Many modern performance cars need to be pushed to their limits before you can appreciate their brilliance, but with the first-generation MX-5, you can get some kicks just by popping to the shops.

Push a little harder, and the Mazda gives you even more to smile about. The light steering has no vagueness whatsoever. It’s very direct, too, encouraging you to point the car into an apex with so much enthusiasm that the chassis can barely keep up.

That’s due to a suspension set-up that allows for an appreciable amount of body roll. Rather than cling onto a radius with vast reserves of grip, you instead wait for the outer tyres to load up through a turn, and then play with the beautiful balance of the chassis from one corner to the next.

On paper, the engine specs don’t seem very remarkable by modern standards. Set well back under that bonnet is a 114bhp 1.6-litre petrol unit (a more potent 1.8-litre unit was added to the range towards the end of 1993). But then you don’t need much power when you only have 955 kilos to shift.

The numbers are fairly irrelevant, though; all you need to know is that every venture to the red line is accompanied by an addictive induction note. Slot that fantastic gearbox into the next close ratio and you can do it all over again. And again; because the performance is relatively modest, you can really make the most of that engine without the need to venture to the naughty side of the speed limit. In fact, you always feel like you’re going quickly; sitting close to the ground and being exposed on all sides will do that to you.

Which brings us to another MX-5 plus point: the pure joy of driving an open-top car. The pleasure of driving a cabriolet, roof down, on a balmy summer’s evening or a mild, dry day is something that every motoring fan should try to experience at some point in their life.

This car

The MX-5 in these images is part of Mazda UK’s own heritage fleet. It’s an early car from 1990, with a full Mazda service history and just 39,000 miles on the clock, and its specification is totally original.

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