Secure inside a hardtop

With over 750,000 cars sold, the Mazda MX-5 is the world's highest selling roadster ever.

Launched in 1989, it offered an affordable soft-top sports car to the world - something lacking since the days of the MG. But the MX-5 came with a major advantage - Japanese reliability.

For the six years that I owned one, it put a smile on my face every day. Despite it being 14 years old, I never had a single problem  with it until, unfortunately, it was written off. I still sorely miss it.

The third generation represents a slight change in direction for Mazda. Previously viewed by some as a cute car for women, this model shows a few more muscular curves, and a larger body.

It is still instantly identifiable as an MX-5, albeit with a huge leap in the quality of the interior. It has the solid feel of a more expensive car, with a classy piano black dash trim and chunky three-spoke steering wheel. The slightly larger body size improves interior space and I thought the boot surprisingly spacious, especially without the spare wheel.

What I was excited about trying out was a real first for Mazda - the roadster coupé has an electric retractable hardtop. Amazingly this still lowers into the same space as the manual fabric roof - leaving the boot space unaffected. It improves security and visibility, reduces wind noise and requires less maintenance. Some enthusiasts argue it adds unnecessary weight and departs from the original's simple, traditional design. They can save £1,800 and buy a ragtop.

The MX-5 has always been about driveability, and this model does not disappoint. It has rear-wheel drive and a near-perfect 50:50 weight distribution. It loves been thrown around twisty country roads, but it is also at home in city traffic.

I drove the 2.0 litre six-speed model, but it is also available in a 1.8 litre five-speed. Traction control and stability control efficiently rein in the MX-5's occasional tendency to oversteer. Thankfully the makers have not made the mistake of excessive electronic gadgetry that detaches you from the driving experience.

So would I recommend the MX-5? The answer is a resounding ‘yes'. The roadster coupé version makes the car more practical than before for year-round use and, for the GP, will attract less unwanted attention than other more expensive convertibles, which are likely to be less fun anyway. Just be prepared to find yourself taking the longer route home, and offering to make extra home visits.

Dr Shanker Vijayadeva is a GP in Harrow, Middlesex

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