If you believe the anecdotes, people are becoming more and more apathetic and even hostile towards driving. Young people in particular see it as wasteful of time and money, according to a variety of news reports. The Mazda MX-5 Miata, however, provides a compelling defense of driving and how much fun it can be.

In today's stressful world, it's hard to really escape. Taking a walk in the woods or hitting the bottle are just mild distractions. Driving -- especially driving a fun, engaging car, is one of those few tasks that commands complete concentration, helping to get us back to an emotional center.

Driving the Mazda MX-5 Miata might just be the cure for what ails you.

The Miata is a basic car with no bells or whistles. Just balance, crisp handling, a gearbox and open air. Imagine taking a spin on a windy road while behind the wheel of this gem, the sunlight flashing like a strobe as the pine trees whip by. All your focus is on the car and the pavement ahead.

The Miata is not overly powerful, attractive, comfortable or even remotely versatile. That’s what makes it so perfect.

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Sticker Price: $23,720 - $29,450

Invoice Price: $22,424 - $27,836

Engine: 2.0L I4

Power: 167 horsepower, 140 lb-ft of torque

Transmission: Six-speed manual

Fuel Economy: 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway

Seating: Two people

Cargo Capacity: 5.3 cubic feet

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The Miata may be lovely to drive, but it's not overly terribly to look at. My tester came in bright red like this one, with a black top, black mirrors and black wheels. It was not a pretty sight. It looked like cheap patent leather. I don't know who in their right mind would ever opt for such a visually-assaulting color combo.

While the overall stance and body design is inoffensive, that big, black smiling grille really stands out, and not in a good way. It commands far too much attention. The roundness of the front also makes the Miata appear less aggressive than it really is. The car's driving personality calls for sharper corners and lines.

I'm interested to see where Mazda goes with the next-generation Miata, which is currently in development. The rest of Mazda's line now employs a gorgeous new design language (see the Mazda3 and Mazda6). It may be tricky applying it to such a small car, but there's a lot of potential to make this into a striking little roadster.

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There is not very much going on inside the Miata. To be fair, there isn't enough room to put anything substantial, as this is about as small as cars get. Features are minimal, with just the absolute basics making an appearance.

I love the bareness. It's a testament to the fact that the Miata was designed for the sole purpose of achieving a sporty driving experience. It's not supposed to be comfortable, high-tech or luxurious.  Seats and a decent radio are all this car needs -- and that's about all it has. It allows you to focus on nothing but the road.

If you find yourself driving a Miata and need to fill up, here's a tip: The fuel tank lid release is weirdly located in the storage compartment behind the parking brake and stick shift. You're welcome. I just saved you 20 minutes of fumbling around looking for it.

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The Miata only seats two people, meaning it's not very versatile. The car is comfortable when the roof is down (which is how you should always drive it, by the way), but when it's up, head room is woefully lacking.

Cargo space is a paltry 5.3 cubic feet. That's barely enough to fit a suitcase. This is not a car to use for running errands, unless you're picking up a single melon.

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By now, you've probably noticed that almost everything I've had to say about the Miata is negative. The interior is less than bare, the exterior design is off and the car has zero versatility.

It doesn't matter.

This vehicle was designed to provide the most engaging driving dynamics possible, and it knocks it out of the park. The weight balance is perfect, steering is crisp and responsive, acceleration is quick and braking is sharp. Weighing in at just 2,480 pounds, the 2.0L I-4 engine provides more than adequate power for curvy canyon or mountain roads. The stiff suspension and responsive handling make the car nimbler than a go-kart.

The best part about this vehicle is that you don't have to be an advanced driver to really enjoy it. Some other performance cars require a high level of skill and experience to drive safely and pleasurably, mainly because of their inflated horsepower numbers.

The Miata, conversely, is designed to be fun at everyday speeds in everyday situations. There are no crazy drive modes or tricks you need to learn. It's a beautiful thing. Even at a lazy 35 mph, this car can make you smile.

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Over the years, the Miata has developed an unfair reputation as a wussy little car that no "real man" would drive, probably due to its lack of horsepower and cutesy design. I've come across that attitude more times than I can count when people ask me for a list of my favorite vehicles (this is probably in my top five). Sexist ignorance aside, that's a very frustrating thing to hear. This is a brilliantly engineered machine that even the manliest car nuts I know thoroughly enjoy.

The Miata shouldn't be your only car, unless you're a single man or woman who rarely needs more than a couple gallons of milk from the grocery. Rather, this car should exist purely as something from which you derive joy. Its starting sticker price is $23,780, but you can pick up a used one for around $10,000 or $15,000.

All in all, there is simply no such thing as a problem when you're behind the wheel of the Miata. In this gloomy world, the little roadster might be the best therapy one can find. I would strongly encourage anyone with the means to add one into their life.

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