In the pantheon of diminutive roadsters, the Mazda MX-5 strides large like a four-generation colossus, swishing all in its path aside with its agility and affordability. But it has a fault, and that is it’s just a little bit too common. After all, they’ve made over a million of the things.
Much better instead to get yourself behind the wheel of one of these: the Fiat Barchetta. With a more niche appeal than the little Mazda and a much shorter lifespan, there are far fewer of them. You are unlikely to suffer that slight annoyance of arriving in the car park at Silverstone or Shelsley Walsh to find half a dozen similar already there.
Okay, so in this country you will be slightly limited by this car being left-hand drive only, and if you count yourself as a bit of a purist, you might be put out by its front-wheel drive layout, but you can’t have it all.
At least with it being a left-hooker, you can step straight out on to the pavement without the risk of opening your door into a passing bicyclist. You’ll get a delightful two-seat drop-top with decent road manners and even more dashing looks that can still be bought for the price of a skinny latte.
Of course, everyone knows it to be a humble Punto underneath, and it seems no greater sin can be committed against sports car purists than to base a car on a small family hatchback of uncertain dynamic manners and lowly fiscal worth. But in fact, the Punto was rather good in its day, as those old enough to remember will testify. Not as good as the iconoclastic Uno was before it, perhaps, but good nonetheless.
So the Barchetta was cheap and it was cheerful. If it lacked the chassis fluidity of the MX-5, the Toyota MR2 and others, the Barchetta made up for it in brio, and to aim one down a winding road on a summer’s day with the wind in your hair and the sun on the back of your neck is a rare pleasure. As well as that, its alloy door handles are works of art, and as for those rear lights…