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Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5 Published: 10th Apr 2015 - 0 Comments - Be the first, contribute now!

Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5
Mazda MX-5
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Mazda’s masterly MX-5 is now 25 years old and already hailed as the best modern classic sports car around – as well as being the ‘New MGB’

Why Its a Winner

Launched in the UK at a time when hot hatches like the Ford Escort XR3i ruled the roost, the MX-5 seemed like a mad gamble. However, the little MX-5 had one magic ingredient that was arguably lacking in the last of the proper MGs and Triumphs to leave their production lines in the early 1980s – complete reliability.

Equally, the Mazda MX-5 was a serious sports car to appeal to all types and arguably the embodiment of the much-loved Lotus Elan in looks and feel, the stark difference being that this is a car you can use without worry or deep pockets.

Now 25 years on since its début, the original cars are both plentiful, affordable and liked as much as ever and by a new younger buying base. If you’ve never owned a sports car in your life but want to take the plunge and sleep at night, then the Mazda MX-5 is really the only one to have.

History

1989 MX-5 debuted at the Chicago Motor Show, a classic RWD design based on Mazda 323 running gear, 1.6-litre powered, initially 114bhp. The car hit the UK market back in 1990 badged as the MX-5, while in the United States it was known as the Miata and in Japan, the Eunos Roadster.

1991 BBR 150bhp turbo edition from 1991 by Brodie Brittain Racing, fitted with a Garrett T25 turbocharger. Rare though it is, the later Le Mans turbo, to commemorate Mazda historically winning Le Mans that year is also worth hunting out even though less than 20 were made.

1993 With the 1.6 gradually losing power – 1995 saw the 1.6 detuned to a paltry 88bhp – a 1.8-litre version arrived in 1993 with 128bhp, although in real world driving there’s surprisingly little difference between this unit and the original 1.6.

1998 Second generation lie up is introduced with new look sans pop-up headlamps but more powerful engines, including a flagship 143bhp 1.8 Sport, and a better trimmed cabin.

2005 Third generation introduced, now based on RX-8 platform with 2-litre power as well as a more masculine look. Steel folding-roof Roadster option.

Driving

The MX-5 is the closest thing you’ll get to the original Lotus Elan in terms of real classic feel. It handles like a good RWD car should with precise steering and rifle bolt gear selection. The beauty of the MX-5 lies in its usability. This is a serious sports car that can be used for the daily grind without complaint or high costs; 25-35mpg is easy and maintenance is simple and minimal. The cockpit is snug and pleasingly leak-free with a simple, fast acting hood that doesn’t require complicated power assistance.

Boot space isn’t anything special, as the spare wheel eats up a lot of space, but there’s enough room for a weekend away.

Happily, the second and third generation MX-5s carried on the theme and still had the character of the original although early Mk3s were criticised for lacking that certain something care of the new chassis – it was soon corrected!

Best Models

From a classic angle, the originals are sought after, although the Mk2 are catching up fast as they are the better driver. K3s are more for those who want a classical sports car rather than an aging. Classic Eunos cars are the grey imports of the MX-5 from Japan and these are usually sound cars with better standard kit UK cars wear, including leather trim and automatic transmission options. There are some crucial differences, though to bear in mind. Apart from the fact that the cars need special testing to be allowed in the UK, ‘grey’ MX-5 use thinner glass, smaller brakes and the rust-proofing isn’t quite as full. So if you’re tempted check one over more carefully.

Prices

Cheap 1990 MX-5s in good condition can still command as much as £2000, and while you regularly see them (especially the Eunos) for around a grand, you’re better off spending double that to ensure a sound example. Top notch early MX-5s aren’t worth more than £4500 which will get you a Mk2 and an early Mk3 – it depends what MX-5 you’re after first and foremost.

Verdict

If you want a proper sports car that looks and feels like a classic but without the old car hang ups such as unreliability and hidden restoration costs, then there’s really no better buy than an MX-5. It boasts the looks and the feel of the old Elan but with modern day comfort, safety and reliability. Aftermarket support is MGB-like huge, so owning one for years on end won’t prove a problem. It’s hard to think of a better, proper, modern sportster for the money to be honest.

Five Top Faults

  • BUILD UK cars are MX-5s, grey imports are called Eunos possessing better kit but usually unknown pasts and no service history
  • BODY Rust can occur at the wheel arches, doors and sills; only latter is MoT worry however and fairly low cost to rectify
  • DATA CHECK Have a car checked for its past; accident damage, theft, finance left owing etc, especially on newer models
  • RUNNING GEAR Corroded brakes are known. Has the suspension been re-bushed? Can point to hard use or perhaps track days
  • SPECIAL EDITIONS Lots were made, especially Mk1 models and some are good bets but don’t pay over the odds for one unless really rare


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