Although the latest, fourth-generation MX-5 runs it close, the Mk1 MX-5 will always be the original and best when it comes to the drivetrain. To appreciate why, read what Autocar’s testers had to say in 1990: “The real ace up the MX-5’s sleeve is its gearbox. Rising no more than a couple of inches from the transmission tunnel, the well-weighted gearlever snaps through its tiny throws with millimetric precision. The whole driveline encourages you to drive as precisely as it operates. Co-ordinate the light, quick clutch with that rifle bolt of a gearchange and combine the two with the split-second reactions of the engine and you will be rewarded with a rare degree of driver satisfaction.”
Somehow, the 306 GTi-6 never seemed to earn the acclaim it deserved. After all, in 1996, this was the first hot hatch to feature a six-speed gearbox, and with 124kW, it was more powerful than most of its rivals. The close-ratio gearbox helped keep the 2.0-litre 16-valve engine on the boil – a good thing, too, as it liked to rev – and the steering feel and poise of the chassis could teach most modern hot hatches a thing or two. These days, you’ll need to source an example that has been well cared for, or it may prove a money pit.