2017 Play Car of the Year: Mazda MX-5 Miata

2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Cars.com photo by Evan Sears

If you want a car that's fun to drive, you have many choices, but few come close to the MX-5, better known as the Miata. You'll see its mix of a front engine with rear-wheel drive and balanced weight distribution elsewhere, but few cars of that description manage to be as fun in everyday driving as the Miata is. Light weight and excellent feedback give it an involving character that heavier models don't match. Combine that with the inherent fun of a convertible and you have a singular entity — an affordable one — even in today's crowded market.

Many aspects make the Miata a triumph, starting with an affordable price that gets you everything that makes a Miata fun to drive. The middle trim level, Club, has a sport suspension with Bilstein shock absorbers and a limited-slip differential, but you're not giving up much without them. Even the optional six-speed automatic transmission performs very well, but if you're not getting the manual, you ought to rethink your life and how you live it. The 2016 redesign brought a substantially lighter and smaller but roomier car with a blissfully easily operated manual top. The Miata's strengths seem countless.