Mazda MX-5 (Mk3) buying guide - Mazda MX-5 (Mk3) buying checkpoints

These are the things you need to know about buying the Mazda MX-5

Mazda MX-5 engine

The chief difference between the 1.8 and 2.0 is that the latter has variable valve timing; otherwise, capacity aside, they’re essentially the same. Both, according to specialist Paul Roddison (mx5-racing.co.uk), are ‘bombproof’ so long as the oil is checked regularly and changed on time; Paul advises every year or 10,000 miles for oil changes.

‘They can use oil, up to half a litre every 1000 miles,’ he says. ‘The only problems we’ve ever seen are when the oil has run low. Our race car bounces off the rev limiter all day and we’ve never had a problem.’

Subscribe to evo magazine

Subscribe today to our exclusive new offer and SAVE 39% on the shop price, get evo for its original cover price of £3.00 an issue, plus get a FREE gift worth £20!

A misfire on early cars is usually traced to a broken wire to a coil pack. A popular modification is a remap and freer-flowing exhaust, which releases an extra 20-25bhp and costs £1795.

Mazda MX-5 gearbox, differential and clutch

Again, the only problems here are when the oil level in the differential runs low. ‘We have seen the odd diff failure,’ says Roddison. ‘So listen for a noisy diff. And as soon as you buy a car, get the engine, gearbox and diff oil changed.’ The six-speed gearbox can be stiff and notchy when cold but should be fine when warmed up. A switch to Red Line MT oil helps this issue.

Mazda MX-5 suspension, steering and brakes

Like the Mk1 and Mk2, there’s loads of adjustment in the suspension, so a full alignment check is crucial to getting the best out of the chassis. Beyond that, coilovers are a popular upgrade. Gaz and MeisterR get good reviews (budget around £1000 for a full set fitted, including alignment).

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

The MX-5 is particularly tyre-sensitive, so make sure they’re all matching. Paul rates Nankangs if you do the odd trackday or Kumho KH31s for purely road use. The standard brakes are fine for road use, but upgrade the pads for trackdays.

Mazda MX-5 body, interior and electrics

Mk3s have a bit of a reputation for corrosion, but rust inside the bonnet and bootlid is usually superficial (caused by the rubber seal wearing through the paint) and on the suspension arms it’s unsightly but not structural (they get replaced during the car’s life anyway).

The floorpan and chassis rails are usually sound. Test a folding hard-top for smooth, judder-free operation; the plastic gears in early cars sometimes give problems, and a fix can be pricey.

Advertisement
Advertisement

Most Popular

Visit/bentley/202227/ps15m-bentley-bacalar-revealed-in-six-new-designs
Bentley

£1.5m Bentley Bacalar revealed in six new designs

Bentley’s exclusive Mulliner brand is returning to low-volume manufacturing with the striking Bacalar convertible
3 Apr 2020
Visit/porsche/718-boxster/202408/new-porsche-boxster-t-2020-review
Porsche 718 Boxster

New Porsche Boxster T 2020 review

In many ways the best 718 Boxster to drive, but that sadly doesn’t paper over the inadequacies of the flat-four engine
2 Apr 2020
Visit/renault/9499/renault-5-gt-turbo-review-history-prices-and-specs
Renault

Renault 5 GT Turbo – review, history, prices and specs

Not as wild and bonkers as the mid-engined Turbo, the Renault 5 GT Turbo was still a rather fine hot hatch
1 Apr 2020
Visit/features/22907/hyundai-i30-fastback-n-versus-the-col-de-turini
Hyundai i30 N hatchback

Hyundai i30 Fastback N versus the Col de Turini

We take the Hyundai i30 Fastback N up the Col de Turini, a 31km stage of the Monte Carlo World Rally Championship
19 Jul 2019