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What’s the decisive factor when contemplating buying a convertible? Fun. While it’s a simplistic approach to buying a car, it remains a guideline for folks who relish driving with the top down, wind in their face, and taking meaningless drives just for the heck of it.

One of the standard bearers for a long time in the convertible category has been the Mazda Miata. It’s certainly not the most practical purchase because it’s tiny, not extremely powerful, provides inadequate trunk space, and is rather noisy at higher speeds.

However, let’s not forget the original premise. Does the attractively built, two-seat Miata deliver fun? Absolutely. Even a normally mundane drive from work to home, a no frills journey in mild rush-hour traffic, reminded me of why people love this little car. The drive was enjoyable, a rarity for the daily commute.

The precise handling that the rear-wheel Miata provides is first rate. With a 13-foot measurement from end to end, a height of just 49 inches, and weighing a miniscule 2,500 pounds, the 2012 Mazda Miata seemingly hugs the ground and provides the driver with a unique feeling of being totally in control in all situations.

The first commute home provided the initial reminder of total control, while a twisty, challenging country road was why Miata lovers really savor this tiny vehicle. With the top down on a sun-drenched Saturday, the Miata hugged the road like it had maneuvered this stretch of pavement hundreds of times before. It was communicative steering at its finest, offering instant feedback through every twist and turn.

Available with either a removable soft top or power-retractable hardtop, the Miata has been around for more than two decades, which is a nice testament to its longevity. And right now, the field of competitors isn’t all that strong.

Gone are the Honda S2000, the Pontiac Solstice and the Saturn Sky, all rather petite convertibles. Vehicles like the Porsche Boxer, Mustang and BMW Z4 are more high-powered, larger convertibles with more pizzazz, yet a higher sticker price as well.

Offered in four trim models, the Miata runs $23,470 for the Sport model and climbs to $31,225 for the Special Edition, which was unveiled last year. Frankly, for the additional price, I’m not sure it’s that “special.”

The only thing new with the 2012 models is the addition of both stability and traction control as standard features.

All four Miata trims have the same, 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine that produces 167 horsepower. Due to its light weight, the engine provides a lot more zip than expected, and will travel 0-60 mph in a reasonably quick 6.9 seconds.

The Miata offers above-average power and even provides solid room and comfort for such a tiny convertible. It’s a no-frills interior with gauges very legible and user-friendly controls. One knock is the radio sound quality is marginal, and gets much worse in convertible mode.

Although there’s nothing stunning about the Miata, it remains one of the great roadsters, providing a mix of excitement, affordable and handling – which combines to make it a quintessential fun car to drive.

2012 Mazda Miata Convertible

  • Performance: 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder, 167 horsepower
  • Mileage estimate: 21-28 mpg
  • Price: $23,470 to $31,225
  • Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles; drivetrain 5 years/60,000 miles; roadside assistance 3 years/36,000
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