There are simply two ways of tackling your 30th birthday – either you start stressing or you party.

Mazda decided to celebrate the two-seater MX-5 sports car’s mini-milestone by producing a limited edition designed purely to put a smile on your face.

That was not too difficult to be honest, as this lean, low, lightweight little car has been successfully making people grin for more than three decades.

Its creation came after a chance comment by motoring journalist and sports car fan Bob Hall about his dream car to Kenichi Yamamoto, a man who would soon after become Mazda’s president, led to a worldwide motoring sensation.

Queues formed when ordering opened for the MX-5 in 1989 and I vividly remember the excited reaction of passers-by when I was given the chance to briefly drive the car – known as the Miata in the US – in Los Angeles before its showroom launch.

Thirty years and four generations on, there were still plenty of heads turning when I took to the road in the vivid Racing Orange 30th Anniversary Edition. Not surprising, as only 3,000 are being sold worldwide with 550 allocated to UK buyers – 370 convertible and 180 RF – retractable fastback – models.

Mazda has pushed the boat out with the birthday car which you can spot from a mile off.

It sits on a set of gun-metallic engraved 17-inch Rays alloy wheels with orange Brembo front callipers and orange Nissin callipers at the rear. The roof on the RF model driven here is two-tone black, with piano black-coloured door mirrors.

Inside, you drop into a pair of heated black leather and Alcantara Recaro seats, with a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearstick, all trimmed in orange, a colour which also extends to the Alcantara door trim and instrument panel.

This cosy, rather upmarket, interior belies the fact that underneath sits a gem of a front engine, rear-wheel-drive sports car with near-perfect weight distribution.

Power comes from a lively 184 horsepower 2.0-litre engine mated to a short-shift six-speed manual gearbox that delivers spirited performance. With electronic power-assisted steering and a set of Bilstein dampers, the car’s response is accurate and precise while delivering a remarkably refined ride.

The flagship RF model has a fastback coupé silhouette when the retractable hardtop is closed. But at the touch of a single button, in just 13 seconds it turns into a classic open-top sportster. With the roof stowed, a wind deflector behind the rear seats keeps everything unruffled inside.

Other treats include a nine-speaker Bose sound system, with a pair of speakers built into each headrest, and a satellite navigation and entertainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility allowing seamless hook-up of smartphones.

Thirty years on, the appeal of the MX-5 is undiminished, with well over a million sold. Here’s to the 40th anniversary.

Auto facts

Model: Mazda MX-5 RF 30th Anniversary Edition

Price: £29,895

Insurance group: 33A (1-50)

Fuel consumption (combined): 40.9mpg

Top speed: 137mph

Length: 391.5cm/153.7in

Width: 173.5cm/68in

Luggage capacity: 127 litres/4.5 cu ft

Fuel tank capacity: 9.9 gallons/45 litres

CO2 emissions: 156 g/km

Warranty: Three years/ 60,000 miles