Entry Price: $24,915

Price as Tested: $32,735

This week, we drive the 2017 Mazda Miata MX-5, a rear-drive sports roadster that starts at just $24,915 for a soft top two-seat roadster. Now in its fourth generation and built in Hiroshima, Japan, MX-5 competes against the likes of Mini Cooper, Toyota 86 (Former Scion FR-S) and Subaru BRZ, to name a few. However, being that Miata has been around now for 28 years, it continues its unparalleled reign as the most popular little sports car in America.

Thanks to affordability, return on investment and performance, Miata MX-5 in either soft top or retractable fastback (RF) is still the “in” car for the younger demographic although its low entry price and sporty nature also attracts numerous baby boomers, too.

Through the years, Miata became “the affordable sports car of choice” for SCCA club road racing competitors. The Miata was so popular it not only became a fixture at SCCA events it evolved into a “Spec Miata” competition class where Miata MX-5s compete against each other on a weekly basis. Today, it’s still SCCA’s largest and most popular amateur racing class and is the main reason the Miata MX-5 Club RF model evolved so nicely.

Our tester came delivered in Club RF dress featuring the power retractable hardtop that quickly withdraws into its own storage compartment. With a base of $31,555, our MX-5 Club RF came standard with near every amenity Miata offers sans a few important options. The main option on our tester is a $3,400 Brembo Brake Package, which adds race proven Brembo four wheel disc brakes and rotors, special red calipers with Brembo identification, BBS 17-inch forged dark alloy wheels, and an advanced keyless entry system. It’s an expensive option, but if you want the very best in slow down technology, Brembo is the real deal.

An interior package for $425 adds nice alloy pedals, anodized red oil filler cap and door sill trim plates. Standard on the Club RF is an appearance package featuring a front air dam, rear spoiler, rear bumper skirt and side sill extensions.

When it comes to performance, Mazda’s secret to success lies in its Skyactiv technology that emphasizes everything working in unison for optimal performance. Specifically, our Miata came with a 2.0-liter four that generates just 155-horsepower and 148 lb. ft. of torque. These days, where 600-horsepower high dollar sports cars roam, MX-5 may be looked on as “puny” when compared to the others, but a curb weight of less than 2,500 pounds turns Miata’s formula for performance into a positive.

Specifically, Miata MX-5 is a result of incorporating all of the 155 ponies to its max by relying on lightweight suspension underpinnings, perfect 50/50 front to rear weight ratio and proper six-speed gearing to impress most every performance driving enthusiast. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed our week-long review of the MX-5 and note that a paddle shift automatic is available for those who don’t like shifting.

On the road, Mazda Miata is so much fun to drive. It sits low to the ground and some of MX-5s world class handling comes thanks to traction hungry 17-inch Bridgestone Potenza high performance tires. Even when power is needed to merge or pass, the little 2.0-liter four cylinder is up to the task, taking advantage of a higher compression ratio (13 to 1) and its high-rev capabilities. The transmission gearing is designed for spirited acceleration and expect zero to 60 mph in a quick 6.5-seconds range.

Additionally, the “little engine” pays dividends at the gas pump as 26 city and 33 highway EPA numbers are decent for a lightweight sports car. If you order the automatic transmission, EPA numbers are 26 city and 36 highway, better than the manual.

As noted before in my reviews of low to the ground smaller cars, overall safety should always be addressed. Low slung sports cars all do fairly well in controlled crash tests, usually in comparison to each other or hitting standing objects. Still, be aware that very small vehicles have inbred negatives, especially when involved in “real world” accidents and especially the side impact collisions with larger cars/trucks.

So, in summary, why is this vehicle so popular you might ask? It has to do with fun to drive parameters and the overall legend of Miata. All Miata MX-5s deliver on the Mazda promise of mechanical integrity and come delivered with all expected safety equipment sans an unavailable rear view safety camera. As for interior notables, a standard Bose nine-speaker stereo system with all the high-tech capabilities is standard fare, as are air conditioning, SiriusXM satellite, push button start, all the powers and comfortable seating.

Important numbers include a wheelbase of 90.9-inches, 2,445 lb. curb weight, 5.3-inch ground clearance, 4.5-cu. ft. of cargo space and a 11.9-gallon fuel tank.

Few cars on the road today offer the driving excitement of the Miata MX-5 at such a low entry price. Your Mazda dealer is waiting for you to come in and drive one.

Likes: Great handler, brakes, fun factor, good looks.

Dislikes: No rear safety camera, premium fuel necessary due to high compression.

— Greg Zyla writes weekly for More Content Now and other Gatehouse Media publications.