Mazda goes back to basics with the fourth-generation MX-5
Roadster redux The fourth-generation MX-5 is fun to drive but comes with little boot space.PHOTOS: MAZDA

Life reviewed the 1.5-litre manual version of Mazda's MX-5 in February and liked it. Then another invitation to drive the car arrived. Would this be an opportunity to test the beefier 2-litre variant?

But that was not to be. The test fleet had six 1.5-litre cars - four manuals and two automatics.

We rushed for the automatics, but had only two laps around Mazda's Mine (pronounced me-neh) proving ground circuit.

This is our four-minute impression of the car. The fourth-generation MX-5 is smaller and lighter than its predecessor. At around 1,000kg, it is a featherweight among today's roadsters.

In spite of its compactness, the car will comfortably accommodate two prosperous-sized adults.

But it has no glovebox and the centre console cubby and mini-compartments behind the seats are barely big enough for sunglasses and small oddments.

Its tiny door pockets are good for carpark coupons and not much else.

Boot space, too, has shrunk by 20 litres to 130 litres - just enough for a couple of duffle bags.

You sit very low in the car and all its controls are ergonomically laid out. Press the Start button and the engine comes to life with a sporty note.

There is not much poke in the lower end of the rev band. Fortunately, the car's direct-injection, high-compression (13:1) engine is rev-happy. In Sport mode, its six-speed autobox will gladly let the engine spin up to 7,000rpm before changing up.

It also intuitively downshifts when braking to keep within the peaky power-band, ready for you to charge out of the next bend.

Its steering is quick, accurate and communicative. This gives the driver a sense of confidence on fast corners, which the topless car negotiates with moderate body roll and squealing from its skinny 195/50 R16 tyres.

With the roof down, the wind noise seems more pronounced than in other roadsters. When the canopy is up, the cabin quietens down a bit, but you still get to enjoy its heady mix of engine and exhaust notes.

Operating the rag-top is easy: Just release a catch and the hood can be pulled back and secured with one hand in two seconds.

Despite the short test-drive, it is clear the latest MX-5 is closer to the magical original than the second- and third-generation models.

There are faster and more capable roadsters out there, but few are as charismatic or fun to drive as the MX-5.

The 1.5-litre car is likely to be the volume seller in Singapore - that is, if the Land Transport Authority determines that it has no more than 130bhp and assigns it a Category A COE.