Should you buy a Mazda MX-5 Mk1? - Mazda MX-5 Mk1 reliability and prices

It's the internet's default 'answer to everything', but should you buy Mazda's evergreen roadster?

The reliability

Remember that bit about the earliest examples being 26 years old? It shouldn’t be a cause for concern – MX-5s are very reliable indeed.

Engine woes are few. The very earliest cars, from 1990-1991, have the potential for engine failure due to problems with the crankshaft pulley bolt. It only affects a tiny number of cars though and it’s unlikely there are many problem cars left.

The only common cause of 'failure to proceed' is that of the clutch slave cylinder. It’s prone to leaking, and after a while you’ll find yourself with an inoperable clutch. Luckily replacement is inexpensive and can even be carried out at home.

The other common MX-5 malady is rust. Some cars are better than others, but blocked drain holes in the sills are the biggest issue – they fill up with road crud, water becomes trapped in the sills and rots them from the inside out. As such, decent-looking sills on the outside may hide plenty of crustiness below.

The looks

This is rather a matter of personal preference. Some dislike the MX-5’s lack of originality and its cutesiness, others are drawn to the simple styling, classical lines and compact dimensions. It’s ageing well though, and the Mk1’s pop-up headlights will win plenty of fans…

If we’re talking general exterior issues, then the only main concern (aside from the aforementioned rust) is to inspect the roof. They’re fairly good at sealing out the weather, but they do wear, they do tear and they do rip. Plastic rear windows can also go foggy. A new one will transform the look of the car.

Incidentally, don’t write off Japanese Eunos Roadster imports. They’re invariably better-equipped than UK cars (all include a limited-slip diff, for example) and few MX-5s have a full service history anyway so buying one whose early years were spent in another country is not a big deal.

The price

As with its reliability, one of the MX-5’s greatest attributes is its inexpense.

While solid, good-condition, non-modified cars can command £3000-£4000 and pristine, one-owner cars with low miles even more than that, finding an MX-5 between the £1000 and £2000 mark is not difficult at all. It might need a few tweaks here and there and there’s always the chance of rust, but most will be mechanically solid.

Of course, if you’re feeling brave then Mk1s can be picked up for as little as £500 or so (our Grand Challenge example cost £801). They’ll usually be pretty scabby on the outside (though rarely falling apart and almost always driveable) and may have a mismatch of original and aftermarket parts, but you’ll struggle to find a more entertaining car for the price of a sofa in the January sales.

Find Mazda MX-5s for sale on Classic and Performance Car

Recommended

2022 BMW M2 spied testing on the Nürburgring
BMW M2 spies July 21
BMW M2

2022 BMW M2 spied testing on the Nürburgring

We've finally seen the all-new 2-series in full, but here's our best look yet at the range-topping M2
15 Jul 2021
Lotus Emira makes world debut – all-new coupe to rival Alpine A110
Lotus Emira
Lotus

Lotus Emira makes world debut – all-new coupe to rival Alpine A110

Lotus's first all-new car for a quarter of a century comes AMG power and sub-£60,000 price tag
13 Jul 2021
All-new BMW 2-series revealed – M240i tops range, M2 still to come
BMW 2-series 2021 – front quarter static
BMW 2 Series

All-new BMW 2-series revealed – M240i tops range, M2 still to come

Boxy, brutish and exactly the type of BMW we all want to see, the all-new 2-series Coupe is here
6 Jul 2021
2022 Toyota GR 86 coming to Goodwood Festival of Speed
2022 Toyota GR86 FoS
Toyota GT 86

2022 Toyota GR 86 coming to Goodwood Festival of Speed

The Toyota GR 86 will have its public and dynamic debuts at this year's FoS
24 Jun 2021

Most Popular

New Audi RS3 revealed – AMG’s A45 S rival returns fitter and faster
2021 Audi RS3 Sportback – front tracking
Audi RS3

New Audi RS3 revealed – AMG’s A45 S rival returns fitter and faster

After months of tech insights, we now finally get to see the all-new Audi RS3 in its finished form
19 Jul 2021
Lotus Emira makes world debut – all-new coupe to rival Alpine A110
Lotus Emira
Lotus

Lotus Emira makes world debut – all-new coupe to rival Alpine A110

Lotus's first all-new car for a quarter of a century comes AMG power and sub-£60,000 price tag
13 Jul 2021
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring 2021 review – pairing the magnificent 992 GT3 experience to a more subtle audience
Porsche 911 GT3 Touring 992 review
Porsche 911 GT3

Porsche 911 GT3 Touring 2021 review – pairing the magnificent 992 GT3 experience to a more subtle audience

There are few, if any, more rewarding, engaging or intense experiences for those in pursuit of the thrill of driving
14 Jul 2021