"Hey guys, I'm looking to buy a car. I want something fun, preferably with a manual gearbox, and not too bad on fuel. Got any ideas?"
Approximately 0.423 seconds after such a thread hits the average internet car forum, someone will pipe up with the inevitable "MX-5/Miata". It's like a reflex action. You're lucky if people don't post "Miata" if someone is looking for a seven-seater or wanting to go off-roading. Sometimes they do, but they're probably doing it deliberately.
The trouble is, as a car enthusiast the answer invariably is Miata. Okay, so maybe not on the average muscle car forum, and MX-5s are the anti-Christ to those on Toyota MR2 or MGF forums too. But from any non-biased source, it's right up there.
I know this because I've owned one myself. And I'm currently attempting to not buy another. But every time I start looking for a new car, it's nigh-on impossible to ignore the MX-5. Here are the top five reasons why this is the case:
The obvious one. But unless you get your kicks from going very fast in a straight line, the average cash-strapped petrolhead can't do much better than an MX-5. Okay, so you might be able to grab an old hot hatch for a similar price, but those are dynamically limited by their driven wheels. There may be a few coupes on your list too, but the roof doesn't come off those. Whichever way you try and spin an alternative being more fun, it's never quite as fun as the MX-5. You'll want to sing it from the rooftops (or is that "with the roof down"?)
Never underestimate the value of cheapness. It's linked to the car's ubiquity of course, but this is now relative too - it's not like you see clean Mk1 MX-5s every day, but they're certainly easy enough to find in the classified ads. And because they're easy to find, people struggle to overcharge for them and can't get away with erroneous use of the word "rare", code for "I'm overpricing this and you can't stop me, sucker".
This is the scary one. MX-5s seem to last indefinitely with decent servicing, and it's this that makes them a top-notch option even if you're not really looking for a sports car. Put it this way - given, say, £700 to spend, which would you trust to get you to your destination - a slightly ratty-looking MX-5, or an
? Yeah, it's not the supermini is it?
This is relative of course, but once again, given that low budget, can you really find something that turns more heads than an early MX-5? Even if you crank up the budget to new-car territory - a modern MX-5 starts at around £17,000 or so - there aren't many cars with the same visual impact as an MX-5 with the roof down.
5. Jack of all trades
Usually you'd suffix this with "master of none", but that isn't really the case. The Miata's talents aren't just the fact it's fun, cheap, reliable and stylish, but that it mixes all those together. You might find something faster, but more reliable? Or more stylish, but as affordable? The MX-5 is a consummate box-ticker.
1. Two-seater only
Er, yeah. If you really do need any of the qualities above but need to carry more than one passenger too, the MX-5 can't really do the job. Unless you buy another for your other friends. They're cheap, after all.
Default alternative: "Buy an E30 BMW 3-Series"
2. You're a lanky freak
Never am I more glad that I'm a bit of a short-arse than when I'm required to fit behind the wheel of something small and fun, that those blessed with greater altitude are unable to enjoy. It makes up for all the times you gigantic people have stood in front of me at concerts. Where was I? Erm, well if you're over about six feet tall, an early MX-5 begins to get a little cramped. Later ones are better, but if you're cracking on for 6.5 feet then forget it.
Default alternative: "Buy a Toyota MR2"
3. I am man, hear me roar
Some people simply find the MX-5 a bit too girly. It's small and cute rather than big and butch. Still, if you're a man who finds masculinity more attractive than femininity then that's no business of ours. And anyway, you can use it to exercise, as the picture above proves.
Default alternative: "Buy a Corvette"
4. Not... that... quick...
This all depends on whether you value actual speed or sensation of speed more, but if it's the former then the MX-5 may not float your boat. In fact, it might not get your boat out of the dry dock. They're fun to buzz through the gears, but there's an element of depression that a modern-day diesel repmobile can leave you standing at the lights.
Default alternative: "Buy a Boxster"
5. Easy to steal
Sadly, I found this one out the hard way. The reason I no longer own my first MX-5 is because a couple of street urchins decided they wanted it more and removed it from outside my house. They then ran out of talent and crashed something that even hairdressers can drive. Early examples are, after all, just convertibles made in the 1980s. People found it easy enough to break into stuff with solid roofs back then, so one where you can peel back the windows makes it all a bit easy.
Default alternative: "Buy an immobiliser and a big stick"