Mazda RX-8 (2003 – 2012) Review

Mazda RX-8 (2003 – 2012) At A Glance


+Genuine four-seat coupe with unusual rear hinged back doors, very involving to drive, good value for money second hand.

-Will not stand short runs from cold starts, rotary engine lacks torque and needs to be worked very hard most of the time, high CO2 emissions plus poor fuel economy.

When it was launched, Mazda called it 'a sports car like no other'. Given that it could trace its lineage to the RX-7, the cynic might suggest that wasn't quite accurate. However, at the time of its launch, there were no direct rivals.

At face value, Mazda's aspirations for the car were simple: get in there and nick some sales from everything from the Audi TT to the Peugeot 406 Coupe. But the RX-8 had a much bigger job to do - to once and for all dispel the myth that rotary engines were unreliable.

Things started well, but it wasn't long before reports started coming in of horrific oil consumption, worn rotar tips, and - you guessed it - replacement engines. As such, the attriation rate for the RX-8 is truely terrifying, with more than half of them wiped out in just over five years. You don't need us to explain what happens if that rate continues.

But, for the moment, let's try and concentrate on the positives. Here was a brilliant-handling sports car with four doors that can carry four people and their luggage (almost). It's comfortable, has excellent ride quality and looks... well, it looks ok. At the time, it looked stunning, but the years haven't been kind to the RX-8, which now looks like a bit of a Halfords special.

From a launch price of around £20,000, you can now get into a RX-8 for under a grand (but you wouldn't). A low-mileage model with a few owners and plenty of history will cost you around £5000 - although prices for good ones are on the up.

When Honest John first drove the car at launch, he was impressed with the four-door bodyshell. 'It works a treat. The back seats are not only easy to get in and out of, they're also very comfortable for someone 5ft 9in to sit behind someone of the same height.

'Flying solo, there's another advantage. It's extremely easy to pop open a back door to chuck a briefcase in the rear footwell or lay your jacket on a rear seat. Not a gimmick. Not for show. A real advantage.'

Ask Honest John

Could you suggest a relatively easy to maintain and economic to fix modern classic?

"Having sold my two classic Triumphs, I'm at the age where I'm having difficulty in doing full maintenance jobs but still appreciate driving and owning a classic car as my hobby. Is there a car that I could purchase that gives me the thrill of a "classic car feel" and turns heads but is (relatively) easy to maintain whilst, if needed, incur low(er) garage costs for those jobs I am unable to tackle? I have a car for everyday travel and not too keen on a Morgan due to its harsh ride, so could you another two-seater soft top? I have about £40,000 to spend."
It's going to be tricky to tick all these boxes. If you want something that turns heads, that normally means a premium model such as a Porsche. In which case, you'd be expected to have anything but the most basic oil and filter it serviced at a specialist. Plus, if you're after mod cons like power steering, air-con, decent stereo (and soundproofing) then you're looking at cars that are a bit more complicated. If you're after something that's easy to get in and out of and doesn't have harsh ride, then you may have to think outside the box. You could go for something traditional such as a Triumph Stag (assuming you want to keep it Triumph), which is still very much a classic two-seater with a great engine. Alternatively, look at 911 ownership for a bit of wow-factor, and a decent compromise between mod cons and specialist servicing... and don't discount the later Jaguar XJ-S. We know plenty of people who own Honda S2000s and are terrifically happy with them - stunning performance and reliability (see also Nissan 350Z). Sightly left of centre coupe options to consider - BMW 8-Series and Mazda RX-7 or RX-8 if you're feeling brave, Toyota Supra. We'd also have a look at hot hatches - cars like the Mk1 Golf GTi and Peugeot 205 GTI are excellent to drive, have reasonably mod cons, and can be maintained at home... they also have plenty of wow-factor. Perhaps something like a TVR Griffith would also suit you.
Answered by Keith Moody

Can you recommend a unique sports car with future classic potential?

"I'm looking for a good quality, two-seater sports car for the weekends that has a large petrol engine. I want it to have some unique qualities, not too ubiquitous on the roads and has the potential of classic status in the future. I have about £8000 to spend. I would prefer a coupe body."
You could consider a Nissan 350Z. It's not got the most premium of interiors but it has got a 3.5-litre V6 engine and I think it ticks the future classic box well. There are quite a few about but many have high mileages and haven't led easy lives, so if you find a good one it could be a potential investment. Also, look at a BMW Z4 Coupe. It's got a nicer interior than the 350Z and is fun to drive. Alternatively, a Mazda RX-8 is a four-seater but a quirky choice with a rotary engine and your budget will get you a very good example. Do your research first, though, they can go expensively wrong.
Answered by Andrew Brady
More Questions