The Mazda MX-5’s unbeatable low cost, high fun duality means that it’s fast becoming the MGB of the modern classic movement – it’s the obvious choice and with good reason.
It’s been a similar story from the start; contemporary rivals like the MGF and Toyota MR2 were often far more ambitious in their design yet far less effective in their execution. The MX-5 offered balanced, predictable handling and fizzy, naturally-aspirated performance with a practical combination of luggage space and comfort.
A striking resemblance to the original Lotus Elan wasn’t at all accidental; the car’s design followed what was a British recipe: Low weight, simple lines and just enough power from its twin-cam 1.6-litre engine meant this truly was a ‘British’ sports car for the modern era – albeit one built (to predictably high standards) in Hiroshima, Japan. Later examples gained power and torque increases courtesy of a 1.8-litre engine, but the jury is still out as to which best suits the car’s distinctly classic character.
The MkI – or NA as it’s known by enthusiasts and Mazda itself – was introduced in 1989 and continued through to 1997, before being replaced by the larger, softer MkII (or NB), a car which diluted the fun slightly but is still tipped for future classic status.
The NA’s long production run saw the introduction of a number of special editions, many of which were limited to its home market of Japan but brought to the UK as grey imports. Perhaps the most popular of these today is the V-Spec model, which came complete with a leather interior, headrest- mounted speakers, a wooden Nardi steering wheel and a limited-slip differential. However, to preserve the purity of the MX-5’s original intended purpose, CCB favours the most basic versions, complete with cloth seats and (now very rare) steel wheels.
Whatever the specification though, the MX-5 is almost guaranteed to make an enthusiastic driver smile – 50:50 weight distribution, direct and communicative steering, keen brakes, a satisfying gearchange and wind-in-the-hair motoring at the drop of a hat (well, hood) mean that the little Mazda is still one of the very best sports cars on the market.
MK1 MAZDA MX-5 BUYING TIPS
- Rust is the biggest killer of old MX-5s. The sills and wheelarches (the rear ones especially) are the biggest trouble spots.
- The outer body panels are galvanised and so the main problem will be with the paintwork, which can fade and flake over time.
- The hood is usually durable but after 25 years the waterproofing can become a bit hit-and-miss, especially if it hasn’t been cleaned.
- The engine (in both 1.6- and 1.8-litre guises) is famously durable. The only thing to be sure to check is the condition of the coolant as the waterways sludge up if changes are neglected.
- The MX-5’s major suspension components (springs and dampers) are very durable but the bushes wear quickly, especially if the car has been driven enthusiastically.
Mazda MX-5 – from £10000 (condition 3) to £5000 (condition 1)