Used buyer's guide: Mazda RX-8

13 Nov, 2012 10:30am Richard Dredge

The stylish Mazda RX-8 coupe is cheap to buy, but expensive to run

Verdict

Sporty coupes don’t come much more stylish. The RX-8 looks fabulous and is great to drive. It gets through fuel and oil at quite a rate, however, so high-mileage drivers should watch out for this. As Mazda offers only two engine power options and no choice of trim, there aren’t many decisions to make – but what you need to be sure of is that you can live with the limited practicality and the high cost of running an RX-8.

When Mazda introduced the RX-8 in 2003, it put the rotary engine back into the mainstream car market once again.

Buyers lapped up this neatly styled family coupe-cum-saloon, with its rear-hinged back doors and curvy bodywork, and revelled in its cocooning cabin and brilliant rear-wheel-drive handling.

As the RX-8 gears up for its 10th birthday, the shine has dulled a little. Low values have led to many cars being neglected, so beware of poor examples. Find a good one, however, and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most engaging family cars of the past decade.

History

The RX-8 arrived in January 2003, in 189 and 228bhp forms (badged 190 and 230 respectively). There was just one trim, although some optional extras could be specified.

The first special, the Evolve (based on the 228bhp car), hit showrooms in February 2006. It was followed in September by the Nemesis limited edition, which used the lower-powered engine.

In January 2007, the PZ and Kuro specials made their debuts, with both based on the 228bhp RX-8. A facelift in July 2008 brought a fresh nose and tail, stronger refinement and more equipment. The car was now badged RX-8 R3, and came in 228bhp form only.

Alternatives

The RX-8 is unique in its door layout and its use of a rotary engine. For a more conventional coupe, you could try the Nissan 350Z. It looks great and the rear-wheel-drive chassis delivers strong performance. But practicality is poor and running costs high.

The Mercedes CLK is a more classy alternative. Prices are affordable and it has a decent reliability record. Or you could go for a BMW 3 Series Coupe. It’s another dependable choice, and the dealer service is superb, plus it’s great fun to drive with a wide range of engines.

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