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.