The best roadsters

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Six of the best roadsters to buy for £5000

Roadsters represent a lot of things to different people, but most of all, they’re all about fun. They’re great during the summer and, if you’re brave enough to have the roof down, exhilarating in the winter. Matthew Hayward from Evo magazine picks six of the best for around £5,000.
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Honda S2000

Honda S2000 (1999–2009)

eBay loves: Screaming Honda engine is great
Watch out for: Tricky handling

When Honda launched the S2000 in 1999, it re-envisioned the company’s classic S800 sports car. Fitted with a fantastic 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine and Honda’s legendary VTEC variable valve timing system, the naturally aspirated engine puts out a staggering 237bhp at 8300rpm. Honda has always got its gearboxes spot on and the S2000 is no exception, being one of the best feeling manual shifters ever built. Handling on early cars was a little unpredictable on the limit, but a good set of tyres can do wonders. £3,500 is the entry point for an early S2000, but you can still spend up to £15,000 for the best 2009 models. 
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Alfa Romeo Spider

Alfa Romeo Spider ('93–'04)

eBay loves: Beautiful interior and cracking engines
Watch out for: Requires constant maintenance

There’s something about owning an Alfa Romeo that just makes sense. Although you’ll spend a lot of money fixing, maintaining and improving a Spider, there’s something truly addictive about the experience. £5,000 will probably buy the best Spider in the country, but nice-condition V6 models are always in demand due to being rare and hugely desirable. The 2.0-litre models represent the biggest bargain, as they are even cheaper to buy, more sensible to run and actually handle better than the heavier V6. Spiders are rapidly becoming cherished classics now, with people paying increasingly strong money for the best examples.
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Mazda MX-5 Mk3

Mazda MX-5 Mk3 ('05–'14)

eBay loves: Brilliant and reliable fun
Watch out for: Damaged roof can be pricy to fix

We couldn’t do a piece about roadsters without mentioning the ever-present Mazda MX-5. It might seem like an obvious choice, but the MX-5 is popular for a reason — it’s an amazingly fun roadster. Prices start from £4,000 and around £5,000 will be enough to find a well cared for Mk3 MX-5. Hard tops come at a £500 premium, but there is very little difference in price between the 1.8 and 2.0-litre models. Thankfully, the Mk3 MX-5 doesn’t suffer from the horrible rust issues of the Mk2 and even the oldest models have proven almost bulletproof in terms of reliability.
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BMW Z4 Roadster

BMW Z4 Roadster ('06–'09)

eBay loves: Great quality and engineering
Watch out for: Smaller engines feel slow

A world apart from the Z3 it replaced, BMW’s Z4 roadster combined a vastly different look with a great selection of straight-six petrol engines of varying capacities and power outputs. The use of lightweight materials kept the weight down and although not the most inspiring, its rear-wheel drive chassis could be good fun — especially in the more powerful versions. Power figures start at 150bhp for the entry-level 2.0-litre, right up to a scintillating 338bhp for the M3-engined 3.2-litre Z4 M. Prices start around the £4,000 mark, although later more desirable models will cost considerably more. For £5,000 you should be able to find a nicely looked after older example, or something from 2008 with a lot more miles.
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Mercedes SLK

Mercedes SLK (1996–2004)

eBay loves: Folding metal hardtop
Watch out for: Poorly maintained examples can be troublesome

The folding metal hard top — the first of its kind on a production car — really was one of the most impressive things about the SLK when it was launched. A lot of newer convertibles opted to take this route, meaning that even the oldest SLK still feels modern. Performance is good from both four-cylinder 200 and 230 Kompressor models, although the V6-engined 320 is the smoothest and most refined. Presentable models can be picked up for £2,000 or less, but cherished high-spec models will cost upwards of £4,000. The rare SLK 32 AMG models will set you back closer to £7,000–£8,000, although have been known to sell for less than £6,000.
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SMART Roadster

SMART Roadster ('03-'06)

eBay loves: Funky styling, low running costs
Watch out for: Leaky roofs

Although it was actually based on the tiny ForTwo model, the Smart Roadster was a surprisingly fun little machine. The lightweight nature of the car (just 790kg) comes from the use of plastic panels and endows the small sports car with some rather endearing qualities. A modest rear-mounted 60bhp or 80bhp three-cylinder turbo engine, hooked up to a Tiptronic gearbox, provides a surprising amount of performance. Brabus versions increased power to just over 100bhp and added a very cool set of polished alloy wheels, sports exhaust and lowered suspension. All this adds up to a sure-fire future classic, and great car to own and run right now. Prices start from around £2,000, but budget up to £5,000 for a nice example. Brabus models start at £4,000, ranging up to £9,000.
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