Classifieds Hero: Mazda MX-5 & Miata

The little Mazda is strong and reliable, often cited as the greatest driver's car on a budget, AutoClassics have loads for sale in our classifieds

Classifieds Hero: Mazda MX-5 & Miata

The 1970s saw the demise of the affordable sports car, as union strikes and bad management killed off the likes of the MGB, Austin-Healey and Triumph TR7. Yes, there were hot hatches and mid-engined coupés, but, by the early 1980s, the affordable roadster was dead. 

Then, in 1989, Mazda unveiled the MX-5/Miata to the world – and the open-top sports car on a budget was reborn. By 2000, it had become the best-selling sports car ever made. The car was held in such regard that drivers and admirers could overlook the dated cabin and the shakes and wobbles. The charm of a basic, affordable roadster prevailed.

As a driver’s car, it’s supreme; power, looks and unbeatable Japanese reliability. Unlike many sport cars, you can use the MX-5 to go to work every day, or use it to cruise the mountain roads on a Sunday, without taking out a small mortgage every time you need fuel.

The first-generation models are still kicking about for as little as £800 in running condition, with prices set to rise in years to come. The more modern you go, the higher prices climb – by the time the Mk3 was launched in 2005 buyers cried out for more refinement and pricey add-ons were applied. So, which version is the best buy?

While the Mk2 onwards are undoubtedly very good cars; the Mk1 is the model set to become the collector's favourite. Just like any future classic, prices are currently at a very low steady level – a mint condition Mk1 sells for just £3000-4000. Judging by past similarities, the values will start to climb rather soon as new models are brought out and nostalgia takes over.  

This is all well and good, but why the Mk1, specifically? It’s that wonderful rare thing; an affordable two seater with chuckable handling, enough pace to keep you interested, double wishbone suspension (that’s a good thing) all round and a strong sports car vibe.

If you bash it, parts are readily available, there’s help from the numerous owner’s club and the car itself isn’t over complicated to mend. A DIY maintenance roadster is very rare indeed. The Mk1 is also pure, original and as undated as Joanna Lumley’s face. The modern versions are much more grown up and lack the playful charm the Mk1 contains in spade loads.

The original does have its issues, the Mk1 makes for a tiring long motorway journey – noisy, lacking in torque in standard form, thirsty and not exactly offering the most comfortable of rides. Some have been modified to add superchargers or a turbo to address pace issues – this might be all well and good, but it’s still going to be noisy, relatively uncomfortable and thirsty, probably even more so.  

Corrosion is also a bit of a problem, with sills and under the rear end (careful now) often rusting badly. You'd be wise to read our Mazda MX-5/Miata Buying Guide

However, on the twisty roads and in town, all is forgiven and there isn’t much more fun to be had with your clothes on. Modified versions are best avoided – originality will maintain the re-sell price.

From the classifieds

A timewarp, low-mileage example is the car to keep for posterity in the safety of a dry barn. Low mileage isn’t a must however, as engines last well into 300,000 mile territory. The best engines to look for are the 1.6 and the 1.8-litre, offering revs beyond the 7000rpm range and cruising smoother than ice cubes wrapped in silk. No matter which option you go for, the Mk1 is going to wobble over any bump in the road – but this adds to the fun.

Buy a rust-free MK1 MX5 for around a grand, drive straight into the sunset with the top down and wait for the re-sell values to rise. Bargains come no better than this. Grab a look at the Mazda MX-5s for sale in the AutoClassics classifieds.