Top Three... Topless fun for under £2500

Since the dawn of the automobile, there has been an appeal to the wind in your hair approach. Back to basics motoring that majors on the thrill of driving, connecting you to the road. Here we list the best three ways to spend £2500 for an involving topless experience...

3rd: Toyota MR2

The MR2 was for years Toyota's answer to the MX5. Punchy performance and sharp mid-engined handling kept buyers coming back. £2500 will see you with a healthy choice of later 2002 cars. In terms of problems, well...there aren't many! Typical bomb proof Toyota mechanicals. The only area to look for on the earlier cars would be the exhaust manifold. This had a catalytic converter attached that can break down and cause damage to the rest of the exhaust system. Later cars had a modified exhaust that dealt with this problem.

The other point, and this is true of all our cars listed here, is to make sure you inspect the soft top carefully. Pay particular attention to the parts that crease when the roof is folded as these are always the first areas to go. Look also at the rear window as these can be damaged easily when folding the roof up and down and can be quite expensive to replace.

2nd: MGTF.

The MGTF makes it on to our list owing to the appeal of the traditional British sports car. However, they are not without their problems. Even amazonian tribesman who have existed completely isolated from civilisation know that the K series engine that powers the TF has a habit of popping head gaskets. Long story short, the engine was designed for small runarounds not sports cars and it suffers for it. Head gasket failures plague the model. That said, the later TF's aren't as bad as they had a modified thermostat fitted. If used in conjunction with an overheating alarm, (this is what causes the gasket failure nine times out of ten), then there is no reason the engine won't give sterling service. Other areas to look for are the condition of the front to back cooling pipes that have a habit of corroding, although again less of a problem on later models. Also keep an eye out for the bane of many British cars, rust. Sills are a popular spot for tin worm but the whole car needs careful inspection.

£2500 will pretty much give you the choice of the market aside from very low mileage late cars. There are loads to choose from so pick carefully. As said above, they are far from perfect but if bought well can be a blast!

1st: Mazda MX5 (Mk1 & Mk2)

There are few cars, at any price, that thrill quite like the MX5. Launched in 1989 and shamelessly stealing it's design queues from the 60's Lotus Elan, it has remained ever popular. Unlike the other two in our list, it's a traditional front engined, rear drive configuration. It's handling is sublime and the engine has just enough power to keep it on song. The earlier Mk1 version has the classic pop up headlights. The Mk2 brought with it a more modern body style and some other interior tweaks. On the whole, the little Mazda is a reliable car with very little in the way of common problems. The only thing to pay close attention to is rust. With early cars getting on for almost 30 years old now, nature is taking hold! The main area to look for is the sills but a thorough inspection would be wise.

Many MX5's on the market have been imported from Japan, (these are often badged as Eunos Roadsters). They are generally much cleaner than UK supplied cars owing to the fact that the Japanese don't salt their roads in the winter. They are normally better equipped as well.

Although prices are creeping up, £2500 is healthy budget for the little Mazda. Expect to be looking at some of the better ones on the market.

All in all, the Mazda is head and shoulders above any of the competition. However, I am biased: The one in the picture belongs to me!

One to avoid: 206 CC

If you've read our guide on the best first car to buy for £1500, you would have seen the Peugeot 206 come a respectable 2nd place. Why then does this success not translate to it's topless brother. To put it bluntly, it's unspeakably vile. The folding metal roof is leaky and prone to failure, the chassis has all the integrity of an Italian politician and the gear stick seems to be connected to the 'box by way of a bowl of porridge. If it's a wind in your hair experience you crave, you'd be better off buying a donkey than one of these.

We hope you found guide this helpful.

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