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Delightful (and devilish) dozen: what to drive when styling and performance are paramount

These are the purebreds, designed from the first stroke of the engineer’s mouse to advance the pleasure of driving. Their powertrains and suspensions are crafted to deliver what their gorgeous bodies promise: excitement. Each is reserved for an intimate two passengers (well, the Porsche 911 does have a pair of tiny rear seats). And all make this list by virtue of their value, technology, or just plain emotional pull. Arranged least expensive to most, the base prices include the manufacturer’s destination fees, which average around $950.

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2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Base price range: $24,765-$33,450

When it comes to pure sports-car fun, few measure up to the Mazda MX-5 – still known widely in the U.S. by its earlier moniker, the Miata. That it’s also the most affordable ride on our list is a big bonus. The Miata is a rear-wheel drive, two-seat convertible that comes with a 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on base models, a six-speed manual on all other versions; a six-speed automatic is optional on all. While the Mazda may be less powerful than many of its rivals, this is a car that is all about the incredibly athletic handling and responsive steering that makes the driver feel connected with the car in a way that few others can, especially at this price point. Miata delivers 167 horsepower with either manual gearbox and 158 with the automatic. Torque comes in at 140 pound-feet with all transmissions. Fuel-economy is rated 25 mpg city-highway combined with the five-speed, 24 for with the six-speed manual, and 23 with the automatic. Although it’s undeniably a small car, there is just about enough room for all-but the tallest of occupants in the Miata, but trunk space is a limited as you would probably expect. The Miata is available with either a soft top or the power retractable hard top.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]