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Pleasurable Cars 2008 Review

Great performance and reliability the MX-5 is an affordable Roadster.

But what are hats and sunscreen for?

Besides most of today's roadsters can get their fabric or folding metal lids up at the push of a button within half a minute. These are Carsguide's favourites:

 

Affordable fun

Mazda MX-5

Price: from $42,870

Engine: 2L/4-cylinder; 118kW/188Nm

Economy: 8.5L/100km

Transmission: 6-speed manual or auto

If there was an annual award in this category it would reside perpetually in Mazda's trophy cabinet. The original MX-5 reinvented the classic Brit roadster adding such novel notions as performance and reliability.

The third generation retains the 1989 model's exhilarating dynamics and sheer fluidity. If you don't find pleasure in the way an MX-5 drives you've probably ceased breathing.

Purists might decry such modern innovations as air-con, power steering, ESP, a folding composite roof and (egad!) an auto transmission, but it hasn't been 1957 for some time now. Still others would rather it went quicker, but they're missing the point.

The MX-5 is the affordable roadster.

 

Track marque

Lotus Elise S

Price: $69,990

Engine: 1.8L/4-cylinder; 100kW/172Nm

Economy: 8.3L/100km

Transmission: 5-speed manual

The salient figure here is 860 that's the number of kgs the entry-level Lotus weighs, or about 500 less than a Toyota Corolla whose engine this spartan roadster uses to get from standing to 100km/h in 6.1 seconds.

While it's absolutely one for the enthusiast - or the fanatic - even if you've not the least wish to drive something so uncompromised (though a good deal more civilised than the Exige) you should at least be driven in a Lotus once. It'll open your eyes. Wide.

At its best at track speeds, where the Lotus's wonderfully unassisted steering comes into its own and where it doesn't matter that it takes ages to assemble to roof, you can smilingly drive one every day. But beware barging SUVs.

 

Zed's not dead

Nissan 350Z Roadster

Price: $73,990

Engine: 3.5L/V6; 230kW/358Nm

Economy: 12L/100km

Transmission: 6-speed manual or 5-speed auto

The Roadster version of the still outstanding 350Z gives very little away to the coupe model and while the same-priced auto is a cog short of the manual's six, it's easy to live with in city traffic.

Though we've yet to try the Roadster with the substantially new the faster V6 that causes the bonnet to bulge so priapically, our recent week in the revised Coupe suggests that it too will be more of an already good thing.

It's almost impossible to believe that same company is responsible for the Tiida ...

 

Gay tidings

Audi TT Roadster V6 quattro

Price: $92,900

Engine: 3.2L/v6; 184kW/320Nm

Economy: 9.6L/100km

Transmission: 6-speed DSG

Like the coupe, the lighter front-wheel-drive with the GTI's turbo four pot is a better bet most of the time than the heftier all-wheel-drive, though it's not really a sports car there'll be moments when you'll love yourself for the latter's extra go and grip.

Dispensing with the coupe's comedy back seat, there's ample room behind when with the fabric roof's folded. Some find the ride a bit terse; I don't but would still take the optional magnetic suspension.

With performance and handling that are both entertaining and accessible while wrapped in such an aesthetically bell-ringing package, the TT is fairly loveable.

 

If only ...

Porsche Boxster S

Price: from $135,100

Engine: 3.4L/6-cylinder; 217kW/340Nm

Economy: 10.4 or 11L/100km

Transmission: 6-speed manual or 5-speed auto

In our rare idle moments hereabouts, certain of us scan the classifieds trying rather pathetically to convince ourselves that a used Boxster is almost within our reach. Almost. Well, maybe one day ...

That's the problem with spending any amount of time in a Boxster, particularly, the top whack S. There's nothing wrong with it, you see. Well, maybe the ride on bigger tyres is just a bit savage, but so what when all else is perfect. It even sounds wonderful.

At it's worst, the Boxster will make you hate yourself for not being a better driver. So sublimely intuitive is the handling, so poised and balanced does it feel even in extremis, it almost always feels capable of more. Even if you're not.

 

Two plus twos

Affordability aside, floating the open top proposition can founder on the fatal shores of practicality. Society frowns upon selling one's children, though surely financing a Boxster should be cause for sympathy.

Still, Volkswagen's Eos (from $49,990) cabriolet/coupe comes is a practical, stylish and - with the drivetrain of the Golf GTI - tolerably rapid 2+2. It retains adequate bootage with the sophisticated folding metal lid, which can be configured five different way, folded down. Uniquely there's also a diesel option (from $48K), so you needn't use much juice.

And there are further options afoot.

With BMW's glorious twin-turbo 3-litre petrol six, the 135i cabriolet (due in June) will be by far the sharpest 2+2. Audi's A3 cabrio, likely to feature the 1.8-litre TFSI, follows in July.

And if fortune smiles upon you to the tune of $1.19 there's the sensuous land yacht that is Rolls-Royce's Drophead coupe. Plenty of room in the back for the kids in this baby.

 

Pricing Guides

$13,090
Based on third party pricing data
Lowest Price
$10,120
Highest Price
$16,060

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
(base) 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $10,560 – 14,520 2008 Mazda MX-5 2008 (base) Pricing and Specs
Coupe 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $10,120 – 13,860 2008 Mazda MX-5 2008 Coupe Pricing and Specs
Touring 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP AUTO $11,110 – 15,180 2008 Mazda MX-5 2008 Touring Pricing and Specs
Touring LE 2.0L, PULP, 6 SP MAN $11,550 – 15,400 2008 Mazda MX-5 2008 Touring LE Pricing and Specs
Pricing Guide

$14,768

Lowest price, based on 3 car listings in the last 6 months

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