Car hunter: Two-seater convertibles

1 Nov, 2012 11:00am

Reader has £5,000 to spend on a reliable roadster, so what should he buy?

Dear Chris,
I’m after a two-seater convertible for a bit of weekend fun – but it has to be reliable. I’ve got a £5,000 budget. What do you suggest?
David Nicholas, E-mail 

If you'd like help choosing your next car, contact

The best buys:

Superb reliability: Toyota MR2

Toyota MR2

For: Sharp steering, low driving position
Against: Questionable styling, tiny boot

The MR2 is a back-to-basics sports car with a low-slung driving position and agile handling. The free-revving nature of the 138bhp 1.8-litre engine fits the model perfectly, but it does need to be worked hard.

Reliability should be assured, with the small Toyota enjoying an excellent reputation for being mechanically sound. There are plenty of cars available for your budget, too. We found a 53-plate model, with only 18,000 miles on the clock, for £4,995. It’s not the most stylish roadster, though, and is starting to feel a little dated, too.

The Mazda MX-5 is still the benchmark for driving fun among small soft-tops, and the Toyota can’t quite match it in that department. It’s easier to handle than the Honda S2000, though, no matter your ability behind the wheel.

Brilliant to drive: Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5

For: Stylish looks, excellent reliability
Against: Cramped and dated cabin

Ever since its debut in 1989, the MX-5 has been the world’s favourite affordable roadster. Rear-wheel drive, plus sharp and responsive handling, mean it’s incredibly enjoyable to drive. Again, it’s not the most powerful car – the 1.8-litre engine delivers 126bhp – but it makes up for this with pure driving pleasure.

Your budget will get you a 56-plate car with 70,000 miles, although if you’re happy to go for the previous- generation model, then you’ll even come away with a bit of change – we found a 52-plate car for just £3,995.

The Mazda is arguably better looking than the MR2, and similarly bulletproof when it comes to reliability. One thing to watch out for, though, is the state of the fabric roof. If it hasn’t been looked after properly, don’t be surprised to find rips or some damage.

Hardcore thriller: Honda S2000

Honda S2000

For: Mechanically sound, good looks
Against: Unpredictable, noisy at speed

Like the MX-5, the Honda S2000 manages to blend style, driving enjoyment and reliability into one exciting package. It’s not quite as accessible as the Mazda, however, as it needs to be worked extremely hard to get the best out of it, and can be a little unpredictable in the wet. It offers the most power, though, with the 240bhp 2.0-litre engine allowing a sprint from 0-60mph in 6.2 seconds.

Prices seem more stable than for the other two cars, and you’re likely to have to pay a higher price for a good one. Excellent reliability means that many have been used as daily drives, so mileages have been high, too.

You’ll have to use up your whole budget for a good one. Spend £5,000 and you can get a 56-plate car with 83,500 miles on it. As with the other two cars here, though, things are beginning to look a little dated inside.