We drove an impressive list of new or significantly updated luxury and performance cars this past year. Many of them approach the cost of a mortgage and the Lamborghini Aventador SV we profiled yesterday costs about a half a million dollars. Among a sea of incredible high-dollar cars, one of the best cars we drove all year was also the cheapest. It's the fourth-generation Mazda Miata and it makes our list of Best Car To Buy finalists.

The case for the Mazda MX-5 Miata

The Miata has always been about light weight and engaging driving dynamics. While it never really lost its way the 25 years since it was introduced, the redesigned 2016 Miata doubled down on its roots. Mazda engineers managed to take 150 pounds out of the already featherweight car.

That lightweight strategy paid off in more ways than one. The new car actually has 12 less horsepower than the outgoing model but it is quicker, accelerating from 0 to 60 mph in six seconds flat, which is about a half-second quicker than the last car. The new 155-horsepower 2.0-liter four-cylinder also delivers 25 percent better fuel economy.

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata

To enthusiasts, though, the extra-sensory handling is the greatest improvement. Drive the Miata on a twisty canyon road and it comes alive. Turn-in response is razor sharp and the car rotates more willingly than ever. It's pure automotive joy. Arguably, the Miata offers more fun pound-for-pound and dollar-for-dollar than any car on the market.

The new Miata is also incredibly friendly as an everyday driver. The top is easy to put up or take down with one hand in about 10 seconds. Ride quality is unmatched by any performance car. It's sedan smooth. Some might complain that the Miata leans noticeably in turns, but lean is feedback and it makes it very easy to feel when the car is about to lose grip.

All these traits make the fourth-generation Miata, ND as it is known, the best Miata ever.

For a deeper dive into the Mazda MX-5 Miata, see our First Drive

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Will it be enough to earn the title Best Car To Buy? We'll name the winner on January 4, along with the winners from our sister sites, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. We'll also reveal the winners in our Driver's Choice awards—as voted by you, our readers—at that time.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow when we make the case for our final nominee, the 2016 Mercedes-AMG GT S.


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