning praise for being back-to-basics fun without sacrificing much in terms of modern comforts, which is basically automotive wizardry. And for less than $30,000, it’s probably the most enjoyable new car on the market. But eager to win over non-convertible types, too, Mazda has worked up what it thinks is a solution in the MX-5 RF.

The RF’s main claim is its roof. “RF” stands for “retractable fastback,” which doesn’t fully explain that at the touch of a button, the solid roof over the occupants’ heads can disappear to make the MX-5 open again. There’s no fussing over fitting the roof into a tiny space, either, as the back of the car essentially rises so that the roof can electrically slide underneath. Miraculously, Mazda says cargo space is virtually unaffected, although the roadster wasn’t exactly brimming with trunk room in the first place. The rear window also slides away so you can get as much of that wind-in-your-hair feel as possible.

Purists will deride all of this as needless complexity. And, sure, there’s something great about being able to lower the roof in a couple of seconds – or even on the move if you’re somewhat flexible (the RF’s roof can be removed at speeds up to 10 km/h, Mazda says). A soft top isn’t for everyone or every climate; even if I can attest that the Miata is an absolute joy to drive in sub-freezing temperatures with the top down.

Mazda is also promoting the RF in the same “Machine Gray” paint that it’s been showing the 2017 CX-9 crossover in, rather than the bright red that’s become synonymous with Mazda ads. It suggests the RF is going after a more refined customer than someone who would go for the regular roadster, one who might value the solidity of a hardtop and not care about a 100-pound-plus weight penalty.

The MX-5 RF should go on sale by year’s end. Expect prices to be at least $1,000 over a comparable Miata roadster.

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