As you drive off, you immediately feel more secure than in the previous Mazda MX-5 because this is clearly a stronger and more substantial car. But existing owners will appreciate the similarities, too, such as the eagerness of the engine and steering and the precision of the gearbox.

As ever, the Mazda demands intimate interaction right from the off. Curiously, it sounds very much like the old car, too, with the same tuneless mechanical-sounding engine note – but at least the exhaust burble from the two chunky tailpipes is engagingly sporty.

Matt Prior

Matt Prior

Road test editor
The MX-5 needs to be stretched, but there's a laudable amount of fun in doing so

The 2.0-litre is a 16-valve unit with 158bhp and it requires considerable stoking if you want to make rapid progress, even after the stronger bottom end that was included as part of the 2009 changes.

That’s no bad thing, but at times it feels flat lower down the rev range, and on hills and motorways it could use a little more torque.

At the top end, the engine feels nicely fluid, even on a test car with barely 3000 miles on the odometer. It’s here that you learn to work the motor hard, holding on to the lower gears and downshifting with purpose to stay in the power band, which is roughly the top 2000rpm.

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Despite a crisp throttle response that allows blipped downshifts and heel-and-toeing, there are times when the engine seems to have a lethargic flywheel and the revs die out too easily. We were surprised by our 0-60mph time of 7.1sec, as the MX-5 never feels that brisk.

The smaller 125bhp 1.8-litre engine is also fine: smooth, noisy enough when required, mute otherwise. But its power-to-weight ratio of 109bhp per tonne isn’t much. Anyone hoping to get the best out of the MX-5 should opt for the stronger 158bhp variant and enjoy the extra 16lb ft of torque.

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