Mazda MX-5 little ray of sunshine

A folding hard-top version of the Mazda MX-5 sports car adds function to fun, says Iain Dooley, PA senior motoring writer.

Engines – If you have to ask then you're not an MX-5 sort of person. Seriously though, Mazda's compact roadster is an all petrol affair. Over time engine capacity has grown to match the car's expanding waistline, which now means a choice between 1.8 and 2.0-litre units. Neither offer supercar performance but the latter will deliver more oomph to satisfy keen drivers.

Exterior – Still a familiar shape after all these years, this generation of MX-5 stays faithful to the original but also boasts a little more room inside and generally beefier appearance to help boost its kerb appeal in the big bad world. The Roadster Coupe's body hard-top roof is a nice addition.

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Interior – If you're expecting a flash cabin it's time to look away now, as the MX-5's interior boasts a pleasingly subtle ambience. Its durable nature does mean that having the hood down in all weathers shouldn't be a problem, while there's enough secure storage space to make living with it easy enough.

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Driving – What more needs to be said about the legend that is the MX-5? The classic front engine, rear-wheel drive layout is key to the car's appeal, and there's just enough power – not too much – to make it enjoyable and exploitable in equal measure. Even if you're a sports car novice you'll enjoy it, while experts will revel in the car's easy-going nature. In Roadster Coupe mode there doesn't seem to be a huge sacrifice regards performance, although it's a car that's likely to appeal to those more interested in form over function

Ownership – So long as you're comfortable with the modest amount of space in the boot and cabin, the MX-5 is an easy car to live with. Its compact dimensions make for a stress-free parking and urban driving experience, although rearward vision isn't great with the roof up. Inexpensive to run, the Roadster Coupe offers better protection from the elements, yet the folded mechanism is unobtrusive.

What to look for – Along with all the right documents and a comprehensive service history, overall condition is important as these cars are either pampered or driven hard. The Roadster Coupe is a little different as it's positioned at the luxurious end of the scale. That said, the roof mechanism must work flawlessly, and the drive experience shouldn't throw up any refinement issues – squeaks, rattles, leaks.

Model history – 2005, Mazda launches its latest generation MX-5 roadster. Traditional front-engine, rear-wheel drive layout remains, although car and petrol engine capacities have grown slightly. Soon after launch, a Roadster Coupe appeared with a folding hard-top for added refinement and weather protection.

Reasons to buy – Brand image, car's history, driver appeal, folding roof refinement.

Reasons to beware – Compact cabin, modest overall storage space, fabric roof variant the keen driver's choice.

Pick of the range – Mazda MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0i Sport.

What to pay – 2007 07 �9,125; 2008 08 �10,675; 2009 09 �12,125; 2010 10 �13,675. Figures relate to showroom prices for cars in A1 condition.

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