Used MX5 Review
Posted on 04 Mar 2007
New version means that older cars may soften price-wise. The 1.6 is nice, but you should save for the 1.8 to make the most of the chassis. Special editions are only worth marginally more cash
You won't find a better-handling used car for the money than this. The world's best-selling roadster wears its years well, is cheap to run, and the fun starts from just £6,000 for a second-generation model (introduced early in 1998) if you search.
Bargain-basement sub-five-granders are out there but are usually an overdraft waiting to happen, so steer clear.
A proportion of older used MX-5s have been imported privately from Japan. They may still be badged 'Eunos' and usually have a square rear number plate and raised, third rear brake light. Extra body kit and luxurious spec often indicate an import, too.
With so many decent younger (post-1998) cars out there, there's no need to choose an import. And never buy any MX-5 with only patchy history.
Body panels are fairly cheap to replace, but the hood isn't, so inspect it carefully (including the rear screen for scratches).
The 1.6 and 1.8 engines are sweet and reliable with timely servicing, and the manual gearshift should be snick-quick and accurate; if not (especially into reverse or first) there's a problem. There was an auto, but just don't go there: it's like adding orange juice to Dom Perignon '82.
The cabin is generally durable and the MX-5 is easy on the brakes, but make sure the rear tyres have plenty of tread left on them - you'll be glad you did when it rains.
The beauty of any MX-5 is that it strikes the important compromises with the deftness of a diplomat - handling and ride quality, cabin space and boot space, performance and economy, power and grip, and so on.
It also rewards the inexperienced and experienced sports car driver in equal measure.
Of the many second-hand models available, post-1998 cars with the 1.8 engine are the best. But it's a difference of degree rather than kind, so be picky, bargain hard and start smiling.
With 15 special editions produced in the past six years, choice is personal and ample.
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