We’ve grown used to giving couched verdicts on sports cars, sometimes weighing progress in one direction against compromise in another. Not so here.

There isn’t a single area in which this new Mazda MX-5 fails to surpass its predecessor. It’s shorter, lighter, more spacious and better laid out. It’s sharper-looking but still disarming and distinctive. It’s faster, more frugal and even more vibrant and engaging to drive.

An outstanding and usable sports car at an outstanding price

All that, and yet the MX-5 is still every inch the same zesty and inimitable car that it was. Its character hasn’t altered at all.

There’s no five-star rating, reflecting the fact that the 1.5-litre mid-spec model tested didn’t quite feel like the definitive version. Most modern sporting tastes will crave a bit more performance than it offers. The 2.0-litre model provides that, as well as even greater handling panache.

And yet the 1.5 has an authenticity that honours the original MX-5. So just pay your money, take your choice and enjoy a far better driver’s car than you’d believe £20,000 could secure.