Keep it simple - Mazda's winning formula for the MX-5
So, what car offers the most smiles per pound? I think the Mazda MX-5 is probably in the running.
If you fancy a two-seater sports car with a soft-top, decent performance and go-kart handling, you might imagine it would cost you £40,000 or more.
In fact, affordable roadsters are few and far between, but Mazda came in to the market at just the right time in the late 1980s. That was just as traditional sports car manufacturers had decided to abandon the market.
Few people gave Mazda any great chance but the MX-5 has become almost an icon in motoring terms.
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It is incredibly simple: a compact two-seater body, 1.5 litre engine which gives decent performance, firm ride and handling so it feels like a sports car and timeless, elegant looks. It has a brilliant short-throw gear lever and an engine which sounds and performs brilliantly.
What is not to like, especially when it is comparatively affordable. The test version is a Sport and it costs £26,350 with very few rivals to choose from.
It's a fabulous all-rounder. Performance might not sound quick on paper, but 0 to 60mph in 8.3 seconds feels a lot quicker with the hood down.
And it's so easy to convert this car: undo a latch behind the rear-view mirror and fold the hood down hy hand. It can be done without getting out of the car in 20 seconds or so. Replacing the hood is just as easy.
It is a snug fit and if I can get in and out with any problems, younger, lither people will have no trouble. It feels like a proper sports car and while space is compact, there is a decent deep boot, a locking glovebox and space between the seats.
There are quicker and more exciting two-seater coupes but they tend to cost much more money.
As popular as ever, the Mazda MX-5 continues to be the performance halo of the Mazda range and the 10-model 2021 Mazda MX-5 range features four Convertible models and six RFs with hard-tops.
The range features SE-L, Sport, Sport Tech and GT Sport Tech trim levels and a choice of 132ps 1.5-litre and 184ps 2.0-litre Skyactiv-G engines.
Across, the whole range the MX-5 now features wireless Apple CarPlay as standard, while GT Sport Tech models now feature Light Stone Leather, replacing the burgundy leather of the 2020 model year car, plus RF GT Sport Tech cars now have a stand-out black roof.
Mazda say with some credibility that when it comes to driver engagement, the current generation MX-5 has already established itself as a benchmark sports car.
The company says this is a sports car that has resonated with enthusiastic British drivers ever since its debut and three decades on it’s as popular as ever.
Throughout its life and across all four-generations the MX-5 has stayed true to the original principle of being an affordable, lightweight and above all fun-to-drive roadster.
The test model has a cloth roof that folds down manually, but it can come with a metal roof that does so electrically – which is called the Mazda MX-5 RF.
Even base models get LED headlights, 16in alloy wheels, air-conditioning, electric windows, remote central locking, heated wing mirrors, traction control, stability control and a range of airbags.
This is the fourth generation MX-5 but it is still recognisable against the first version. It has evolved neatly into one of the best-value sports cars on the market.
Mazda MX-5 1.5 132ps Sport
Engine: A 1,496cc four cylinder petrol engine
Performance: Top speed 127mph and 0 to 60mph in 8.3 seconds
Transmission: Six-speed manual via front wheel drive
Costs: 47.1mpg average
Insurance: Group 27E
Warranty: Three years, unlimited miles