Vehicle Type: Convertible Roadster

History/Description: Winter is in full swing – and if you’re a car buff longing for warmer-weather motoring, few things will warm your soul like sitting down with a hot chocolate and contemplating the idea of rocking a new-to-you convertible roadster when springtime finally hits. It’s hardly convertible weather at the moment, though you’ve got the rest of the winter to do some used-car research.

Will this be your year to get into a sporty two-seater for motoring pleasure, weekend getaways, a more entertaining commute, and general awesomeness of the top-down variety? If so, you’ve got plenty of used convertible options to consider – though few are as popular or loved as the Mazda MX-5.

The latest version of the Japanese brand’s superstar is still on sale through model-year 2015, though an all-new MX-5 will launch in the near future, meaning the 2005 to 2015 generation of the world’s best-selling roadster will soon transition fully into used car territory.

Engines / Trim: This generation MX-5 came in several variants and with several options and packages and trim grades. Look for a 2.0L four-cylinder engine with about 170 hp on manual-equipped models, and about 160 with the automatic. Rear-wheel drive was standard across the range.

Shoppers could specify a cloth Z-Fold roof, which could be manually operated in just a few seconds. A Power Retractable Hard Top (PRHT) model was available too, with a motorized hard-panel roof that was operated by dash-mounted switch.

If you’re after a loaded model geared up for long-haul comfort with all the toys, you’re looking for an MX-5 GT. Base model units wore a GX badge, and the mid-range model was called GS. Feature content included automatic climate control, steering-wheel mounted audio controls, Bose audio systems, a smart-key system, and more.

What Owners Like: Owners tend to rave about the MX-5’s fantastic manual shifter, frisky handling, great fuel economy and fun and carefree attitude. The standard cloth top mechanism is easy to operate, the up-level Bose stereo is commonly praised, and in all, the MX-5 seems an everyday sports car that’s practical, sensible and reliable. It’s also forgiving and solidly built, making it a great track-day car for novice drivers.

What Owners Dislike: Limited trunk and cabin space are typical complaints in this type of tight, two-seat drop-top, and some owners wish for a more upscale feel to the cabin, better outward visibility with the top up, and a softer ride on some models.

The Test Drive: Start off your test drive by confirming that all electronic accessories work as expected, including the power top, if equipped, the stereo, cruise, steering wheel audio controls and remote locks. Some owners have reported fiddly issues with various onboard electronics, which are likely caused by low battery voltage resulting from the car not being driven often enough.

If you’re planning to drive your MX-5 only on occasion, or primarily on shorter trips, budget for a trickle charger and leave it hooked up to the car’s battery when you’re not driving it. This will keep the battery voltage topped up and prevent numerous troubles related to low battery output. You can get a cheap trickle charger at Canadian Tire or WalMart for about $30.

Confirm that there are no flashing or illuminated lights in the instrument cluster related to the brakes, airbags or engine. If any are present, you’ll need to take the MX-5 in question to a mechanic for further investigation before purchase.

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