Bring back the fun
Mazda’s throwback to the sportster era was a great drive
The release of the original MX-5 in 1989 signalled the end of one of the most boring periods in motoring history, a period in which the focus was on safety and the environment, and fun was frowned upon. The cute little Mazda sportster went against the grain; it was all about having fun on four wheels again.
It was a roaring success, rekindling a demand that had laid dormant since the demise of the affordable British sports cars a decade or more earlier.
A fun, civilised car to drive it was perfect for those who wanted to cruise down the freeway, but with its great chassis dynamics it more than satisfied anyone who wanted a more thrilling ride.
By the release of the NC model in 2005 it had undergone a number of changes, but it still retained its original appeal.
The NC was a little bigger, looked more aggressive, was stronger and safer, and boasted more features.
At first the MX-5 was offered only as a two-door convertible with a neat, easy to use folding soft-top, but a hardtop coupe with a foldaway hard roof that delivered the best of both worlds was introduced in 2006.
If there was a criticism of the original MX-5 it was that it lacked real performance. To address that complaint the NC had a larger 2.0-litre fourcylinder engine for better performance and fuel economy.
A slick-shifting six-speed manual was the driver’s choice of gearboxes on offer, while cruisers could opt for the sixspeed auto with paddle shifting for a bit of fun.
A Series II upgrade arrived in 2009 with a few cosmetic revisions; the engine was smoother and more responsive, and the suspension was tweaked for better handling.
Another upgrade in 2013 boasted minor styling changes, improved trim, and revisions to the brake and throttle feel.
Unlike the British sports cars of old, which while fun to drive were poorly built and unreliable, the MX-5 had the solid build and reliability that we’ve come to expect from cars from Japan.
It had all the fun of the old sports cars, but without the need to carry a box full of tools and a boot load of spares when you went for a drive.
Owners we consulted told us they couldn’t be happier with their MX-5s. There were no tales of unreliability, breakdowns or anything else to spoil the fun of ownership of a truly great little sports car.
There is no indication of roof leaks that can make driving an open car miserable when it rains, but check the roof anyway for any signs of damage that might result in a leak.
Make sure you check the hard roof on the Roadster coupe to ensure it goes up and down smoothly. While the MX-5 is generally reliable it won’t withstand an abusive driver, so look carefully for signs that a car had been thrashed, or raced. If it has holes that suggest a roll bar has been fitted, or other bits of kit used in competition, walk away.
You should also be aware that the NC doesn’t have a spare wheel; it only has a repair kit.
Like every used car it’s most important to check for a service record that hopefully shows the MX-5 you’re keen on has been properly maintained. Generally, though, it’s a beauty.
Oliver Holloway I bought my 2009 MX-5 with 40,000 km on it and after another 60,000 km I can honestly say it has been utterly reliable and nothing but fun to drive. I love it.
Stella Watson My Roadster coupe is not the fastest car around, but it looks good, is great to drive and very smooth.
Janette Anderson I had a 2006 NC for three years and loved it. I particularly loved the looks, it was fast and nippy to drive, and the cornering was great.
Ollie Bickerton The MX-5 is brilliant; it looks good, handles, brakes and steers brilliantly. The only complaint is that it isn’t very fast.
Ross Dyson I have a ’98 NB with 155,000 km. We live in the country, in a driver’s paradise — perfect for the MX-5. It’s simple, predicable and so much fun to drive. I have no plans to sell it.
For a fun-filled sports car there’s none better than the MX-5.