Inflation winners and losers: are new cars getting more expensive?

We recently drove the new Mazda MX-5 on its launch in the Scottish highlands. Mazda proudly boasts that, based on the inflation-adjusted £14,429 start price of the original model, the latest MX-5 should cost over £32,000.

Instead, it costs a very reasonable £18,495 – something Mazda is taking full advantage of. But it got us thinking, how have other cars fared against inflation?

We’ve compared inflation-adjusted prices from 25 years ago with list prices from today – comparing like-for-like entry-level models.

Porsche 911

Porsche 911

1990 (Carrera 2 3.2 coupe): £45,821
Inflation adjusted: £101,899
2015 (Carrera coupe): £73,509

Winning or losing?: winning 🙂

If you’ve been looking for a way to justify a new Porsche 991, this could be it. Back in 1990, buyers were struggling to come to terms with a 911 that looked barely different from the dated 930 it replaced, but in fact was technically very different underneath.

At launch, buyers could only opt for the four-wheel-drive Carrera 4 model. By 1990, the rear-wheel-drive Carrera 2 had joined the line-up, however, and soon became by far the most popular choice.

With a list price of £45,821, the entry-level 964 would cost a whopping £101,899 in today’s money. That makes the current model’s £73,509 look relatively affordable. What more persuasion do you need?

Mini

Mini

1990 (1.0 City): £4,899
Inflation adjusted: £10,895
2015 (One): £13,955

Winning or losing?: losing 🙁

You could say this is a little bit of a cheat, as the current MINI has very little in common with the Rover MINI that sported the same badge in 1990.

The original Mini was an affordable, practical small car designed way back in 1959 to beat rising petrol prices.

Despite many motorists having similar requirements in 2015, the new MINI is now a (slightly pricey) fashion accessory – albeit one that’s still good on fuel.

Still, the original Mini’s £4,899 list price in 1990 means it should cost just under £11,000 today. That makes the new model’s £13,955 entry price expensive.

Suzuki Vitara

Suzuki Vitara

1990 (1.6 soft top 4wd 3dr): £9,250
Inflation adjusted: £20,570
2015 (1.6 SZ4): £13,999

Winning or losing?: winning 🙂

Many credit the Suzuki Vitara for starting the crossover and small SUV craze when it was launched in 1988.

Until 1991 it was only available as a three-door, with a 1.6 8v petrol engine. Unlike the crossovers today, it was a chore to drive – slow, with a harsh ride and poor handling. All models had switchable all-wheel drive, however, and were capable off road.

The strength of the yen in the early 1990s meant Japanese cars at the time were expensive compared to European rivals. This didn’t seem to hamper sales of the Vitara a great deal, with buyers seemingly happy to pay a premium for the quirky off-roader.

Today, the yen isn’t as strong as it used to be, meaning the new Vitara can be both a trendy crossover and affordable at the same time. A good job considering the strength of its rivals, but there’s no denying the Vitara offers excellent value in 2015.

Ford Fiesta

Ford Fiesta

1990 (1.0 Popular 3dr): £6,180
Inflation adjusted: £13,743
2015 (1.25 Studio): £10,145

Winning or losing?: winning 🙂

The Ford Fiesta has been around for years – since 1976, to be exact. But it’s hard to believe the curvaceous third-generation model is over 25-years-old.

Launched in 1989, the mk3 was based on a new platform and offered, for the first time, a five-door version. It was an instant success, with more than one million sold in the first two years in production.

Like today, there was a Fiesta for everyone – from the affordable 1.0-litre Popular, to the hot RS turbo. Interestingly, the latter cost £11,950 – the equivalent of more than £26,574 in today’s money.

Land Rover Defender

Land Rover Defender

1990 (90 2.5 TD): £15,336
Inflation adjusted: £34,105
2015 (Defender 90): £23,100

Winning or losing?: winning 🙂

In case you haven’t heard, Land Rover is set to axe the Defender this year, after a production run of over 50 years (if you include the pre-Defender Series models).

Back in 1990, the Defender was known simply as the 90 and 110, but was very similar to the model we now today – with coil springs and independent suspension. A year earlier Land Rover had launched the Discovery, targeting the kind of lifestyle buyers for whom the 90 and 110 were too hardcore.

With such an iconic image, Defender prices are stronger than ever, and if you can buy one of the last ones to be made, they’re sure to be a sound investment. Especially with prices starting at a shade over £23,000 – £11,000 less than they should be according to inflation.

Find out more about inflation winners and losers on MSN Cars