Strip away all the technological complications of a modern car—and the weight that comes with it—and add in a playfully tuned rear-wheel-drive chassis, a rev-happy engine, and a crisp-shifting manual transmission, and you have a recipe for driving enjoyment that’s refreshingly pure. The Mazda MX-5 Miata offers precisely that. Available as either the classic softtop convertible or the retractable-targa-top RF model, the Miata holds a special place in the hearts of driving enthusiasts like us for its simple, back-to-basics ethos. It’s not a practical buy—don’t expect vast cargo space in the Miata’s small trunk—but we can’t keep ourselves from daydreaming about riding off into the sunset in this 10 Best-award-winning gem.
What’s New for 2018?
A number of enhancements mark 2018 for Mazda’s halo sports car. Softtop models are now available with a dark-red cloth top, a dark-brown leather interior, and four new paint colors: Soul Red Crystal, Machine Gray Metallic, Snowflake White Pearl Mica, and Eternal Blue Mica. The hardtop RF model also can be painted in the new red, white, and blue colors. Both models benefit from an improvement in standard features; a 7.0-inch infotainment display with rotary controller, HD radio compatibility, and a proximity key with push-button start are all gratis regardless of trim or model, and Club trims now have heated seats as standard. The softtop roadster receives a retuned rear suspension and a revised power-steering system; both models have redesigned sun visors.
What Was New for 2017?
The RF (that’s Retractable Fastback) joined the softtop roadster in the fourth-generation Miata lineup, bringing with it a power-operated, coupe-mimicking hard roof that lowers into the area behind the seats, along with extra refinements. Some of the RF’s enhancements made their way into the 2017 roadster, namely its quieter manual transmission, retuned steering, and full-color driver-information display in the gauge cluster.
Trims and Options We’d Choose
Choosing between hardtop and soft top models is not a decision we’d be able to make easily, since both have their benefits and drawbacks. We’d suggest the Club trim, since it features a host of performance upgrades versus the base model that give the Miata even more capability, such as:
• Sport suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers
• Limited-slip differential
• 17-inch wheels and tires
• Front strut-tower brace
Our soft top Miata wears a $30,045 price tag, but for those enamored with the RF’s unique targa-top style, the Club trim carries a $32,800 asking price. We prefer—and highly recommend—the crisp-shifting six-speed manual transmission; a thoroughly competent six-speed automatic is available for an extra $600 in either model.