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If one anecdote can sum up how good the current Mazda MX-5 Miata is, consider the following. Thanks to this job, I drive a lot of press fleet cars–between two and four a month depending on my travel schedule. And during the course of the last year, the little MX-5 has been the only one I’ve just driven around for hours with no other objective than enjoying the experience—supercars included. What makes it even more remarkable is that Mazda hit on this formula 29 years ago.
Three decades is a long time, even in car years. When the first MX-5 (the NA model) went on sale in 1989, it was a remarkable thing, combining the brio of sporty rear-wheel drive European roadsters from the 1960s with something those cars struggled with: reliability. It was small, light, and not very powerful. A 1.6L four-cylinder engine made just 115hp (86kW) and 100ft-lbs (136Nm), and the car ran on 14-inch wheels. But that was more than enough to put a smile on your face the instant you found a corner.