Best buy: Mazda MX-5
Price range: 7595-12,845
You'll like: driving it; reliability
You won't: not a lot
Roadsters dont come much better than this little Mazda or more enjoyable. Drive an MX-5 and youll love it; own one and youll never want to sell it
Whats it like?
The original MX-5 was launched in 1989, but the car in the spotlight here went on sale in 2005 when the traditional soft-top was joined by a Roadster Coup. The Roadster has an electrically powered folding fibreglass roof, giving the security of a hard-top car but with wind-in-your-hair motoring at the touch of a button.
A two-seater sports car can never be described as practical, but the MX-5 is comfortable and reasonably roomy, with a boot that will happily accommodate a couple of overnight bags. The Mazda is also cracking to drive, and reliable, too.
What to watch out for...
Scroll across to see what you should be looking out for when buying a used Mazda MX-5
Which one should I get?
There are far more soft-top MX-5s on the second-hand market than Roadster Coups. The soft-top is cheaper, but the Roadster Coup has slightly more kit as standard, so its still good value for money.
The 1.8-litre models are quick enough and cheaper to run
than the 2.0-litre versions but go for the 2.0 if you want to make the most of the MX-5s agile chassis.
Avoid 1.8-litre models with steel wheels go for one with the Option pack, which adds alloys, a leather steering wheel and a stereo upgrade. The 2.0 cars have stability control and side airbags, while the Sport, available only as a 2.0-litre, comes with larger alloys, leather trim and heated seats.
Roadster Coup specifications are broadly the same as the soft-tops, except that climate control is fitted on all variants.
Official fuel economy stands at 38.7mpg for the 1.8, 36.7mpg for the 2.0 and 34.5mpg for the 2.0 Sport. The 1.8 sits in insurance group 11, two below the 2.0 models. From next year, youll pay 205 in road tax for the 1.8 and 260 for the 2.0.
Mazda dealers provide excellent servicing, but using one of the many independent specialists will save you money.
Expect to pay roughly 8400 at an independent garage for an 06-plate 1.8 soft-top with around 30,000 miles on the clock.
The Roadster Coup in the same spec should set you back just over 9000.
A 10k-mile 07-plate 2.0 Sport will be nearer 13,000 from a dealer. There are some great deals on 58-plate cars with delivery mileages, too, such as a 1.8 for less than 12,500.
On the road
The MX-5 is one of the best cars to drive, regardless of budget or badge. The ride is comfortable and well controlled over broken surfaces, especially in the Roadster Coup, which has slightly softer suspension settings than the soft-top. Both models are impressively agile. The steering is precise and full of feel, while the rear-wheel-drive chassis offers fluid handling with bags of grip.