Summer fun comes no more reliable or enjoyable than with a Mazda MX-5, the cult roadster that celebrates its 25th birthday this year.
As one of the most affordable drivers’ cars on the market, the MX-5 has become a true legend in its own lifetime – and for many good reasons.
Firstly, it’s literally in a class of its own, as all rival two-seater sports cars are significantly more expensive. The MX-5 is also amazingly reliable while offering a truly great drive.
The best bit, though, is that you’re not restricted to driving the MX-5 only in summer; it’s easy and practical to use all year round.
The original MX-5 debuted in 1989; the second generation came in 1998, then the third in August 2005, with 1.8 or 2.0-litre petrol engines. Initially there was only a soft-top, but in October 2006 a Roadster Coupé was introduced.
A plastic folding hard-top kept the weight down, while revised suspension settings ensured a brilliant drive. In September 2008, a facelifted MX-5 was unveiled, with a tweaked interior and nose plus minor engine revisions.
More changes last autumn brought throttle and braking improvements along with a new front bumper. There’s been little development of the series 3; Mazda got it right from the outset.
The 2.0 has more power than the 1.8, yet some prefer the latter’s driveability; autos come only with the 2.0, but are rare. Of the five-or close-ratio six-speed 2.0s, the latter is better, but the engine is made to work hard.
The Roadster Coupé is as good to drive as the soft-top, and a kit that lowers the suspension gives sharper handling but a firm ride. The Option Pack adds a leather multifunction wheel, 16-inch alloys and a higher-quality soft-top.
Traditionally, the MX-5’s rivals were the MGF/TF and Toyota MR2, but they’re older and the MR2 is not particularly practical, while the MG has reliability issues. Newer alternatives include the Peugeot 206 CC/207 CC and Vauxhall Tigra. All are front-wheel-drive folding hard-tops.
The 206 CC is reasonable to drive but poorly packaged; the 207 CC is better but costlier. The Tigra isn’t as good on the road, but it’s affordable and well built.