So you've long lusted after a topless sports car — that two-seat roadster that dominates your daydreams and turns your head when it passes by.
Well, there's a good chance you can afford one. True, you can spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on an open car with an attitude and room for two, but you don't have to. I've come up with a playful trio whose MSRPs start at $24,995, stop off at $29,755, and end up at $41,820. (The latter, while not exactly a Walmart Rollback, still costs less than the average transactional price of a full-size crew cab pickup.)
So let's take a quick look at these sexy, nimble, rear-drive hair dryers:
2019 Fiat 124 Spider ($24,995). The Spider is a marriage of a latter-day evocation of the original, Pininfarina-designed 124 Sport Spyder, one of the loveliest Fiats ever, and the delightfully athletic Mazda MX-5 Miata.
In this collaboration, the Japanese automaker contributes the Mazda platform and some parts, and assembles the vehicle. Its Italian partner furnished the car's exterior and interior design, and substitutes its 1.4-liter turbo for the Mazda's engine. Fiat also has retuned the Mazda suspension, employing its own springs, shock absorbers, and anti-roll bars. The result is a suspension that produces a tad less body roll than the Miata's and is a little less high-strung.
The second coming of the Spider (dubbed the "Fiata") evokes the original without aping it. The Spider's longer overhangs make it a bit longer and heavier than the Miata. But even with the extra 100 pounds, it still weighs only about 2,500 pounds, meaning that its little, 160-horsepower turbo can get it from 0 to 60 in a fast-enough-to-be-fun 6.4 seconds.
2018 Mazda MX-5 Miata ($29,755). The original 1990 Miata closely followed in the footsteps of the Lotus Elan, right down to the placement of the fuel filler. Happily, it has remained true to its roots. Unlike a lot of automobiles — and a lot of people — it has not put on the weight and inches over the years. It remains the small, light dancing partner whose athleticism is diametrically opposed to its size.
Like its Italian cousin, the Miata is a joy to drive, particularly in ambitious corners. Its perfect fore-to-aft weight distribution, quick steering, and suspension design team up to make handling its strong suit. Its standard, six-speed manual gearbox is a study in short-throw precision.
And like the Spider, its 2-liter, 155-horse engine gets the car from a standing start to 60 in about 6.5 seconds, and delivers identical EPA mileage ratings of 26 city and 35 highway.
2019 Nissan 370Z Roadster ($41,820). The current 370Z is getting a bit long in the tooth, but it still serves up open car fun in generous portions. In its base form, the roadster isn't quite as quick and nimble as its more expensive brethren, but it still acquits itself nicely. The 3.7-liter V-6 in this well-equipped convertible develops 332 horsepower, which is enough to get you from a standing start to 60 in a follicle over five seconds. The EPAs, at 18 city and 25 highway, are less exciting.
This base roadster is available only with a seven-speed automatic transmission. You can only get a manual gearbox in the limited-availability, more upmarket Touring Sport Manual model ($48,100).