It's rare for a convertible to be among the best driver's cars: a fixed roof makes up a significant amount of a car's structure, and so even with a reinforced chassis, a convertible based on a coupe or sedan is almost always noticeably less solid over the road than its hardtop counterparts.
In that sense, Mazda's MX-5 benefits from having been designed as a drop-top from the start, so while it's still a bit less solid than a coupe would be, it's helped by having extra structure built in from the start.
The fourth-generation MX-5 blew our collective minds in 2016, and 2017 brings a new RF trim, a designation that stands for "retractable fastback" or, in other words, a folding hard top.
Where the third-gen's optional folding metal roof aped the profile of the soft top model, this new version lives up to the fastback moniker with flying buttresses over the rear wheels that form part of the cover the roof stows under. The new body gives this car's styling a hint of Lotus Elise, which you'll never hear us describe as a bad thing.
While the new roof gives the RF a look quite distinct from that of its soft top line mate, the two cars are the same underneath. That a 2.0L engine that sends 155 hp and 148 lb-ft of torque to the rear wheels through a choice of six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
The transformation from soft to hard roof adds 56 kg with the stickshift, and 53 kg with the automatic, and Mazda engineers only had to steal three litres of cargo volume to make the metal roof fit between the seats and trunk when folded.
Where the soft top is offered in a trio of trims -- GX, GS and GT ($31,900, $35,800 and $39,200 respectively) -- the RF comes in GS and GT versions only and adds $3,000 to the price of those two trims.
Standard kit includes power side mirrors, auto-levelling LED headlights, rear window defroster, six-speaker stereo, Bluetooth, air conditioning, power windows, cloth seats with manual adjustment, 16-inch wheels and tires, tire pressure monitoring and a tire repair kit.
GS models add a limited slip differential, sport suspension, 17-inch wheels, rain-sensing wipers, Mazda Connect with touchscreen display, navigation, satellite radio, leather-trimmed steering wheel, shifter and parking brake, blind spot monitoring and rear cross traffic alert. A GS Sport package adds Brembo brakes, dark-finish wheels and heated Recaro leather seats.
Finally, GT models get auto-dimming rearview and driver's side mirrors, automatic high beams, nine-speaker stereo, automatic climate control and leather seats.
GT RF models can be optioned with a Grand Sport Package that brings Brembo brakes and dark-finish wheels from the GS soft top's sport package, along with leather seats and a piano black top.
Fuel consumption estimates are 8.9/7.1 L/100 km (city/highway) with the manual transmission, and 9.0/6.7 with the automatic.