Mazda’s MX5 was a clever move which caught the competition napping. The explosion of the hot hatch market seemed to sound the death knell for the sports car in the UK, with even the MGB being replaced by a hot Metro and a hairy Maestro. Mazda recognised the real reason for the demise of the sportscar industry; namely that all the models on sale had been considered by Noah prior to the building of the Ark – the Alfa Spider, the Triumph Spitfire, and the MGB were all old hat by the late 1970s, when MX5 development was begun. The MX5 was such a success that the models imported into Britain couldn’t come fast enough – and Japanese spec Mazda Eunos models began to arrive on our shores too. Almost identical to our own cars, certain difference warrant a separate buying guide.
Engine – 1597cc, 4-cyl, DOHC
Power - 116bhp@6500rpm
Torque - 100lb/ft@5500rpm
Top Speed – 114mph
0-60mph – 8.8seconds
Economy - 30mpg
Gearbox – 5 speed manual
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Perhaps unsurprisingly given how closely Mazda tried to emulate the classic British sportscar, Eunoses rust. Rear wheelarches, the trailing edge of the sills, and front chassis rails are known weak spots of the car, with corrosion having been evident on some cars before they reached their fifth birthdays. Drain holes can become blocked, trapping water in the sills which doesn’t help the rust issue. You can tell if the sills have been done by feeling them – the factory finish was a rough protective coating below the paint, where masy repaired cars will have smooth sills.
An obvious advantage is that the Japanese don’t salt their roads – a recent import will have fewer issues than a car which has spent a while in the UK. Wet boots are caused by perished rain channels round the back of the roof – easily replaceable. It should be fairly obvious not to succumb to temptation and test it with the roof down, for you can miss hood damage in this way. We’d also recommend testing how watertight it is before purchase.
All four cylinder, with a choice for two sizes. Early cars were 1.6, with a 1.8 option becoming available from 1994. The 1.6 was reintroduced in 1995 to combat the MGF – but was significantly detuned and feels far slower than early cars and 1.8s. And to please all those MG fans, the engine was part of an engine family known inside Mazda as the B-series! Mazda’s B-series is not known for faults, but there are a few things to check. Noisy tappets at startup is normal, but investigate if they haven’t shut up within a few minutes. Oil leaks are known, but easy to remedy once found. The bottom cambelt pulley can wear, and the cambelt itself whines when overtightened – walk away from squealing soft-tops. Misfires can be caused by faulty HT leads or the coil pack – HT leads are cheap, the coil pack isn’t. Investigate before purchase if possible.
The clutch slave cylinder is a known issue; its failure results in the clutch pedal sinking to the floor. It’s a simple enough fix though, so whilst you shouldn’t buy a car with a duff one it’s certainly no reason to sell up. Spigot and clutch release bearings can whine when the clutch is engaged – so listen on your test drive! Check that the power steering – more common on the Eunos than the MX5 – works as intended. Whilst parts are interchangeable with UK cars, the less you need to do the better!
Electric windows can slow or stick – silicon spray grease is useful in solving this if they’re still on their runners. Interiors were cloth and leather, and MX5s are so abundant that for standard cars it really doesn’t matter if trim needs replacing. Special editions might be harder to correctly renovate, though – one of the reasons we recommend avoiding special editions if possible. Hoods were vinyl and black as standard, though some special editions had mohair or coloured roofs. MK1s all had plastic rear windows, MK2 had heated glass. Barring these issues, there’s nothing on an MX5 interior that should pose any issues. Little of this is really relevant, for most will have had a replacement hood to the taste of the person who owned the car when it was fitted. As a rule, mohair and glass windows are more desirable than vinyl and plastic, but don’t pay any more for it if it’s already on the car.
A stylish sportscar, beloved of enthusiasts worldwide, with a keen owners scene. They’re dirt cheap, well specced, and reliable enough for daily use. It’s the British sportscar for the sensible! You take one out, hare it down your favourite road without being silly, and you feel like you’ve just had the best drive of your life – the MX5 handles too sweetly to ignore. Buy one now, whilst they’re for nothing – it can’t last forever!