Review: Mitsuoka Roadster (2015)

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Destined to be incredibly rare with classic sports car looks. Always gets attention wherever you go.

Expensive and unknown in the UK. Not as sharp to drive as an MX-5. Very long.

Mitsuoka Roadster (2015): At A Glance

With the looks of a classic British sports car and the reliability and quality of a modern Mazda, the Mitsuoka Roadster combines the best of two worlds - but with a price of more than £50,000 it’s a very niche proposal. It will only appeal to a very select few, but for those few there isn’t really anything else to match it.

Hand-built in Japan, the Roadster actually starts life as a Mazda MX-5 – but it’s hard to tell. More or less every panel is changed and lots of length is added to the wheelbase, giving the Roadster – called Himiko in its home market – its distinctive long bonnet. For turning heads and getting attention there aren’t many cars to match it, plus it's well put together.

But that additional length creates some problems. Tight junctions with poor visibility are hard work and threading the car through twists and turns isn’t a particularly exciting experience. That said, for cruising along enjoying the weather, the Roadster is great – it’s easy to drive and reasonably comfortable.

It shares its 2.0-litre engine with the MX-5, producing peak power of 160PS. It’s torquey enough for relaxed town driving and motorway cruising, plus it sounds great when pushed hard – but fuel economy could be better. This engine in the MX-5 manages just over 30mpg, according to Real MPG users, so expect less in the Mitsuoka.

It might look exotic on the outside, but the interior is straight out of the previous generation MX-5. That means it’s a little plain, but it’s very user-friendly and well-made, plus it comes with creature comforts like heated leather seats. The boot is small but with a very low load height, so getting weekend bags in and out is easy.

Exclusivity is guaranteed. Mitsuoka doesn't make a huge number of Roadsters at its factory in Japan and there is only one importer in the UK - T W White and Sons, based in Surrey. For those who want Roadster but live hundreds of miles away, any Mazda dealer can carry out routine servicing and maintenance, so you won't have to travel back to the Mitsuoka showroom every year. 

Anyone who has owned a Nissan Figaro will understand the logic behind the Mitsuoka Roadster. It’s an enjoyable, head-turning car but it manages to do away with the associated high running costs and reliability issues by using relatively humble underpinnings. Just remember that you can get a Morgan for similar money – which will either fill you with joy or dread.

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What does a Mitsuoka Roadster (2015) cost?

Mitsuoka Roadster (2015): What's It Like Inside?

While the Mitsuoka Roadster has some radical exterior styling, its Mazda MX-5 underpinnings are all too apparent in the cabin. In fact, it’s almost identical to the MX-5, which is both a blessing and a curse. Quality is great, with solid, high-quality materials and creature comforts like heated seats, but it could be a little more exciting to complement the retro exterior styling.

The folding roof is metal, so provides good security and refinement. It can be raised or lowered in around 12 seconds and is very straightforward to operate – just undo the single roof latch and press the button. Folding it down has no effect on load volume in the boot. Capacity isn't huge – but access is good and the load deck is low. There's more than enough space for a weekend away or a trip to the shops. 

Because of its Mazda MX-5 underpinnings, everything is tried and tested. The audio system, climate control, heated seats and cruise control all work flawlessly, plus they are intuitive and easy to operate – and they all come as standard. Also standard is leather upholstery, plus there is Bluetooth connectivity and an aux input for music.

Servicing and running costs should be affordable, since the engine and running gear are shared with the relatively simple Mazda MX-5. If you’ve always wanted a stylish classic car but you’ve incredibly high servicing costs or getting stranded at the roadside then the Mitsuoka Roadster could be right up your street - if you can afford more than £53,000 to buy it in the first place.

Standard Equipment:

Mitsuoka Roadster comes with leather sports seats, driver’s side seat height adjustment, plastic wind blocker, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, Bluetooth, Aux-in, steering wheel mounted audio controls, remote central locking, remote boot release, cruise control, electric windows and climate control. The only options are metallic paint and navigation.

Child seats that fit a Mitsuoka Roadster (2015)

Our unique Car Seat Chooser shows you which child car seats will fit this car and which seat positions that they will fit, so that you don't have to check every car seat manufacturer's website for compatibility.

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What's the Mitsuoka Roadster (2015) like to drive?

Under the bonnet of the Mitsuoka Roadster is a 2.0-litre petrol engine shared with the previous Mazda MX-5. Peak power is 160PS and torque is 188Nm. It’s no ball of fire, but it’s quiet and punchy enough for town driving or motorway cruising plus it sounds good when pushed hard.

The manual gearbox is slick, smooth and precise but if you’d rather let the car do the hard work an automatic is available. That might be a good idea, because the Mitsuoka Roadster is better suited to relaxed driving than attacking a B-road - and an automatic transmission makes things that bit more effortless.

Emissions for the manual are 181g/km and 188g/km for the auto. In our real MPG section owners of the MX-5 with the same engine manage around 30-35mpg. The Mitsuoka Roadster is a little heavier than an MX-5, but there's no reason not to expect similar figures in real world driving from the manual, or slightly worse for the auto. 

Thanks to its long bonnet and wheelbase, the Roadster feels a little ponderous and imprecise through bends, but fortunately it’s reasonably comfortable. The steering is responsive enough but, thanks to that additional length, it isn't as precise as in an MX-5 and it lacks the wonderful level of feedback. There is also a little flex in the body, though it's only apparent over particularly uneven surfaces.

None of this is a real problem though. For a sedate drive on a scenic route - or even long distance cruising - it's easy and relaxing to drive, far more so than an old classic car. With the roof down buffeting is minimal up to around 60mph, but after that things get noisy. On the plus side there is a built-in wind breaker to quieten things a little and, with the roof in place, there is little noise even at 70mph. 

Around town the Roadster can be troublesome because of its length. Pulling out of tight junctions is tricky, since it’s hard to see what’s coming without creeping the car out slowly. Parking can be hard work too, purely because the car is so long. On the plus side visibility isn’t bad – you can see the extremities of the car easily, so scraped bumpers are fairly easy to avoid with some care. However, there are no parking sensors and they aren't an option either.