What is it?
The world’s best-selling sports car. Originating in 1989 and now in its third-generation, it’s proved its worth as an immensely enjoyable, simple car. A modern rip-off of the Lotus Elan, Mazda’s brief was to design a car that was as much of a giggle as British sports cars of the Sixties – but didn’t have a penchant for breaking down.
It’s been updated for 2013, with a (very) mild tweak for the front end which includes a new popup bonnet for pedestrian safety. Equipment levels have been boosted too, so it’s better value than ever, while key controls now have more driver-pleasing feel.
Two petrol engines are available – a 124bhp 1.8 and a 158bhp 2.0-litre. Neither is a ball of fire, but the MX-5’s low weight and agility mean there’s sufficient fun to be had with either one. You’d go for the 2.0-litre given the choice: it is significantly faster – it will get to 62mph in 7.6 seconds next to the 1.8’s time of 9.9 seconds, but the smaller engine is a little more eager mid-range. Rear-wheel drive ensures that the handling remains crisp and entertaining – watch it on wet roundabouts, though. But then, the MX-5 is beautifully well balanced and the steering is packed with feel.
The 1.8 comes with a five-speed gearbox, the 2.0-litre with a six-speeder, and they’re both extremely delightful – short, sharp and snappy. A Powershift automatic with wheel-mounted paddles is available but God gave you hands and feet, so use them as intended and heel-and- toe delight is pretty much guaranteed in the MX-5.
On the inside
Simple but pleasant, the current MX-5’s cabin is less austere than it used to be and is well finished. A fabric roof is standard fare but you can pay extra for a folding hard-top, which adds a bit of weight but looks the part when it’s up. You sit low, tucked in by the high centre console on your left. Rear visibility is a bit restricted with the roof up, but few cars are easier to park with it down. The boot’s not comically small, either. Well, not comically.
The highlight of MX-5 ownership is simply driving the thing, but its long-standing reputation for bulletproof reliability is an equal pleasure. Fuel economy is reasonable – you’ll get a touch under 40mpg from the 1.8 and mid- 30s from the 2.0-litre versions.
The Mazda’s residual values aren’t crippling but the reality is that they’re never going to be the best around – simply because the market is flooded with them. There are so many good second-hand examples that you could always save yourself a few quid and bag one that’s a couple of years old with a bit of warranty left.