The Mazda Miata (or MX-5 as it is known to many) is the best selling sports car in history, and for good reason.
Where else can you get such a fantastic combination of top-down fun and driving pleasure, wrapped up in a package that is affordable to buy and maintain?
As you’ll no doubt be aware, there have been four distinct generations of the Miata/MX-5 to date (you can learn more in our Miata buyer’s guide & model history)
On the current generation (ND) you can buy the Miata/MX-5 as a standard convertible/soft top.
However, there is also the option to buy the Miata “RF”, which has a metal roof and different proportions/shape at the rear.
But what does “RF” stand for on the Mazda Miata/MX-5?
“RF” stands for ‘Retractable Fastback’.
In basic terms, this means that an RF Miata/MX-5 has a mechanised, retractable metal roof panel that can be stowed away at the press of a button, creating an open top car.
The amount of “open top space” you get with an RF Miata is very different to the classic, soft-topped cars.
With the RF, there are rear pillars that remain upright while the roof panel retracts, leading to an open roof that is somewhat akin to a ‘T Top’ or Targa Top (like you used to find on cars such as the Nissan 300ZX or Toyota MR2).
The difference in the roof space and visual appearance is clear:
As to which is better? Ultimately this is a question of personal preference.
If you want a sports car that looks more like a muscular coupe, but you also want the ability to enjoy some open roof fun, then the RF is the better choice.
If – on the other hand – you want a soft top or you want the maximum amount of “openness” when driving along with the roof retracted, then you’ll want to pick the ‘classic’ soft top Miata/MX-5. The same goes if you are a purist and want the latest Miata that is closest to the original in terms of principle and design.
Either way, you won’t be disappointed. These are truly superb cars.
One thing to note is that the RF hardtop isn’t really designed to be a structural element that adds a great deal of rigidity (thus improving handling). There is extra weight versus the standard soft top, which offsets any potential rigidity benefits. In other words, don’t expect the RF to handle noticeably better than the soft top (although some reviewers do claim it is the better steer)
To recap, what does RF mean on the Mazda Miata/MX-5?
RF is short for ‘Retractable Fastback’, which is basically the mechanised, retractable metal roof panel that folds back into the rear pillars giving you an open top driving experience. This is as opposed to the ‘classic’ soft top convertible for which the Miata has become so well known.
Make sure you read our MX-5/Miata buyer’s guide and model history here for more information on this legendary car.