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Mazda MX-5

Published: 8th Oct 2014 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5

Buyer Beware

Know what you are buying: genuine MX-5 chassis numbers begin with JMZN, Eunos Roadsters start NA.

Values are not necessarily too dissimilar these days, but pay special attention to Eunos’ mileage readings – it may have been altered when the km speedo was changed for a mph one, or the milometer may have been left in km with a new facia put over the top!

Look for signs of racing, as some cars have been run ragged. It may be diffi cult to tell whether things such as braided hoses are a road going performance mod or a competition tweak, but things like kill switches for fuel and ignition are a dead give-away.

Shed loads of special editions were marketed but beware of fakes. Contact the owners club or an MX-5 expert if you are unsure.

Early cars tended to bubble up below the sill tread plates and at the rear of the sills, and can lead to an MoT failure so check well and if bad fi nd another car – there’s plenty about.

A damp interior goes with sports car territory but MX-5s fare better than most and may be down to blocked drains at either end of the gutter behind the roof.

Misfi res may be down to nothing more than water collecting in the spark plug recesses, or the HT leads need replacing. Exhaust manifolds can crack. Repairs acceptable, but replacement is a more permanent cure.

All came fi tted with a catalyst. If this rattles, then it will need replacing and if already missing from a post-93 car, it will need replacing for the anual MoT.

The engine is tough but can leak oil from rocker covers, front crank oil seals, cam oil seals, timing assembly.

If the handbrake has excessive travel or does not work too well, that part of the rear callipers may have seized. It can’t be freed off, but replacements are under £100. Check the tyres for uneven wear, and don’t immediately assume the worst. It is easy to knock the rear out of alignment by kerbing, and a four- wheel alignment may sort it out.

Electrics are very reliable, unless after-market equipment has been poorly added. The original type of small gel battery is very expensive though – bigger and cheaper ones can be used with a fi tting kit, but make sure they are properly vented.

There are loads of aftermarket goodies available. Inspect these carefully to assess how well they have been fi tted, and make your own judgements as to any value they add. Similarly, Limited Editions are only worth paying more for if you like the added extras they come with.

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If you want a sports classic for commuting, shopping, school run as well as showing off then nothing beat’s Mazda’s MX-5

You are going to read a lot about the truly remarkable Mazda MX-5 because it celebrates 25 years – twice. It was launched in Japan in 1989 and came to our shores a year later. But two anniversaries are completely justifi ed for the car that is rightly credited of kick-starting a worldwide revival of a whole genre of affordable sportsters that had been threatened with extinction.

Aging designs from the likes of MG, Triumph and Fiat were gone, Reliant came up with the ugly Sabre and few thought the market big enough to make a return, it seemed that we had seen the last true two-seat roadsters.

Mazda in America had other ideas and during the mid 80s bought a couple of old Lotus Elans to observe and copy but with more simplicity.

It didn’t even need to be stupidly quick, instead just look good and was fun to drive. The end result was the MX-5 and has since claimed the title of the world’s best selling sports car, and still continues today with the same design brief.

Isn’t it about time you owned one?


There’s three generations and all are great! The fi rst cars were the lightest of the lot, and their 1.6 engine was lively enough. The 1.8 cars were heavier, and some prefer the ride that brings while others lament a slight loss of what can be termed as ‘chuckability’.

Apart from more guts, the 1.8 boasts larger front brakes and a raised back axle ratio, so overall performance is virtually the same although they do have the added safety advantages of side impact bars and airbags.

In 1994 the 1.8 was revised slightly with a lighter fl ywheel to rev more willingly. They also got the option of a 4.3:1 back axle to improve acceleration, standardised from August 1995.

When the 1.6 engines were reintroduced in 1995, power had dropped to a tardy 88bhp. If performance doesn’t concern you unduly then these unloved steel-wheeled MX-5s are something of a bargain and could be a rare classic.

The Mk2 which followed a few years later lost its Elan cuteness (and pop-up headlamps) but became more rounded and palatial. Signifi cantly it gained serious performance from the 1.8-litre engine and a 1.8 Sport, the best of the lot, with143bhp will easily see anything less than a TVR Chimaera or the grippy front-wheel drive Elan SE the way home across country, thanks to its handling, size and nimbleness.

The Mk3 broke new ground as it used a new platform, taken from the RX-8, and used a new 2-litre engine plus automatic transmission beame an offi cial option. Sadly, the fi rst cars were criticised for lacking a sports car feel but some minor chassis revisions soon had the MX-5 back on track. A steel power-roofed option turned the MX-5 handling that while poised and sure- into an all year round roadster but we see and fi nd scant wrong with the standard fabric roof.

Pricing is curious mainly because the car is still in production so early cars can cost as much as a fairly newish one! They have bottomed out on Mk1s and you can nab one for £1000 but they will be ratty; a grand more will secure a good honest example, while top Mk1s can sell for £5000 with UK cars worth slightly above a grey imported Eunos.

Mk2’s values vary, starting for less than £3000 and topping £4500 if really exceptional, and bear in mind this amount can also get you a good Mk3.


