The latest generation Mazda MX-5 has finally gained its hard top variation with the innovative fixed fastback RF. In our test drive this week with it we find that it brings a new sense of style to the roadster that has always won our hearts on the back roads.

It’s not a true hard top convertible in the traditional sense. Instead the Mazda MX-5 RF is more of a retractable Targa top. This means the sexy rear fastback portion of the roofline doesn’t itself ever fold away, just the center section over its occupants.

In thirteen seconds the power operated symphony starts with the rear section lifting up high. The center section and rear window glass then fold neatly down under with the rear section lowering back down into place.

What you end up with is a style and look much like when the top is up. The air is open above you and air can flow through the rear section which is managed with a convertible style wind deflector. Because the rear section is not a roof structure, you still have the flexible nature of a traditional convertible.

From a styling standpoint, the top is well integrated and looks well sorted from most angles. The rear deck extends up to the vertical rear glass instead of a hatch glass format. The trunk area remains in tact with the top up or down, a bonus.

Inside the cockpit, the MX-5 RF retains all the good and bad of the convertible version. Good points are eye catching design and quality materials. Low points are ergonomic design, lack of sensible storage options, and an exasperatingly difficult infotainment system.

With the top stowed, wind noise is a bit harsher than in the traditional convertible as the rear structure grabs the airflow and causes a good amount of buffeting and drag. When it’s up, the cabin is however much quieter than in the soft top.

The good news is that when you begin to drive the MX-5 RF on a back road, you discover the extra 100 or so pounds added by the roof structure didn’t hurt the experience too much. It’s 155 horsepower 2.0 liter engine moves is with verve and a sense of willingness, always a pleasure to row through the gears.

Handling remains best in class with a sense of balance and precision, a light on its feet tossableness that is all but lost in today’s automotive field. It may not be the fastest or most aggressive sports car out there but it is certainly one of the most fun and rewarding.

Our Grand Touring tester rang in at $33,885 with the Club model starting a few ticks less at $31,555. Choosing the RF in our opinion is purely a styling choice as it offers no significant structural or practical differences over the soft top. Either way, the Mazda MX-5 remains a solid value in spite of its minor defects regardless.