Sexiest Miata is more than just a seasonal convertible

Forty-six degrees is not convertible weather. Unless the sun is out in March in Chicago. Such a bright appearance after such a gray season provokes people to wear shorts, drink early, smile. Or to put the top down at 70 mph with the heat on low and cozy up in the new hardtop Mazda Miata. The MX-5 RF is more than just cozy; it is an evolution of the world’s best-selling roadster that is as welcome as the spring sun.

Since 1989 the beloved two-seater has charmed drivers with its direct feel, peerless handling and perfect balance of fun and affordability. Prior to the fourth generation launched for model year 2016, the Miata was also noisy, could be rough depending on the road, and lacked technological conveniences. It was a seasonal car, not quite refined enough to hang with the dressier, more expensive roadsters. Until the black-tie affair known as the MX-5 RF.

Mazda channeled Porsche with the latest iteration of its hardtop RF, which stands for retractable fastback. The Targa-style roof is made of four parts. The rear part, which maintains the roof line sloping down into the trunk, raises up to swallow the first and second parts of the roof, as well as the rear window, which all collapse into the convertible well; then the rear part resumes its position, so that the air flows more smoothly over the windshield and down the tail. Previous hardtops used to fold into the space between the headrests and trunk, so the rear was flat.

There is less wind noise with the top down, and less road noise with it up. The top goes down in about 13 seconds at speeds under 6 mph. The low speed is probably a good thing, because we and our passengers were compelled to watch the mechanical shuffling of the deck. Despite the wizardry, the trunk houses the same 4.6 cubic feet as the soft top, enough for two carry-ons for the weekend getaway.