Michael Booth swoons over the Mazda MX5
The new Mazda MX5, now with folding hard top, sends Michael Booth into a swoon


Would suit: Everyone in the Ministry of Transport should be given one
Price: £19,210 - £20,710
Performance: 130mph, 0-60 in 7.9 seconds
Combined fuel consumption: 36.7mpg Further information 0800 181 361

Not to scaremonger or anything, but in the future, when our cars are remote-controlled by civil servants, their engines immobilised when we so much as think of breaking the speed limit, and a prison boat in the Thames Estuary awaits those caught double-parked outside the newsagents on a Sunday, the concept of going for a drive, just for the fun of it, will be but a faint memory, like winter.

We should all be driving Mazda MX5s while we still have the chance. It's a detour-along-the-windy- hill-top-road kind of car, the MX5. Precise controls, an urgent engine, exceptional poise - the MX5 ticks all the boxes. You don't sit in it, you plug yourself in.

Despite this, I wasn't so keen on the idea of an MX5 with a folding hard top because one of the great things about the original was its simplicity. You could fold the roof back yourself in far less time than a bunch of heavy, slow, power-sapping motors ever could.

Really, the only luxuries you need in a car are 1) windows and 2) perhaps some carpeting. Then again, air conditioning is nice, isn't it? And heated seats in the winter, and you may as well throw in those massage-and-fan chairs you get in big Mercs; column-mounted stereo controls are a good safety feature; I was quite taken by the adaptable mood lighting in the new Mini, too; television screens in the back are a no-brainer if you have kids, as is the arm-rest humidor like the one in the old Aston DB7 Dunhill; and the little folding shopping trolley you get in the back of a Citroën Picasso is a boon for picnics. Where was I...?

So now the MX5 comes in folding hard top flavour, you can leave it on the street at night without worrying whether some cretinous little haemorrhoid is going to slash the roof and dump on your upholstery. It's the fastest folder in the world, they say, at just 12 seconds, although the canvas roof version (at around £1,700 less, although the CC comes with £560 air con as standard) still beats it by around 11 seconds. Usually, fitting a folding hard top to a convertible is like making Julie Christie carry a fridge around - she's not going to move half as fast, nor look half as good (though she'd still make Sienna Miller look like a fame-grasping Sloane). But the MX5's only adds 37kg and takes up no more space in the boot. MGB drivers will splutter into their real ale that it's "not a proper sports car" before returning to the small print in their divorce papers, but for anyone with a semblance of intelligence, a folding hard top only makes one of the most joyful sports cars that teensy bit more practical.

If I have one beef with the MX5, it's the noise it makes, which is a little too "white goods". The obvious thing would be to engineer in a sexy exhaust note, but what if cars had theme tunes? Wouldn't that make the world a better place? The MX5's should be something perky, of course. If it weren't carcinogenic, I'd suggest the theme tune to The Archers, but the chase music from Benny Hill gets my nod.

Back when it was launched in 1989, the MX5 was the only cheap roadster on the market. Now, with the MG TF, Smart Roadster and Toyota MR2 all gone, it only really has the diddy Daihatsu Copen left to challenge it. No contest: the original is still the best, and it just got that little bit better. s

It's a classic: Mazda Cosmo

In the wee small hours, when I lie awake and think about what it must be like to own, or even just see, a real-life Mazda Cosmo, I can almost convince myself that it never really existed, that it is a kind of unicorn of automotive history, either that or a very clever PR stunt intended to burnish the brand with a heritage it never really had. I have never seen one of these sexy, sci-fi coupés in the flesh, nor do I know anyone who has, but Mazda tells us that they were built from 1967 until 1972, and that they were the first ever mass-produced, rotary- engined cars. The history books also record that they were quite fast for their time - capable of 115mph and 0-60mph in 10.2 seconds - and that just 1,176 were built. There were problems with that super-advanced engine, and Cosmos became known for their fragility as much as their pace. Today, like the equally mythical Toyota 2000GT, Cosmos are supposed to fetch well into six figures when they make their brief, tantalising appearances at the exclusive auction houses of Tokyo and Geneva.

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