Driving Hiroshima's targa - the 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF

Same Miata, new targa-style roof

Just to make it clear right away, I love the MX-5. line.The current MX-5 soft-top convertible, launched locally in 2015, is my favorite one of the lot because Mazda took all of the innovations they have in their portfolio, put it all together, and created lightweight performance perfection.

Earlier this year, Mazda launched a new version of the MX-5, and they call it the RF: Retractable Fastback.

From the front, there really is no difference with the MX-5 soft top, but when you walk around the car, you'll notice that this MX-5 looks like a hardtop coupe. Unlike the bubble roof on the third generation MX-5 with the power retractable hard top (PRHT), the roof of the RF has a silhouette of a true fastback. But like the PRHT, this RF folds back. It's not a full convertible because only the top roof panel retracts (like a targa, but Porsche owns that name) into the back, leaving the rear window in place.

Open the door and you'll see that Mazda wanted to make this MX-5 more upscale given that it's the new top version of the world's best selling sportscar. The cabin is more or less the same, save for a few touches and upgrades that make the RF more upscale like Nappa leather, a 9-speaker Bose audio system, and a few more polished bits and pieces here and there.

At the heart of the MX-5 RF is the same 2.0-liter SkyActiv engine that we've become accustomed to with 158 bhp and 147 lb ft of torque. Again, it's rear-wheel drive, but the only issue is that the RF only comes specced with a 6-speed automatic. Yes, they're going for the characteristics of a grand tourer/convertible.

As a fastback coupe, I do like this MX-5. I like the aesthetics, but more importantly, the hardtop shell does fare better than a soft top when it comes to blocking out external ambient noise. Also, there's something more reassuring about a hardtop on safety grounds.

Driving it around the city, the ride is clearly firm, but it's not too bad; this is a small, low-slung convertible after all. The automatic gearbox is definitely convenient to have in urban traffic. Even the fuel economy is good: city driving with their fuel-saving start/stop system yielded 8.9 km/l (22 km/h average). On the highway, you should be able to easily achieve 12.3 km/l (88 km/h average).

On a spirited drive, the MX-5 RF definitely excels, despite the weight penalties. The original MX-5 (soft top, 6-speed manual) weighs in at 1041kg while the automatic version (soft-top, 6-speed automatic) goes up to 1063kg. With both an automatic and the retracting fastback mechanism, this means that the MX-5 RF tips the scales at 1133 kilograms, or 92 kilos more. And the RF isn't offered with a manual box.

Even with that extra heft, the MX-5 RF is a really fun drive, especially with the roof down. It's not as quick on its feet like its three-pedal brother, but the response of the automatic gearbox is good, and has a switch to activate a sportier shifting program.

Still, I have a soft spot for the basic lightweight MX-5. Yes, this RF is great, but there's something about the purity of purpose with the MX-5s that we're used to. And yes, an MX-5 really deserves a good three-pedal manual.

Car Model: 2017 Mazda MX-5 RF
Engine : Inline-4, 1998 cc, dohc, 16V, Direct Injection, S-VT, 6-Speed AT
Max Power (bhp @ rpm) : 158 bhp @ 6000 rpm
Max Torque (lb/ft @ rpm) : 147 lb ft @ 4000 rpm
0-100 km/h [or 0-62 mph](sec) : 7.3 sec.
Top Speed (km/h) : 214 km/h (133 mph)
Fuel Milage (km/L) : 12.3 km/L Combined
Price as Tested (PhP) : PhP 2,250,000.00
What’s Great + : Fastback looks cool, quick mechanical roof change
What’s Not So - : AT could be better, price
C! Editors Rating  : 8.5 / 10