What is it?
Sat in Mazda's latest attempt to spruce up the MX-5, it's virtually impossible not to think what might have been.
As well as dangling the prospect of a 200bhp GT version in front of our noses six months ago (before snatching it back again), there was also once the possibility that 2013 might be the year in which the world's best selling roadster was replaced by its oft-mentioned successor.
It's a car that, if Mazda's rumour mill is to be believed, will be smaller, lighter and powered by a dinky, all-new turbocharged engine.
Unfortunately, the SkyActiv MX-5 has disappeared into the murk of extended development. We don't expect to see it resurface for at least another year or two, and that means the current model – which has been around since 2006 – will have to carry on for a while longer yet.
As such, Mazda has rummaged around its collective imagination, and introduced a few features intended to help it limp over the life-cycle finish line.
What is it like?
The most noticeable item on the agenda – aside from the mild change in expression afforded by a new grille, bumper and chin spoiler – is probably the 5.8-inch infotainment touchscreen, which has been assimilated into the elderly dash like an iPad filed on a library shelf.
Presumably so that it doesn’t stand out too crudely from its seven-year-old backdrop, Mazda has opted to have the guts of the system powered by TomTom, a decision which serves up an interface so old fashioned and sluggardly, it may as well have 'Powered by Pentium' plastered on it.
Nevertheless this is the MX-5's first built-in sat-nav, and it works, and that will likely be sufficient for most buyers to live with the £600 premium Mazda is asking for the new Sport Tech Nav trim.
Beneath it comes an unaltered 158bhp 2.0-litre petrol engine with the daintily wonderful six-speed manual gearbox. It's good that interacting with the latter is so pleasurable, because even with a modified throttle intended to deliver better response, the noisy four-pot is a slovenly unit to unwind without wanting to try too hard with your right foot.
Most buyers will live with that too, because elsewhere, when it counts, the MX-5 is still a masterly interpreter of enthusiastic driver inputs.
While never being quite as lithesome as it should be due to its middle-age spread, the car's rewarding rear-drive dynamic is never less than knowable at its modest limits – and biddable well beyond them – thanks to the wonderfully intuitive weighting of its controls (including a braking system that has been optimized for improved load distribution) and a confidence-inspiring sense of chassis balance.
Should I buy one?
Despite obvious limitations in refinement (together, road and engine noise qualify as a cacophony) and a gamboling ride quality, the aging third generation car is never less than a hoot to spend time in or exploit.
That rare attribute needs no updating, and it remains the best reason for becoming Mazda’s umpteenth customer before it finally gets round to downsizing the game plan.
Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe Sport Tech Nav
Price £23,295; 0-62mph 7.9sec; Top speed 136mph; Economy 36.2mpg; CO2 181g/km; Kerb weight 1248kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1999cc, petrol; Power 158bhp at 7000rpm; Torque 138lb ft at 5000rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual