Summer inspires dreams of top-down, wind-in-your-hair road trips. (C’mon, who doesn’t love the idea of whizzing toward the beach in a convertible for two?) In these sporty numbers, you’ll sacrifice some space, ride comfort, and quiet for driving thrills. And many drop tops, like the BMW Z4 we recently tested, carry a price upward of $50,000.

But there are some roadsters that offer zippy fun at a more practical price: the Fiat 124 Spider and Mazda MX-5 Miata. These two similar models are built by Mazda in Japan, but each has a slightly different character.

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The Miata is the sportier version, with agile handling, super-responsive steering, a fuller, exciting engine sound, and a crisp manual shifter. The MX-5's sparkling combination of nimble fun and thriftiness has made it a favorite at our test track. Alas, the stiff ride and noisy cabin (even with the top up) don’t make it ideal for daily use.

Like the Miata, the Fiat 124 Spider is nimble to drive, but its ride is a bit more comfortable—more cruiser, less go-kart—than the high-revving Miata’s.

All 124 Spiders come with Fiat/Chrysler’s widely used 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder producing 160 to 164 horsepower, as opposed to the Miata’s bigger 181-hp, 2.0-liter four-cylinder. Like with the Mazda, Fiat shoppers have a choice of a six-speed manual transmission or an optional six-speed automatic.

Both cars are a delight to drive and provide many of the BMW Z4’s sports-car qualities. Sure, their tops are manually operated, and the seats and cabin aren’t nearly as plush as in the Z4. But at about half the price, these roadsters could be a guilt-free joyride. Of the two, we recommend the Mazda for its more lively and responsive driving performance and reliability.

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2019 Fiat 124

Price Range: $25,440 - $29,540

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2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Price Range: $25,730 - $37,995

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Reliability
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Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the August 2109 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.