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

Chevrolet Corvette C8 convertible 2021 review – American icon driven in EU-specification
Chevrolet Corvette C8 Cab EU review – front tracking
Chevrolet Corvette

Chevrolet Corvette C8 convertible 2021 review – American icon driven in EU-specification

The EU-spec Corvette is heavier and less powerful than we were led to believe, but is still a fantastic modern sports car with a distinct American fla…
8 Oct 2021
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 2021 review – an all-time great
Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 cornering
Porsche Cayman GT4 coupe

Porsche 718 Cayman GT4 2021 review – an all-time great

For a combination of pure driver appeal and value, the Cayman GT4 has no rivals. An instant modern classic, if ever there was one.
4 Oct 2021
Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS 2022 review – middle child 992 shapes up
Porsche 911 GTS review (992) – front cornering
Porsche 911 Carrera

Porsche 911 Carrera 4 GTS 2022 review – middle child 992 shapes up

Two and a half years after the launch of the 992, the GTS treatment both adds and subtracts but does the result gel on the road?
21 Sep 2021
Lotus Emira First Edition priced from £75,995 – production to commence in 2022
Lotus Emira
Lotus Emira coupe

Lotus Emira First Edition priced from £75,995 – production to commence in 2022

First examples of the new Lotus Emira will roll off the production line early next year, with the entry-level four-cylinder to follow
20 Sep 2021

Most Popular

'It's saddening to see the Countach name applied to such a cynical exercise'
Dickie Meaden opinion
Lamborghini

'It's saddening to see the Countach name applied to such a cynical exercise'

Lamborghini’s ‘homage’ to the Countach sees Meaden in reflective mood
26 Oct 2021
Used car deals of the week
Used car deals Oct 20 21
Features

Used car deals of the week

Here's what caught evo’s fancy this week on the second hand car market
20 Oct 2021
2022 Range Rover previewed before reveal next week
Range Rover teaser
Land Rover Range Rover

2022 Range Rover previewed before reveal next week

A new era for the Range Rover is about to be revealed, with new engines, tech and styling
20 Oct 2021