We drove the newest version of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 in Spain earlier this year, but that pre-production prototype was a right-hand drive Japanese version with a 129-horsepower, 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine. Since then we've been aching to drive the U.S. spec version with its 2.0-liter, 155-horsepower 4-cylinder.

Now, we finally have, and we can say this: The new 4th-generation 2016 Mazda MX-5 is the best one yet. It remains the lightweight, responsive, quick, nimble, and fun roadster you've come to love. What puts it over the top is the new refinement that enhances the driving experience without taking anything away from its fun-to-drive personality.

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Relaxed composure

Simply driving the new MX-5 around town was an eye opener. The slightly nervous, jittery feel of the previous MX5-5 is gone, replaced with a more relaxed composure on the highway thanks in some part to the tiniest dead spot in the middle of the steering. The comfortable and modern new interior had plenty of room for my 6-foot-2-inch frame, and the controls, surfaces, design and materials are all first rate. I had plenty of headroom with the top up, and this is the first MX-5 I've driven where I didn't have to scrunch down a bit so I wasn't staring at the windshield header. Mazda says it designed the car around the driver, and it shows.

When I got to my favorite mountain road, I got to fall in love with the Mazda MX-5 all over again. The new 4-cylinder's song is more subdued and refined, but there's still plenty of power, the clutch and shifter are simply divine in their operation, and the combination meant I never lacked for oomph. The steering felt spot-on in corners, building effort gradually, and communicating exactly what the front tires were up to at any given time.

Also: Kelley Blue Book Best Buy Awards of 2015

Responsive handling

The firm and sporty suspension makes the car fun, but it still has enough compliance to absorb mid-corner dips and bumps without upsetting the balance. It's tossable and stable on quick left-right transitions thanks to its low weight, but it's still easy to playfully kick out the rear end if you want to.

The smile never left my face.

Put simply, 2016 Mazda MX-5 is as much a joy to drive as the MX-5 -- or Miata -- has ever been. Light, nimble, and seemingly balanced on the head of a pin, it's exactly what sports car enthusiasts will want it to be. 

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