Motorcheck Used Car Guide: Mazda MX-5

Years built: 2005 to today
Bodystyles: two-door roadster

What is it?

It’s only one of the most iconic cars you can buy. Take a straw poll of professional motoring journalists and ask them what cars they’d most like to actually buy for themselves and in amongst the Range Rovers and Porsche 911s will almost certainly be a Mazda MX-5. Compact, cute and completely brilliant to drive, the MX-5 has long been a yardstick against which all other cars are judged, in terms of their handling, their steering and their sheer fun factor. The good news is that, as long as you’ve not got a growing family to accommodate, and MX-5 is a perfectly sensible everyday car as well as a toy for Sundays and Fundays.

Which one should I buy?

While we do still adore the purist styling of the 1988 original MX-5, with its Lotus Elan-esque proportions and pop-up headlamps, the simple fact is that these cars are now ageing and many will have been unsympathetically cared for or modified. Tracking down a really good Mk1 MX-5 is hard and requires patience and expertise, although bargain prices are there for the intrepid. The second generation MkII we’ll also gloss over, not because it’s bad (it’s not) but because what came next was better…
The MkIII MX-5 has been in production since 2005 and its longevity reflects just how good it was from the get-go. Mazda is only now getting around to replacing it with a new model. It retains much of the cute styling of the first two but has a more spacious cabin (still on the small side, mind) and a slightly bigger boot.
Almost all original Irish cars will have a 1.8-litre petrol engine with 126hp. It’s a cracking unit, but if you crave more power then a trip to the UK should easily unearth a 2.0-litre version with 160hp.
Finally, if the Irish weather is putting you off buying a soft-top, then the MX-5 has the answer – the Roadster Coupe model which has a lightweight folding hardtop, which turns the MX-5 into a tiny coupe at the touch of a button.
How much should I spend? Around €8,000 for a 2007 1.8 soft-top
Here’s one we found:
2007 Mazda MX-5 soft top, SIMI registered dealer, 98,000km, two owners, €7,950.

What goes wrong?

Essentially, nothing. OK, so the roof comes on and off so you need to check both the mechanism for wear and tear (the Roadster Coupe’s solid roof can sometimes stick halfway up or down because of faulty position sensors) and you need to check the weather seals to make sure water isn’t finding its way into the cabin. A quick run through your nearest car wash should tell you all you need to know, but make sure you lift the carpets and peer under the seats for signs of weather damage.
The MX-5 is justly famed for its brilliant driving experience so check the suspension, steering and tyres with care – if anything is out of alignment or hasn’t been cared for properly, then the car won’t drive properly and that’s kind of the whole point.

Anything else?

The Eunos Roadster, as the car is know in Japan, has long been a popular MX-5 alternative in Ireland and the UK thanks to the fact that it’s basically the same car and has right hand drive. It’s not 100 per cent identical though so if you’re considering buying one, have a chat to the nice people at who can point you in the right direction when it comes to parts etc.
There were also a plethora of occasionally oddball MX-5 special editions. Most are just trim and col-our changes, but there are a few genuinely rare ones, such as the BBR-modified Mk1s with their turbocharged engines, and likewise the official factory-built Mazdaspeed MkII turbos. Given their rarity and mechanical complication, these are probably best left to the specialist collector brigade.
But when you’ve found your perfect MX-5, don’t forget to get its history checked out by