I traded in a 2017 Mazda 3 GT manual for a 2017 Miata GT automatic for a daily driver. Here's the thing. The Miata with the automatic is the better car. It seems to be a more fully realized concept. The Mazda 3 with the manual is excellent but rides rougher and needs slightly better brakes. I just spent a week with a 2018 manual Miata and it was wonderful right up to the point it began to drive me bats**t crazy. 3000 rpm at 70 mph with the manual for more than 5 minutes was just to much to take. The automatic is turning 2150 or so and just that alone makes the auto worth it. I will say it takes a little learning to use the manual mode paddle shifters but not a lot. So after 45 years of manual transmissions starting with a 68 Mustang 289, then a 73 240Z, then a 75 914, then 4 speed Pinto, then a beaten up Lancia Beat Coupe, then 8 more cars including an 02 WRX wagon and ending with the Mazda 3 GT I've converted to a car that most folks swear needs to be driven with a manual. Trust me on this, it doesn't. (If you're not convinced then take a manual Miata out on the highway and cruise for 10 miles. Yikes!!)
The MX-5 RF hearkens back to the days of the small "barchetti" roadsters. Incredible road feel and handling in a package that, in my opinion, is one of the most beautiful on the road today. Let's be clear: this car isn't fast but (to make the distinction), it's quick . I've been toying with the idea of putting the new Edelbrock blower in the car but every time I drive it, I talk myself out of it; the car is just so damn much fun to drive, just the way it is. I'm currently getting an average of 33.8 mpg (mostly highway) and with that kind of mileage, using 93 octane fuel doesn't hurt. In comparison to my two most recent sports cars, both BMW Z4s, I would suggest it is, far and away, more fun to drive. And to have bought this car for only ~$33K...I couldn't ask for more. I just love this baby!
I only been driving my Miata RF for a few weeks. Can't speak much for its long-term reliability or value. But I can tell you that I have never enjoyed driving as much!! This car does not have to be a “fun car to drive on weekends." It is luxurious enough and comfortable enough for me to use as my every day source of transportation. Absolute loving it. Zoom-Zoom.