Mazda MX-5 (1998 – 2005) Review

Mazda MX-5 (1998 – 2005) At A Glance


+Delightful handling, easy to use every day and reliable if not abused. Low running costs. Plenty around at keen prices.

-Rust can be a serious problem. Some versions suffer from clutch judder.

It was the MX-5 that controversially ditched the pop-up headlamps. But this decision, which was taken to improve pedestrian safety, has given the Mk2 (or NB) a rough ride in classic circles. But the revised styling wasn't the only thing bugging fans of the original two-seater.

With anti-lock brakes fitted and a few other bits and pieces, the car tipped the scales at 1065kg - nearly 100kg more than the Mk2 (or the equivalent of an extra adult passenger and a child). For a car that placed so much emphasis on Colin Chapman's 'Simplify, then add lightness' philosophy, the second incarnation of this Japanese roadster had strayed dangerously off piste.

But aside from what the motoring scribes would have you believe, the Mk2 MX5 was (and still is) an excellent car. It lacked none of the orignal's fun and the beefed up brakes made things a whole lot easier on the twisty stuff.

It was also a bit more comfortable to live with than the Mk1. For a start, the list of standard kit had grown and the ride and refinement was improved (a bit) and power was up and it seeked to see off competition from the like of the Toyota MR2 and even BMW Z3.

Nowadays, as prices for the original start to creep up, the Mk2 is classic bargain that is often overlooked.


Ask Honest John

How much does a replacement Mazda MX-5 roof cost?

"I am considering fitting a new beige mohair roof and tonneau cover to my 2000 Mazda MX-5. The current vinyl roof has a heated rear screen. What would be the approximate cost?"
There are a number of specialists that can supply a replacement mohair hood for your Mazda, so we would suggest shopping around online and looking for independent MX-5 garages and suppliers who could assist. A quick look online suggests that prices start at around £750.
Answered by David Ross

Is it worth turning the engine off at traffic lights?

"A lot of cars nowadays automatically shut off the engine when the car stops. I do in it my 10 year old Mazda MX-5 at temporary traffic lights under the assumption that I am saving petrol. My question is: how long does the engine have to be off until the extra burst of fuel used to start the engine again is less than then the fuel used as the engine idles waiting for the lights to go green? Is it worth messing about turning the engine off and restarting?"
It's difficult to give you a clear answer to this as it will vary depending on many factors: power draw (how many electrical features you have running, or the air conditioning/heating), temperature, the engine design itself and whether the engine is sufficiently warmed up or not. On a warm engine with a charged battery we'd say the engine needs to be off for about thirty seconds to justify doing so. The issue is the wear and tear on your starter motor. Modern cars have upgraded starter motors when a start/stop system is fitted, and often have upgraded lubricants or engine components to deal with the increased number of starting cycles without too much wear on components such as the bearings around the crankshaft.
Answered by Lawrence Allan

Can you recommend a fun, reliable car for £3000?

"Since I was 17, I have had quick and fun cars. Would you be able to suggest a car that has good handling, a turn of speed, fairly reliable and around £3000? A tough ask, I know, but might you be able to help, please? Thank you."
We'd recommend a Mazda MX-5. They're popular for a reason – brilliant to drive, cheap to run and very reliable. £3000 will get you a third-generation model from around 2006. Also consider a Toyota MR2 – they're a bit rarer and not very practical, but provide mid-engined thrills for not a lot of cash. Otherwise, a hot hatch might be a good option. You might find a Mk5 Volkswagen Golf GTI within budget.
Answered by Andrew Brady

How would I know the ABS pump in my car was broken?

"How do I confirm that I need to replace the ABS pump in my Mazda MX-5?"
There will usually be a sign of a serious problem. The brake pedal may be difficult to press down or the brakes may lock up without warning. There may also be a strange clicking sound when you apply the brakes. Whatever the symptom, it is usually accompanied by the ABS warning light on the dashboard. If you need a second mechanical opinion, try one of our reader-rated Good Garages:
Answered by Dan Powell
More Questions

What does a Mazda MX-5 (1998 – 2005) cost?