Mazda got the basics so right, from the cockpit to the chassis. The company set the engine well back and went to great pains to ensure a near perfect 50:50 weight distribution, and it shows in handling that while poised and sure- footed for most of the time can catch the unwary out on greasy roads all too easily, particularly the Mk1.

Some purists may prefer models sans power steering, but not many cars came without it and offers a good compromise between feedback and ease of use.

The gearbox was taken from the RX-7, with the gear change carefully engineered to mimic the best of the classic shifts, right down to the metallic clack of the cogs!

The engines are all willing, sound right despite their hatchback roots and are entirely in keeping with a sports car’s character plus sit all day at the legal limit without complaint.

Some Eunos grey imports (see box out) have a limited slip differential fi tted into the bargain, which simply adds to the sideways fun and was available on the Mk2.While not enjoying the pureness of the original, few will argue that the later car isn’t the better one overall.

The Mk3 is arguably more suited to those who want rather than appreciate what a MX-5 is all about and it’s by far the most civilised of them all.


The MX-5 is the sports car equivalent to a Volkswagen Golf insofar it’s so durable, meaning many are used as daily drivers, not least by classic car fans who enjoy the best of both worlds while their cherished classic is tucked up in the garage!

MX-5s are Golf-like reliable, can handle all weathers like that VW and are totally docile in traffi c on the commuter crawl. The interiors on early cars are not exactly loaded with goodies, but the cockpit is a mile away from an MGB’s being well designed and ergonomic and yet rudimentary enough so not to spoil that hardcore feel that’s essential with a no serious sports car.

Boot space is still pretty generous in comparison to something like an MGB and the manual hood is not only good at its job but so easy to use that power assistance isn’t called for. The plastic rear screen is not so nice though, being easy to scratch or crack if poorly folded – you must always unzip the rear window before dropping the top.

Economy is commendable on all models, with an average of well over 30mpg attainable and more miles available on a lively run. As for 24-7 usability, these cars are amazing.


Aftermarket support is as good as the MGB so running an MX-5 couldn’t really be much easier. As well as your local Mazda dealer of course, the MX-5 supports a thriving aftermarket industry and there is great club support too; small wonder the car is being called the ‘new MGB’. Servicing on the Mk1s and to a lesser extent the Mk2s is a DIY proposition. Servicing is hardly onerous, but the engine oil needs to be changed every 6000 miles if the top end is not to go clattery as they can do (as well as leak), and timing belts require changing every 60,000 miles or six years, although amazingly for a modern engine, if a belt breaks it won’t wreck the engine.

If you like tinkering under the bonnet as much as driving, perhaps the MX-5 is not for you as they are (brake callipers excepted) almost bullet proof. What you may need to spend time on instead is protecting the body and underside as they can rust quite badly…



Staff at Mazda’s US operation carry out a full analysis of the Yank sports car market since 1945, and draw up a list of defi ning characteristics of what made such cars a hit.


With the RX-7 moving upmarket and a fortuitous change of Mazda personnel, the analysis is dusted off and work begins on designing a two-seat roadster.


Car is unveiled at the Chicago Motor Show. The Miata (as it was known in the US) goes on sale in the USA in July, with Japan Eunos in September, MX-5 is chosen for UK.


MX-5 hits Britain with 114bhp from a 1597cc, DOHC motor. All have power steering. Offi cial BBR Turbo kits sold through Mazda boosts power to 150bhp.


The first of many, limited runs arrive, mostly with cosmetic changes to paint, trim, wheels and cockpit. Rear spoilers also optional as are handling packages.


A minor facelift is accompanied by the introduction of a bigger 1839cc engine as the 1.8i with plain steel wheels, or the better-equipped and more popular 1.8iS version.


The 1.6 engine makes a welcome return to UK as an entry level. Power is down to a lowly 88bhp, but the MX-5 still feels quick enough. Lower spec 1.6i and 1.8i are good sellers.


Several more special editions as sales linger into 1998 alongside the second- generation cars. These use some 40 per cent of the original body, but heavily revised.


Tenth anniversary special is launched with a six-speed transmission, Bilstein dampers, two tone leather trim and all come with a certifi cate of authenticity.


Facelift means, revised look and on the Sport a revised stiffer chassis with Bilstein dampers and larger, lower profi le tyres. Six-speed transmission with lsd and 152bhp.


Third gen with new body on RX-8 platform with new suspension and choice of 1.8 (126bhp) and 2-litre (158bhp) power plus auto option. Steel roof option is offered in 2006.


A facelift in 2008 sees more power and retuned chassis and gearshift; for 2009 there’s a 20th Anniversary special edition with a similar one for UK a year later, based on 1.8 SE.

We Reckon...

We should all be thankful that Mazda made the MX-5 because not only did it reinvent the affordable sports car but also provided the nucleus of what we term ‘modern classics’ thanks to its MG-like aftermarket and club support. That the car is also great fun to drive and so usable is icing on the birthday cake – which you can have and eat it too!

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