What is the secret of the Mazda MX5's success?

The Mazda MX5 was brought out at a time when sports cars were completely out of fashion. Many motoring gurus reckoned that Mazda were extremely brave in bringing out a small two seater car into a market that scarcely existed, but it eventually proved to be easily the most successful small sports car in history, with more than 1 million sold to date.

What was it like?

It was small, relatively low powered, and with little boot space. It was also lightweight, which gave it excellent performance and good fuel economy. Roadholding was superb, the price was reasonably low and it was good fun to drive. The interior could only ever seat two people, but it was cosy rather than cramped. In short, it was the perfect car for the young 'boy racer'; and it had the advantage, at first, of having little competition.

Was it comfortable?

The interior was fairly sparse, with few of the electronic toys that clutter up many other cars. However, it was adequate with comfortable seating and good all-round vision. It just felt like a real, genuine sports car!

Was it powerful?

The initial 1600 cc four-cylinder powerplant put out just 90 brake horsepower. With such a light and responsive car, however, this was not such a problem and a top speed of 108 mph was possible with adequate acceleration. New safety legislation, however, meant that the airbags had to be added as well as side impact protection and these meant added weight. So, in 1993 a 1.8 L fuel injected engine was introduced with 131 brake horsepower, which brought the top speed up to 122 mph.

The latest generation of MX5s feature 2 L engines producing 181 brake horsepower, giving acceleration from 0 to 60 of 6.5 seconds and a top speed of 130mph.

Was it successful?

Was it ever! The MX5 re-opened the market for small sports cars. It was - and still is - fun to drive, inexpensive and economical to run. Maintenance is reasonably easy and accessible. Many other manufacturers jumped into the market with their own offerings but despite this sales just increased for the MX5 and it is still in successful production to this day.

Fair enough it could never be considered a family car, or one suitable for taking the children to school, but as a first car for younger drivers, or even a spare 'fun car' for older ones, it has suited the niche admirably.