What to look for on Mazda’s radical rotary-engined coupé.
When it hit showrooms in 2003, the Mazda RX-8 looked a million dollars – and it’s just as stylish today. The clever four-door is also a dream to drive and prices start from £7,000. However, its unique rotary engine is famed for its thirst and oil consumption, and it isn’t as practical as a hatchback. So, is it a wise used buy?
History THE RX-8 arrived with 190bhp or 238bhp Hi-Power engine options and only one trim. The more potent version was detuned to 228bhp in January 2004. In February 2006, the Evolve was unveiled, while the PZ, which had suspension tuned by Prodrive and 10-spoke OZ alloy wheels, was launched in May.
September saw the arrival of the Nemesis special, which was based on the 190bhp model. A facelift arrived in January 2008.
What to look for THE RX-8’s ‘suicide’ rear half door arrangement is stylish, but it can be awkward to get in the back, as the front doors have to be opened before you can use them. So make sure you can live with the hassle if you’ve got a family.
Legroom is also tight in the rear, although children won’t find this a problem. Also, beware of grey imports, which don’t match UK specification. If the car you’re looking at has an automatic gearbox, for example, it’s an unofficial import.
Alternatives THE RX-8 has few direct rivals, because it’s the only car on sale with a rotary engine. However, the Alfa GT coupé looks great, goes well and comes with a practical hatchback. You could also look at the Peugeot 407 Coupé which, like the Alfa, has the appeal of a diesel option. Another safe bet is BMW’s 3-Series. It is reliable and great to drive in two-door coupé guise.
Verdict MAKE sure you can afford to run an RX-8, because it gets through fuel and oil at quite a rate. And you have to make regular checks of the dipstick, too, which becomes tiresome. If you cover a lot of miles, the running costs will quickly add up, so bear this in mind. You also need to be able to live with the lack of practicality before taking the plunge.
Clutch ENSURE the clutch isn’t slipping, as premature failures aren’t unheard of and a new one is £1,000. Look for clues – has the car been driven in town?
Suspension THE anti-roll bar links are prone to failure. This isn’t dangerous, but it can cause the car to lean more heavily in the corners, which can ruin the RX-8’s handling.
Oil system CHECK that the pipe from the oil cooler is intact. It can corrode, causing the engine to lose its oil – with dire consequences. A seized rotary engine isn’t a cheap repair.
Headlamps ARE the xenon lights working properly? Water can get in around the seals and wreck the unit. Replacements are very expensive, so don’t ignore them.