Dressier, more serious, and still super gay.

Few cars in history have been called “gay” more than the Mazda Miata. And that, in my opinion, is a good thing. After all, gay means happy, first and foremost, and ever since the first-generation Miata was launched in 1989, no car has been happier than the Miata. For a quarter century, it’s the four-wheeled equivalent of a puppy that never grows up.

For 2016, Mazda decided to completely reinvent its happy, gay drop top, adding panache, comfort, quality and power, all in equal measure. Does that make the Miata a better thing, or would its newfound poise siphon away some of the puppy-like charm of its predecessors? Turns out, the Miata is better in every measurable way, yet has lost none of its sparkling personality. It got bigger, yet is lighter. It’s better equipped, yet still feels elemental. And it’s got more horsepower under the hood, which is never a bad thing when it comes to sports cars.

The wide-eyed look of yore has been replaced by a menacing stare, and the slinky hood seems to stretch out for miles. If you’re a butt person, check out the tapering tush, with round tail lamps set in toward the middle. The top, meanwhile, is of the soft variety—the only time I’ve ever thought a soft top to be a good thing—and its simple design lets it be raised or lowered in less than five seconds, with just one hand.

Inside, the Miata has stepped up in a huge way, bringing Audi-like infotainment controls, more space for arms, heads and legs, and a bit more storage. I particularly love the way the body color comes in to the upper doors. Slick.

And of course, it drives brilliantly. The 155-hp four-cylinder engine brings more power than any Miata before it, and shifting the six-speed manual is pure joy. An automatic is available, too—for wimps!—with paddle shifters if you get frisky. But you don’t have to drive fast to love it. Steering is virtually telepathic, and the car corners with the precision of sports cars far up the automotive food chain.

Starting at $25,735 and rising into the low-$30Ks, the 2016 Miata isn’t super-cheap, and while its trunk can fit a standard roll-aboard suitcase (one, anyway), it’s still not the best choice for drivers with lots of people or things to lug around on a regular basis. But if your life is structured such that you can accommodate a car like this in your daily life, you couldn’t find anything more fun for your money. And in the truest sense of the word, there’s certainly nothing gayer.

2016 Mazda Miata
Base Price (incl. destination): $25,735
Power: 2.0-liter four-cylinder (155 hp, 148 lb-ft of torque)
Transmission: 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic
EPA Fuel Economy, city/hwy mpg: 27/34 (manual); 27/37 (auto)

Or you could buy:
Ford Mustang Convertible
Scion FR-S/Subaru BRZ
Hyundai Genesis Coupe