Modesty is an underrated quality these days. Society, in the online world at least, has been conditioned to believe that if you’re not boasting about how happy / ambitious / fashionable or slim you are, then you’re selling yourself short. Even – as is often the case – the reality differs from the cacophony of words and images that crowd cyberspace.

New automotive hopefuls – of which hardly a week passes without another low-volume manufacturer emerging – display a shocking absence of that now-scarce virtue too as, with depressing predictability, they unveil yet another super sports car priced at hundreds of thousands of pounds. Do they really believe that well-heeled buyers of established marques such as Ferrari, Porsche and Aston Martin are going to take a punt. And why does the styling always take one of two approaches: either a forgettable generic design that looks like it was lifted straight off the label of a bottle of car polish, or a woefully disproportioned monstrosity that even an angler fish would dismiss as hideous?

Modesty lies at the heart of so many of the finest cars ever conceived. From the original diminutive Mini, to the proportional perfection of that utilitarian masterclass the Mk1Golf, to the biblical build quality of the Mercedes-Benz W124 E Class of the 1980s. None were symbols of one-upmanship – unlike today’s seemingly unstoppable tidal wave of bludgeoning bully wagon SUVs. Instead their inherent purity of design has endured both decades and trends.

The MX-5 wholly merits mention alongside the aforementioned trio, the template set by the now-iconic first generation NA design remaining true nearly three decades on. A compact footprint; crisp, unembellished styling and a powertrain engineered primarily for accessible enjoyment. It’s hard to think of one single real-world driving scenario where a mid-engined hypercar would be as intrinsically enjoyable to steer as even the lowest-powered MX-5 variant.

Nevertheless, there are many who embrace the ideology of relentless self-promotion over classy subtlety. Given the choice of having a pint with either Cruise or Clooney, who would you choose?…

Caesar Barton


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