Miatas are like puppies, only better; unlike puppies, Miatas never grow out of their adorable phase. Plus, Miatas never get cranky when they're hungry. They never bark, poop or shed. And with stellar reliability ratings, only rarely do they need attention from the car vet. You get the point: The Miata is pure joie de vivre.

As cute as the Miata is, it has never looked terribly macho. But with its wide stance and flared fenders, and in the new mid-grade Club trim level with black headlamp details, black mirrors and sexy black wheels, it is far from effeminate. My Club model tester has a black soft-top. The top-tier Grand Touring trim level is available with a folding hardtop that adds even more presence to the diminutive roadster.

Particularly in Grand Touring trim, the Miata has never been more comfortable. But even the Club model is equipped with black-cloth sport seats with red stitching, air conditioning, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, power accessories (windows, locks, mirrors) and a manual soft-top that can be opened with a flick of the wrist (getting it back up requires more dexterity but is no more complicated). All controls are in exactly the right place, making adjustments to stereo, climate and other controls quick and easy. While the rather dated interior design could benefit from a navigation screen to look more current, we enjoy this car's simplicity.

Storage space is limited, naturally, but the trunk is surprisingly luggage-friendly, certainly large enough for a small cooler and some shopping bags for a picnic lunch for two.

Just don't forget the sunscreen, because you won't want to put the top up; the inextricable thrill of wind rushing through your hair is one of the ways the 167-horsepower Miata makes up for not being as powerful as, say, a Ford Mustang convertible. On the flip side, the Miata weighs practically nothing, affording it incredible handling, particularly in the Club trim, with its upgraded suspension. Thanks to a light clutch, the stubby manual shifter is still a delight, even in heavy traffic. An automatic is available, too, but it's a killjoy. Best of all, it is fuel-efficient, with combined Environmental Protection Agency miles-per-gallon ratings in the mid-20s. I have seen 22 mpg overall -- not bad for a sports car.

Is the Miata a family hauler? Of course not. Can you pick up your brother-in-law from the airport in it? Maybe if he packs light. The 2013 Mazda Miata is best as a second or third car, but it's the kind of car you find yourself making many excuses to drive, even if it means you have to make two trips to the grocery store.

author photo

Steve Siler is a freelance automotive journalist and presenter based in Los Angeles, California. Known for his ability to make automotive subjects accessible to both enthusiast and non-enthusiast audiences, Siler has contributed to dozens of lifestyle and enthusiast publications, including The Robb Report, Automobile Magazine, Edmunds.com and Car and Driver Magazine.

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