Like nothing you’ve ever driven. The MX-5 has been around since the late 1980s, and it remains an object lesson in driving dynamics. Modeled on post-war British roadsters from Lotus and Austin, it’s still the closest thing to a pure driving experience on sale in the United States. You’ll need to look at a British import like a Caterham or Ariel to find a car with equally instant responses.

On a good road, this compact roadster will allow even an old cynic to rediscover their long-lost love of driving. The steering is direct, the handling is a joy, the grip (especially with the available limited-slip rear diff) is plentiful, and the 50/50 weight distribution ensures it’s perfectly planted on the road. For keen drivers, nothing will put a bigger smile on your face, though the rear-wheel-drive configuration requires a degree of caution on wet bends. New for 2022, brake-based torque vectoring helps to keep the car’s lateral weight stable in fast or tight turns, adding to a sense that everything is telepathically connected to your fingertips.

Even smaller than it looks. Two-seater roadsters aren’t renowned for their practicality, and this certainly isn’t a good choice if you spend your weekends buying antiques or going on road trips. The cabin’s compact dimensions will leave taller people wishing they could saw off their extremities, while the RF hardtop adds to the general sense of claustrophobia. Your luggage will feel the same, crammed into a trunk measuring just 4.6 cubic feet, and it’s not as if the cabin compensates with loads of storage.

On the upside, everything’s bolted together with the symmetrical shut lines and reassuring solidity you’d expect from a mainstream manufacturer with stated ambitions to become a premium marque in the future. Mazda’s roadster is also strikingly handsome, with its swooping hood and bulbous rear. On bigger 17-inch wheels, it has the poised and lithe appearance of a car that loves being thrashed across its 7,200 rpm rev range.

Not the last word in luxury. The ride is pretty decent considering that short wheelbase, but we’d recommend choosing the RF hardtop over the fabric soft-top alternative, which allows too much noise to penetrate. At least it can be dropped with one arm, though the RF’s electrically retractable Targa top is simpler still and offers greater all-year useability.

Roadsters are all about the sheer joy of driving, which is why infotainment is never a strong suit. In the MX-5, you get a seven-inch touchscreen with a rotary dial, operating a basic system that does at least include smartphone mirroring and Bluetooth. By the time you reach mid-level Club trim, you’re able to enjoy a nine-speaker Bose stereo and satellite radio through the headrest speakers. Flagship Grand Touring trim weighs in at just under $40,000 with the hardtop, whereas the soft-top-only Club will set you back $31,815.

Questionable safety. In the MX-5’s Japanese and European heartlands, it’s surrounded by hatchbacks and sedans. It doesn’t feel quite as dwarfed as it does in America, where trucks and SUVs quite literally loom large. It can feel daunting driving a car so low to the road, though visibility is excellent because everything is taller than you – and therefore impossible to miss.

You’d hope the MX-5 would stand up for itself in a fender-bender, but we don’t know how safe it is because official crash testing hasn’t been carried out on this latest model. At least it has LED exterior lights, automatic emergency braking, blind-spot monitoring, and lane departure warnings, while Grand Touring models also receive automatic high beams and adaptive headlights.

Final thoughts. Despite recent price increases, the MX-5 remains an affordable route to rediscovering the joy of motoring. Its point-and-squirt handling and instantly responsive steering will impress anyone who experiences them, while the six-speed manual gearbox is one of the best ever made. We actually prefer it to the automatic because the movement of the clutch pedal and gear lever are perfectly synchronized.

The Miata is far better as a second car than a main vehicle. The lack of internal and external storage cripples its practicality, while question marks over safety could deter people from making it their daily driver. It’s better suited to weekend blasts down country roads than threading through inner-city traffic, and the relative lack of cutting-edge technology is also disappointing. Then again, there are plenty of bigger vehicles that prioritize comfort over driving pleasure. The Miata is the other way around.

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