THIS is a near-impossible call to make.

For decades now, the Mazda MX-5 has reigned supreme as the affordable sports car of choice, and the latest incarnation is without doubt the best yet. Slightly smaller, a little lighter, and with driver appeal by the bucketload it has won universal praise.

But this iconic car no longer rules the roost alone... and its rival deserves serious consideration for good reason.

The Fiat 124 Spider - now there's a name with a proud heritage - is built on the same platform as the MX-5, has a remarkably similar cabin and even uses the same grab-and-pull roof opening/closing mechanism.

So what we now have is the best MX-5 ever created by the Japanese company versus a car which handles in a very similar way but has classic Italian flair in its bodywork.

Powered by a 1.4-litre MultiAir turbo petrol engine producing 140hp, it accelerates from 0 to 62mph in 7.5 seconds and will reach a top speed of 134mph.

In comparison, the 1.5-litre 128bhp MX-5 takes 8.3 seconds for the 0-62mph sprint, but unlike the 124 Spider - which is offered with only one engine - you can opt for a 2.0-litre version that takes 7.3 seconds for the sprint.

Little to choose from then in the acceleration stakes, and with prices starting at £18,495 for the MX-5 and £19,545 for the 124 Spider it will take some time to weigh up exactly what you get for your level of trim before handing over your cash.

The front-end of the 124 Spider encapsulates the essence of its classic predecessor by being both broad and muscular and also elegant and perfectly proportioned. The profile view is classic roadster, with its long wheelbase, a cockpit hunkered low near the driven rear axle and a long bonnet that makes the 124 Spider the longer of the two cars.

The nose takes its inspiration from the 1966 original with the style and position of the LED headlamps and the hexagonal upper grille all drawing heavily from the details of the classic roadster. The bonnet of the new sports car also emulates the twin power domes of the second-generation 124 Spider, while the rear view is defined by the swallow-tail rear wings, horizontal tail lamps with their distinctive ring shape, integrated spoiler and twin exhaust outlets.

To minimise weight, improve longevity and encourage spur-of-the-moment open-air driving experiences, the multi-layer canvas hood is a manual unit that can be operated in seconds using minimal force and without the driver having to leave their seat. Doing so reveals a cabin built to the highest standard from a variety of top-quality soft-touch and premium materials, painstakingly laid out and fine-tuned to ensure the perfect layout of pedals, steering wheel and gear lever with a clear view of the three-dial instrument cluster with a purposeful central rev-counter.

The steering wheel, too, is ergonomically designed to feel more comfortable in the hand and is wrapped with high-quality leather, while the light mesh structure seats and exclusive shape of the trim and foam parts were designed to guarantee the highest level of comfort. The door panels are trimmed with high-quality, soft-touch materials and beautifully detailed with satin-chrome elements.

The 124 Spider's suspension uses a double-wishbone layout in front and a multilink in the rear, specifically tuned for greater stability while braking and turning, while the electric power steering system has been specifically tuned to give the Spider a responsive Italian feel. Combined with the lightweight architecture and balanced weight distribution, the turbo-charged 124 Spider offers a dynamic and exciting driving experience without compromising comfort and refinement.

A voice-controlled infotainment system (with Bluetooth), LED rear light clusters, four airbags, cruise control, a speed limiter and ESC with ABS and EBD are all standard. A rear parking assistance system, a reversing camera, keyless entry and automatic lights and wipers improve safety, security and convenience, where fitted.

Three trim levels are offered: Classica, Lusso and Lusso Plus. Prices start at £19,545 for the Classica version, with the Lusso model priced at £22,295 and the top Lusso Plus trim £1,000 more.