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