Mazda RX-8 (2003-2010)

When Mazda introduced the RX-8, it made the rotary engine mainstream once more. Buyers lapped up this neatly styled family coupé-cum-saloon with its rear-hinged back doors and curvy bodywork, to revel in its cocooning cabin and to enjoy its brilliant rear-wheel drive handling. The shine has now dulled somewhat; low values have led to many examples being neglected, which is why you have to have your wits about you when buying. But source a good example, and you'll be rewarded with one of the most engaging family cars of the past decade.

Key Dates

1/03 :The RX-8 arrives, in 189bhp and 228bhp forms.

2/06 :The 228bhp Evolve limited edition appears.

9/06 :The 189bhp Nemesis special reaches showrooms.

1/07 :The PZ and Kuro debut, each with 228bhp.

7/08 :A facelifted RX-8 is here, now badged R3, in 228bhp form only.

Mazda RX-8 (2003-2010) Checklist

  • The RX- gets through fuel and oil at quite a rate, so if you're a high-mileage driver, running costs will quickly add up.
  • The anti-roll bar links fail, leading to the car leaning in corners more heavily.
  • The rotary engine is designed to use oil; fail to top up regularly and the engine will seize.
  • A compression test is essential, to check the engine's health. Also see how old the plugs and leads are.
  • Make sure the clutch isn't slipping, as premature failures aren't unknown.
  • The pipe from the oil cooler corrodes, leading to the engine losing its oil, then seizing.
  • Ensure the xenon headlights work properly, as water gets in then wrecks everything.
  • It's worth having an emissions test, as the catalytic converters are prone to failure.

We Like

  • Styling
  • Handling
  • Smooth engine
  • Relative practicality
  • Cabin design
  • Affordability
  • Reliability

We Don't Like

  • Rear seat access
  • Thirst for oil and petrol
  • Lack of torque