Tom Heath
Tom Heath UberDork
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

When we got a chance to try the power-retractable hardtop version of Mazda's neo-classic MX-5, we were curious to see how it would feel compared to other variations of the new MX-5 platform.

The MS-R configuration of the car was awfully nice thanks to its more athletic suspension and exclusion of luxury options, Perhaps this is why we were concerned about the effect a motorized retractable hardtop would have on our beloved little roadster. The NC-chassis MX-5 was already much bigger and heavier than the Miatas we fell in love with; would this extra weight be the straw breaking our favorite camel's back?

Before our test drive, we gave the car a thorough inspection. It was easy to appreciate the simple and clean profile that the top created. We watched the top go up and down repeatedly, charmed by the clockwork of each 12-second cycle. No matter what it weighed, it was pretty slick engineering.

As you'd expect, the hardtop does wonders for quibbles like road noise and A/C efficiency, but the story here is in the driving.

Mazda engineers must be pretty sharp folks. After adding the 80 or so pounds of hardtop hardware, they revised the suspension mojo to accomodate the heft. Coupled with the rigidity of a roof structure, the result makes for a better feel than we were expecting. Dynamically, the car performed well enough to leave an impression; it wasn't a night-and-day improvement, but the PRHT felt at least as good as the last convertible MX-5 we'd driven.

If you've got your eyes on a national trophy, you're probably better off with the soft top. The hardtop version is a few ticks slower in measured acceleration, and ultimately it can't overcome its weight. With that said, we wouldn't criticize anyone for using a PHRT car in a sporting role.

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