Photos: Mazda USA

Damning admission: I’m a huge Miata… excuse me, MX-5… fan. Yes, I know, not exactly what you expect from a lifelong muscle car guy, but if you’ve ever squeezed into the seat of one of these and taken it on track, you’ll understand what I mean.

There’s just something addicting about being in a car that compact, that tight, and that balanced, that makes you smile broader than the silly grille grin on front of this pure roadster. I was once in a group of a dozen or so drivers who were testing several Mazdas on a road course, and we had the chance to put the RX-8, the Speed3 and the MX-5 through their paces. Some of us were excited to drive the RX-8, some wanted to floor the Speed3. After the first few runs, just about everyone had stopped driving those two, and were fighting over the MX-5s. The car just drives that well. And is that fun.

So when I had the chance to test drive the new MX-5 PRHT, with its new power retractible hard top (that’s the PRHT), I jumped on it. Even though I’m a Miata soft top purist, and love the ease of unhooking the clasps, and dropping the rag top down in seconds. The new PRHT is slower to let the sun shine in (yet at 12 seconds, it’s one of the quickest PRHTs), but it does a much better job than the soft top of keeping the road noise level down from “Deafening” to “Tolerable.” And it stores behind the seats, not the trunk, so you don’t lose any of the already tight space in there.

The MX-5 with the hard top up.

But the real reason to own an MX-5 is to drive it, and experience the “oneness of horse and rider” credo that has guided the development of every generation of MX-5 since the beginning. The car is powered by a 2.0L, 16-valve engine that makes 167 horsepower with the short-throw 6-speed. (If for some unexplainable reason you opt for the automatic transmission, you get dinged down to 158 horsepower. You don’t deserve those extra 5 horses…)

If that sounds less than powerful for a sports car, keep in mind that the MX-5 weighs in at a scant 2,447 lbs. for the Sport Edition up to 2,619 lbs. for the Grand Touring with PRHT. You’re getting a pretty good horsepower-to-weight bang for your buck with the MX-5. And considering the Mazda white coats were able to give it a nearly 50:50 front to back weight distribution means this thing corners on a dime, and will give you 9 cents change.

Aluminum pedals

You’d swear the thing has a pivot through the middle like a carousel horse. It’s like a 167 hp skateboard. I found myself looking for excuses to take corners when behind the wheel. “Hmm, instead of that right turn, I’ll just make three lefts…”

Inside the MX-5 keeps it simple. This car is made for pedal-mashing, road-carving, weekend driving, not soft daily strolls down the boulevard. The center stack gives you the info you need, functional more than flashy. There are some luxuries available, though, like keyless entry, cruise control, and a seven-speaker Bose Centerpoint Surround Sound System.

You can get into a Touring model with the PRHT for $27,250. A Grand Touring version with auto tranny is at the top of the scale at $29,760. The one I tested was a “Special Edition” in Velocity Red Mica paint, with special wheels and other touches. It came with a sticker of $31,225. A helluva lot cheaper than therapy. And so much more fun.

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