The Mazda MX-5 hit the ground running and became so instantly iconic that it seems weird now to think that there was a time when it didn’t exist.
It turned out to be, over its four generations (so far), the ultimate real-world enthusiast’s car and the biggest-selling two-seat sports car of all time.
Oh, yes, of course, there were other dainty drop-top two-seaters that came before it and some that came after it, but Mazda's delightfully simple and properly screwed-together roadster delivered a front-engine, rear-wheel-drive answer to more than a million people’s prayers.
You see, if you want affordable fun, the iconic MX-5 has always delivered in spades. The Mk1 car (the NA) was an analogue delight, the Mk2 (NB) a practical uptick, the Mk3 (NC) more refined and the latest Mk4 (ND) a dainty peach.
The answer to the question of which one to buy is probably that you really need one of each. However, presuming the budget allows only one, we would start by discounting the first two generations, because they’re now well stricken in years, so to find a good one means shopping very carefully. We would dismiss the Mk4, too, as a nouveau venu.
That leaves us with the Mk3, and that’s good, because this is a car that’s definitely still a sound purchase and starting to look like really good value.
Launched in 2005, it was larger and heavier (by around 100kg) than the Mk2, but it offered more comfort and refinement. It was more powerful, too. Under the bonnet, you could choose between a 125bhp 1.8-litre or 158bhp 2.0-litre in-line four, the latter with variable valve timing and a limited-slip differential.