A roomier, more civilised MX-5 than its two pre­de­ces­sors, that with a lit­tle help can be­come a sparkling per­former

Total MX-5 - - CONTENTS -

A more ‘rounded’ car than its pre­de­ces­sors and bet­ter to drive than once claimed

Ev­ery­thing has changed in the mk3. It’s big­ger, mainly be­cause US buy­ers de­manded it, so it’s built on a ver­sion of the larger RX-8’S plat­form. And its en­gines – a 126bhp 1.8 and a 160bhp 2.0 – are re­lated to Ford units. It has a proper MX-5 look, though, with a re­turn to the Lo­tus-like air in­take and the mk1’s straight-edged taut­ness, out­side and in.

The first ones weren’t as in­ti­mately sport­ing a drive as they should have been, with numb steer­ing, oddly un­pro­gres­sive han­dling and en­gines lack­ing in the smooth zing vi­tal to an MX-5, but this was a stiffer, roomier and more mod­ern car, eas­ier to live with ev­ery day. The Road­ster Coupé of 2006 built on that with a power-re­tractable hardtop, but for the op­ti­mum mk3 ex­pe­ri­ence you need a 2008-on facelift ex­am­ can recog­nise it by the re­turn to a five-cor­ner grille, and when driv­ing you can feel both the smoother en­gines and the ti­dier, keener han­dling brought about by re­vised sus­pen­sion.

There are lots of ways to im­prove a mk3 and make it very rapid and en­joy­able, and many own­ers have. Whether or not you join them, the mk3 – now avail­able for tempt­ingly low prices – might just be the smartest and most use­ful buy of all. Val­ues: from £1600 (early car with high mileage and patchy his­tory) to £14,000 (late, low-mileage 2.0 Sport)

Early mk3s didn’t han­dle so sharply, but good mods are now easy to get hold of Mk3 has ‘style bars’ as stan­dard fare

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