Before the 1989 Chicago motor show, there was no mass-market sports car for motoring enthusiasts of average means. There were hot hatches and mid-engined coupés, but the affordable roadster had vanished in the preceding decade. Then Mazda unveiled the MX-5 and, in a moment, the open sports car had a future.
The world’s most written about and, arguably, most desirable affordable car first arrived in Britain in 1990 as the two-seat roadster that car enthusiasts had been screaming for since the demise of the old Lotus Elan.
By 2000, the MX-5 had become the biggest-selling sports car of all time. All told, 431,506 MX-5 Mk1s found homes across the world, along with 290,123 Mk2s. Which gives you an idea of how much Mazda has riding on the new MX-5 Mk3.
Right up until production ended in 2005, the outgoing version of Mazda’s two-seat roadster was still highly regarded. That it shook, wobbled and wore a dated cabin didn’t seem to worry people because the charm of a basic, affordable roadster prevailed.
Mazda has only just twigged in this generation of MX-5 that its punters might want a hard-topped roadster. And it’s the success of those flexible coupé-cabrio sheds that has done it.
Mazda performed a tight, targeted facelift on its popular roadster in 2009, tackling initial customer criticism that ranged from the linearity of its steering to over-intrusive bottle storage arrangements.
At the 2012 Paris motor show Mazda launched a facelifted MX-5 to keep it fresh before an all-new model is introduced in 2014. The car is distinguished by a new front bumper and grille, whilst a new 'active bonnet' is fitted to improve pedestrian safety.