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Still worth taking for a spin

Second-hand MX-5s have kept their value
Since the launch of the Mazda MX-5 in 1990, more than 430,000 have been sold world-wide.

The arrival of a brand-new model does not necessarily devalue the old one. UK sales have run at record levels for two years, and such is the demand for the MX-5 that second-hand imports have flooded in from Japan.

A few years back, if you fancied a spot of sporting open-air motoring there wasn't much choice. Mazda's MX-5, which combined the looks of a Sixties Lotus with the reliability of their dull 323, inspired a host of imitators.

Provided the car has been looked after, and has a comprehensive main agent service history, there is little cause for concern. The only confusion occurs with special editions with questionable cosmetic additions.

Checking a used MX-5 is easy. Full service history, no bodywork damage and an intact hood are all good signs. However, a complication has been the increasing numbers of Eunos Roadsters - the Japanese name for the MX-5. Bought cheaply in Japan for pounds 2,000 to pounds 5,000, they seem like good value, fitted with CD player, air-conditioning and sometimes even an automatic gearbox.

However, the rust protection is of a lower standard than European cars, some parts are going to be harder to get, and the service history may be patchy. Certainly they require some work to meet MOT regulations.

One thing the MX-5 does not do is depreciate; since the early Nineties it has been hard to buy any model below pounds 8,000. Pinewood Mazda had two 48,000-mile 1.6 models. The 1990 car cost pounds 10,495, the 1991 pounds 1,000 more. Brand new, they cost only pounds 14,000. No wonder Japanese imports are popular.

As for classified ads, the dealers don't always advertise the model as a Eunos Roadster, which legally they should. Longbridge in Croydon, with cars starting at pounds 7,995, settles on Mazda Roadster. Autotek Imports had a 1993 30,000-mile 1.6 with air-conditioning, at pounds 8,950, whereas a UK specification example would cost at least pounds 12,000.

To find a cheaper non-Eunos, try a private classified ad. I discovered that pounds 7,500 would buy me a slightly scruffy 1990 model with 60,000 miles.

For used MX-5s, you can pay a lot of money and face a bewildering choice. But one thing is certain: the original MX-5 is a thoroughly modern classic.