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This is the new MX-5, due on the roads next summer. We don’t need to explain what MX-5s have been all about for this past quarter century. So let’s get straight onto what makes this one more of an MX-5 than ever.

The designers say the proportions have been framed to flatter the people inside it. The sitting position is further back and lower. The shovel front end is sharp and far more aggressive, its headlights seeming to have been slashed out of the bumper. Two new lines peel back across the bonnet towards the screen pillars. The rear arches swell out in a way that makes the tail taper and look even shorter.

Its actual lines and forms are quite a departure from the previous generations. But their spirit is exactly the same: desirable but simple, a shape that should be eloquent about the simple fun of driving the thing. There’s a newfound feistiness to the design, emphasised by slashes and sharp muscle lines. The aggression offsets the smaller size – to give you an idea how small, this car is on 16-inch wheels.

The cabin blurs the visual boundary between what’s inside and what’s outside, by wrapping the door colour wraps over into the interior. The big tacho takes centre stage. To avoid the traditional convertible hair muss, the windscreen, quarter windows and cockpit were shaped to smooth the airflow at speed when the roof’s down.

As to the way it goes down the road, it’s engineered to provide a greater dose of that MX-5 speciality: sharp reactions and a transparent connection between you and the road. People who’ve driven prototypes say it combines  even more agility than before, with a more suppler ride. This should help it cope with our trademarked Great British Rubbish Tarmac. Unfortunately these people work for Mazda so are biased. We’ll have to see for ourselves next year.

Under the lowered bonnet, there’s no turbo to be seen. Engines are from Mazda’s quick-responding high-revving SkyActiv high-compression petrol line. Strangely the company won’t officially say even the capacity yet. But we gather the sizes won’t actually change from where they are in the Mazda3, at 1.5-litres and 2.0-litres. They have been modified to run longitudinally, but the power probably won’t change, so that’s 165bhp for the 2.0.

That’s very much the same power as the MX-5 has now, but it’s 10 percent lighter so the 0-62mph time should come down to the low-sevens.

Yes, to make sure the engine and steering’s efforts aren’t wasted, it’s lighter. The drop is 100kg or so, which means it’ll be just about a neat tonne. In part its lightness stems from the fact there’s less of it: it’s 105mm shorter, as well as lower. The centre of gravity has dropped, and the body uses a high proportion of aluminium at either end so it’ll be keen to change direction.

Suspension is multi-link at the back and aluminium double wishbones at the front. All very much a sports-car layout. To keep the driveline’s responses rigid and precise, the diff housing at the rear is rigidly connected to the six-speed gearbox.

Anyway, a quick reminder of what an MX-5 is and always has been. It’s the simple pleasures, pleasures strong enough to have sold very nearly a million copies over the past quarter-century.

It’s about snaking down a country lane at dusk, smelling the tress and grass. About the instinctive manoeuvrability of a compact two-seater, whether going slowly or blatting through a favourite roundabout with a cheeky little drift. The feeling of cogs meshing in a short-throw gearbox. About the fun of throwing the roof back without waiting for some cumbersome mechanical contraption to do the job for you. And of sneaking through town, catching a reflection of yourself in a plate-glass window. At an attainable price. Fancy all that? Think this new MX-5 might make the grade? Comments below.

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