The Mazda MX-5 is our favourite convertible car. A sublime two-seater, we even rate it above drop-top Audis and BMWs. Ride and handling are perfectly suited to British roads, and simple engines prove plenty fast enough.
Best of all, the MX-5 serves up the fun factor by the buckletload. Whatever the weather, it’s guaranteed to have you smiling. It’s nippy and playful on UK roads, feeling well suited either to town or countryside. It’s at its best in 2.0-litre guise, which delivers all the pace you could ever need. The high-set, stubby gearchange is one of the best in the business.
Handling is fantastic and the rear-wheel drive chassis very involving through corners. The standard set-up is also comfortable, while the Sport model has stiffer suspension which rolls less through bends. This is experienced from a low and well-designed driving position. The steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, but it doesn’t matter. Most drivers will find it comfortable.
Most owners will find it practical too. The interior is, despite the car’s compact dimensions, very usable. Space is only at a premium for the very tallest. The boot is roomy enough for a weekend’s luggage as well.
The MX-5 is really well built, with quality plastics and well-damped switches. It all backs up a peerless reputation for reliability. Mazda is a top-5 brand in manufacturer reliability surveys and the MX-5 has a similarly great reputation for dependability. If it does go wrong, a three-year warranty and three-year European roadside assistance package will see you right. But trust us, it won’t go wrong.
All this is yours from just £18,495, making it one of the cheapest sports cars on the market. Not that there are many of them. Its closest competitor is actually the Toyota GT86, a hard-top coupe which costs from £25,945…
Mazda hasn’t stripped equipment bare, either. All but base SE cars get the Mazda MZD Connect 7.0in touchscreen, which is quick to respond and has an efficient optional sat nav add-on. Our choice is SE-L trim, which has climate and cruise control, LED running lights, Bluetooth and DAB. You don’t need any more.
Perhaps the most compelling reason for picking an MX-5 is the sheer heritage this famous sports car boasts. Mazda has sold many millions of them and there’s loads of love for the MX-5 name. Online communities for it are thriving.
So much so, you might consider an MX-5 even if you can’t afford a brand new one. The previous generation car was sold between 2005 and 2015, and is just as much fun to drive as the current one.
It was sold in both soft-top and hard-top Coupe Convertible guise. Prices start from £1800 but we’d stick out for a well cared-for model. The extra spend is worth it. Save a bit by going for the smaller 1.8-litre engine instead of the 2.0-litre.
Facelifted cars came in 2009, and are a bit more desirable still. Their interiors were smarter and there were more options. You can buy a low-mileage 1.8 SE example for around £7000.
On any used MX-5, check the roof carefully for damage and tears, and also that it goes up and down quickly and smoothly. The Coupe-Cabriolet auto-fold roof can stick open because of faulty sensors, so if you lower it, make sure you check it goes back up.
Being a convertible, peer over the interior to make sure the owner hasn’t left it out in the rain. Peer at the wear patters on the tyres to try and decide if the suspension is out of alignment. But don’t worry about a buzzing noise from the gearlever when accelerating. The forums tell us they all do that, sir.