20 years of the MX-5: the models

Updated: 

In its 19 years, there have been four generations of the Mazda MX-5, all of which have stuck to the original concept closely.

The first was with us for eight years and launched in the UK in March 1990 costing £14,925. Featuring a 1.6-litre 115bhp engine capable of hitting 60mph in 8.7 seconds and a 121mph top speed, Mazda UK sold 20,088 models of the MkI while worldwide it proved a huge hit shifting 580,000 units.

Incredibly, the second generation didn't appear for another nine years. Incredible because it's very rare for a car to go so long without a facelift – usually models get a tweak after three years and a full replacement after six, and many often sooner than that.

See the MX-5 gallery

The MkII's biggest difference was at the front, with the pop-up lights of the original – outlawed by safety legislation – replaced with fixed units. Under the skin there was plenty of reworking too and the 1.6-litre was joined by a new £15,995 1.8-litre that produced 145bhp and a top speed of 130mph. UK sales doubled to 47,157.

The full redesign arrived in 2005. Inspired by the then recently-launched RX-8 the new model sported a gentler wedge shape, flared wheelarches and a new chassis but the big news was the 1.6-litre was axed in favour of a 1.8 and a new 160bhp 2.0-litre.

Only a year later, Mazda tweaked the formula again adding a retractable hard top model, the Roadster Coupe, which by that point had become de rigueur for drop tops. This added £1,200 to the price of a 2.0-litre, which started at £16,600. Some 26,728 MkIII models found homes.

And that brings us up to date and the refreshed MX-5 for 2009. This time changes were designed to make it 'sharper, leaner and greener'. The current model range is eight strong starting at £16,345 with a variety of 1.8 and 2.0-litre powerplants to choose from.

What really makes Mazda's little roadster such a success though, is that the manaufacturer has stuck closely to the original concept: simplicity, fun and value – all three of which go a long way when it comes to pleasing the car-buying public.

Read 20 years of MX-5 success