Usually, if you want to do something fun in life, it’s going to cost you. The current, Mk4 Mazda MX-5 (known as the ND) proves this need not be the case, as an entertaining little sports car that can now be bought for as little as £12,000.
The engine range starts with a 129bhp 1.5-litre four-pot. This sounds modest, but you can still enjoy brisk acceleration with it, since the MX-5 weighs comfortably less than a tonne. Then there’s a 2.0-litre unit that was initially offered with 158bhp before being uprated to 181bhp in mid-2018.
There are countless special editions of the MX-5, but we’re focusing on the main models here. The entry-level SE gets 16in alloys, LED headlights, air conditioning, a basic sound system with an aux input and a single detachable cupholder.
Move up to SE L Nav and you get a second cupholder for your passenger (or a thirsty driver), along with heated seats, cruise control, climate control and a 7.0in infotainment screen with a DAB radio and Bluetooth for your phone. If you go for the 2.0-litre engine, a limited-slip rear differential is included along with larger (17in) wheels.
Sport Nav gets you firmer sports suspension with Bilstein dampers, automatic lights and wipers, leather seats, a Bose stereo, rear parking sensors and lane departure warning.
This trim level’s optional safety pack adds blindspot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert. Alternatively, GT Sport Nav+ includes that pack plus keyless entry and a reversing camera.
Weight, or rather the lack of it, is key to the MX-5 being as good as it is to drive. Its lightness means it doesn’t need stiff dampers, springs and antiroll bars to control body movements in corners. You can therefore have a nimble car – especially important on winding country B-roads – without compromising on ride quality. It may be a little tauter than the original MX-5, but this latest generation is still very supple, especially on its smallest wheels.
Inside, you’ll find two snug seats, a stubby gearlever (there’s an automatic gearbox if you want one) and a fabric hood that can be neatly folded away in a single arm movement. It’s not the roomiest two-seater, mind, and there isn’t much storage space: only a small cubby in the centre console and a shallow tray in front of the gearlever.
The good news is that boot space is unaffected by the roof being up or down. The bad news is that while you can fit a couple of bags in there, the opening is rather narrow. Anyway, packing too much stuff would undo all those weight-saving measures.