REWIND to 1990 and the first Mazda MX-5 cost a smidge over £14,000.
That’s equal to £29,000 in today’s money. (Just search “inflation calculator” on t’interweb.)
Which makes the current MX-5 starting at £18,495 a complete bargain. Especially when you consider the original MX-5 had wind-up windows and luxuries included a cassette player and a fag lighter.
Today, you can throw everything at an MX-5 – beefy 2-litre engine, sports kit, electric hood, headrest speakers, 7in touchscreen – and still not spend £29,000. For simple roof-down driving thrills on a budget, the MX-5 is the car. So much so that all “Best Roadster Under £20,000” awards should be renamed “The MX-5 Award”. It has no competition.
The Fiat 124 Spider is the nearest challenger at £20,995 – and guess what, that’s an MX-5 in drag and built by Mazda.
So what to choose? The standard MX-5 with manual easy-fold roof – or this RF version (retractable fastback) with electric hood, for another three grand?
Easy. The RF, all day long. It looks cool. The hood folds quicker than an origami blackbelt. And it has less wind swirl and turbulence than the full convertible. It doesn’t eat any extra boot space either.
Key facts: MAZDA MX-5 RF
Engine: 1.5 petrol (131hp)
0-62mph: 8.6 secs
Top speed: 126mph
Out: March 4
Next up, 1.5-litre or 2-litre? Now that’s a close call. The 1.5-litre is lighter and feels more agile, plus it has smaller wheels, so it rides better.
But the 2-litre has 30 more horses, more torque and the bigger wheels look nicer. It also has a limited slip differential, which really helps when you’re pushing on.
It’s not fast fast, but it feels fast when your bum is a few inches from the ground.
Both are old-school rear-wheel drive with a six-speed manual. An auto option is coming soon.
Now clearly the MX-5 is a dinky two-seater with less storage than a Jiffy bag. But Mazda has still created a sporty, driver-focused cabin with clever cup holders and a top-notch touchscreen. I do have a few gripes though. The sun visors are much cheapness plastic, you get mucky fingers trying to find the hidden boot button and that stick-on aerial at the back, it makes it look like a radio- controlled car. It needs sorting.
VERDICT: Fun, responsive, good value. Mazda salesmen don’t wear masks.