Mazda MX-5 roadster
Price £18,500 - £23,300
- Super reliable
- Loads of fun
- Relatively affordable to run
- Cramped interior
- Very small boot
- A bit dated
"The Mazda MX-5 isn’t just one of the most fun-to-drive cars on the road, it’s also affordable and reliable."
The Mazda MX-5 is perfect if you want an open-top two-seater that's fun to drive and reasonably cheap to run. There's a new model on the way, which means Mazda is offering some very generous discounts on the current car, too. Many see the Mazda as offering the traditional thrills of a classic British sports car, combined with the reliability of a Japanese model.
Two versions are available, each with a different roof. As its name suggests, the MX-5 Soft Top has a folding fabric roof, but the MX-5 Roadster Coupe has a folding hard-top roof. As a result, the latter is a little quieter on the move, more secure and only marginally heavier.
And it's that weight that explains the brilliance of the Mazda MX-5 on the move. Even though it's been on sale for a long time, it's still one of the most entertaining cars to drive you can buy – at any price. Couple that lightness with steering that responds immediately to your inputs, a wonderful manual gearbox and just enough power to make the most of the brilliant chassis, and it's no surprise that across three generations, the MX-5 has become the world's most popular roadster.
Buyers can choose between 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol engines, which make the Mazda quick enough to be lots of fun on a twisty road. The Soft Top is only available with the 1.8-litre engine, but the Roadster Coupe offers the choice of both engines, plus the option of an automatic gearbox instead of the standard six-speed manual.
The Soft Top features two trim levels: SE and Sport Venture. All models have climate-control air-conditioning, electric windows and alloy wheels. Sport Venture models add heated leather seats and sat nav, and is well worth the additional £500 over the price of the Soft Top SE.
Roadster Coupe trims are slightly different, with SE, Sport Tech, Sport Tech Nav and Venture Edition offered. Here, the SE trim has the same kit as the Soft Top, but the Sport Tech adds Bilstein sports suspension, while Sport Tech Nav also features a sat-nav system and is our pick of the range.
The special-edition Sport Venture version of the Roadster Coupe is well priced and well equipped, but we’d recommend choosing the 2.0-litre engine for the extra performance is provides and the Sport Venture is sadly only available with the 1.8-litre.
All Roadster Coupe versions have an electrically operated roof. To retract the Soft Top's roof, you’ll need to use some old-fashioned arm power.
The Mazda MX-5 is quite costly to run, with high CO2 emissions making road tax expensive
The Mazda MX-5 guarantees driving thrills wherever you take it
The Mazda MX-5 is quite comfortable for a sports car, but it gets noisy at speed
The Mazda MX-5 is relatively easy to live with, but the boot is very small
Mazda MX-5 has no official safety rating, but reliability is first-rate