• Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
If you follow along with our long-term vehicles, you know that we currently have a 2016 Miata Club in the fleet. It's a Miata that has every sporty bit available installed, but there are other ways to spec out an MX-5. Just recently, we had the chance to sample the other end of the MX-5 spectrum, the Miata RF Grand Touring. While they're cut from the same sheetmetal, they're surprisingly different cars. So we thought we'd put together a little guide to help you figure out what bodystyle and trim level of Miata is right for you.

How do you like the wind in your hair?

If you're someone who loves soaking up the sun and having the wind blow through your hair, or lack thereof, there's no replacement for the soft-top Miata. The manual folding mechanism will get you out into the fresh air faster than virtually any other convertible, and it will go back up just as easily when the rain comes. Raising and lowering it is quick and easy, and can be done with one hand from the driver's seat. And with the top down, you'll be greeted by breeze from virtually every direction, and an airy, unencumbered feeling that only comes with a full convertible.

However, if you prefer to keep your hair in place and just get some sun, the RF is the better choice. The retractable targa top still descends and reemerges quickly, taking just 13 seconds either way. Keeping the windows up with the targa stowed will allow in plenty of sun, but will keep wind to a minimum. But when the windows drop, you'll still get a healthy dose of airflow. It still doesn't feel as open as the soft top, though, since you'll be able to catch the fastback pillar out of the corner of your eye. But if you value protection over airflow, that won't be an issue.

  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale


Does your Miata need to be a daily driver and occasional road tripper?

While many Miatas will be weekend toys, one of the appealing things about them is that they're reliable enough and have just enough cargo space that they can serve as an everyday vehicle. For people who want to use a Miata as a daily commuter, and even take it on road trips, we would recommend an RF with the Grand Touring trim, as seen above. Although it still isn't a quiet car in the grand scheme of things, the RF's solid top makes it more livable for highway stints both short and long.

The Grand Touring trim comes recommended for a couple of reasons. Foremost is the more forgiving suspension. It dampens bumps admirably, while still keeping the car tossable and fun. The Grand Touring also provides niceties that are optional or unavailable on lower Miata trims. Among those features are standard navigation, heated seats, leather, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, and universal garage door opener.

Are you a weekend autocross warrior?

If you care about performance over anything else, the traditional soft top Miata in Club trim is the car for you. While the RF Club is equipped just like the soft top, you'll save about 100 pounds in weight by picking the canvas roof version. The Club trim is also a necessity, as it includes firmer springs and Bilstein shocks, and the all-important mechanical limited slip differential.

  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale
  • Image Credit: Joel Stocksdale


Opting for the Club trim also offers the optional Brembo and BBS package. For $3,400, it adds beautiful forged, 17-inch BBS mesh wheels, side skirts, rear bumper extension, and Brembo front brakes. Our long-term Miata has the package, and it looks stellar. That extra braking performance could make a difference at a track or autocross course.

Are you on a budget?

Not everyone is going to have the scratch to spec out a Miata with all of the goodies. Fortunately, the base Sport soft-top is loads of fun, and starts at $25,790. For that money, you'll get the same 155-horsepower engine and super-slick gearbox as every other trim level. The suspension is the same as the Grand Touring, so it should be just as comfortable over ruts and imperfections. You'll also be treated to basic amenities such as air conditioning, USB- and Bluetooth-connected stereo, cruise control, and leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter.

Now you there are a couple of things you don't get with the base Sport model, but they're nothing to lose sleep over. The most notable omission is the lack of a limited slip differential, which is only available on the manual-transmission Club and can't be optioned in the Sport or Grand Touring trims. Unless you're the hardcore track enthusiast mentioned above, you likely won't miss it.

The Club model's appearance package also isn't included, but it is an extra-cost option. We like the way it looks on our Club long-termer, but if skipping it makes the Miata fit in your budget, do it. Besides, you can at least get the awesome Ceramic Metallic paint found on our Club without paying anything extra.

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