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Buying used: Mazda MX-5 (1990 – 2011)

by Peter Palm on 11/01/2012

Comments: 7

The current model on a photoshoot for a road test in the June 2010 issue of CAR. This particular MX-5 sports a hard top, which is now the sole offering.

At A Glance

Make MAZDA MX-5
Retail Price R249 590,00
kw 107
Torque 168
Top Speed 208

DESIGNED in California, the MX-5 was just what Americans wanted. And, as it turned out, the rest of the world was quite happy to join in on the fun. Also known as the Miata, this name was dropped with the introduction of the third generation but many owners still use the quaint title.

The soft top has an easy-to-open design but hard tops were expensive and more bulky. Power outputs started at 85 kW (1,6), then jumped to 107 kW (1,8) and finally to 118 kW on the 2,0-litre models.

WHICH MODEL?

A neat progression of increasing capacities and performance expectations gives enthusiasts a benchmark of how to weigh up their needs with the size of their wallets. South Africa received 250 of the original 1,6- litre models and only 115 of the first 1,8-litre models around 1993 (this model saw a switch to fixed headlamps and a glass rear window in 1998). Luggage capacity on the original version, even with a space-saver spare wheel, is painfully small at 80 dm3 owing to the rear-wheel-drive layout. With the 1,8-litre, the boot was re-designed to take 112 dm3 with the spare wheel now moved from inside the boot to beneath it. Still more tweaking was to follow with the 2,0-litre, where boot capacity reached 120 dm3.

The first model with its pop-up headlamps is now a collector’s classic.

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

ENGINES
The 1,6- and 1,8-litre versions use a timing belt to actuate the valves and the belt should be changed every 100 000 km together with the idler and tensioner pulleys. There were a couple of reports of snapped belts but with no damage to the valves. The 2,0-litre uses a timing chain, so here you just need to worry about regular oil changes.

It seems some owners expect too much from their vehicles – one reader complained that his water pump gave up after over 200 000 km; this is normal. The 1,8- and 2,0-litre engines have variable valve timing.

TRANSMISSION
The 1,6-litre is mated to a fi ve-speed gearbox while the newer models have six ratios. One owner had his clutch replaced after around 100 000 km, which is rather low, and a sticky reverse gear was mentioned by a few. Others complained of clutch problems, including juddering on post-2002 models.

SUSPENSION, BRAKES AND WHEELS
A broken rear coil spring affected one of the early 1,6-litres but no other problems were noted and tyre wear was not criticised.

ELECTRICAL
Pop-up headlamps on early models should be checked for correct operation as the drive motors can stop functioning.

BODYWORK
One or two paint blemishes were mentioned and one owner had the headlamp-washer nozzle pop out of its housing.

GENERAL
Some owners said that they were initially disappointed with the performance but, with time, the engines loosened up and became much sweeter revving. Also note that, for the 2,0-litre models, Mazda ditched the spare wheel and instead supplied a puncture repair kit.

SUMMARY
Mazda mechanicals have always had a good reputation and the MX-5 is no exception. The fact that the car (especially earlier models) was less complicated, adds to ease of ownership. Just about all owners said they loved driving their Miatas.

Prices And Specs

Make
Model
Retail Price
kw
Torque
0-100km
Top Speed
Fuel Type
Fuel Consumption
Tyre Size Front
Tyre Size Rear
Rear Tyre Size Width
Rear Tyre Size Profile
Rear Tyre Rim Size
Spare Tyre Size
Tyre Pressure Monitor
Tyre Specification
Wheelbase

Safety And Features

Air Conditioner Manual
Audio System CD Frontloader
Rev Counter Yes
Gearbox Manual
ABS Brakes Yes
Power Steering Yes
Seats 2
Steering Wheel Heated No
Speakers 6
Colour Coded Bumpers Body Colour
Leather Trim Full
Alarm Yes
Anti Skid Control No
Electronic Defferential No
Gears 6
Height 1225
Onboard Computer No
Immobiliser Yes
Split Rear Seats No
Brake Assist No
Electric Seats -
Cup Holders Yes
Electric Mirrors Yes
Electric Windows Front
Airbag DP
Doors 2
Airbag Driver Yes
Airbag Passenger Yes
Navigation System No
Park Assistance No
Side Impact Protection Bars Yes
Sunroof No
Fog Lamps Front Yes
Fog Lamps Rear Yes
Headlight Type Halogen
Towbar No
Payload -
Bull Bar -

  • Anonymous

    I am a proud owner and I love her to bits. Sticks to the road like glue and the ordinary commute is FUN FUN FUN, And all this while driving within the legal limits.

  • Marx

    Enjoy her Knormoer, I hope and dream of owning one soon!!

  • John-Mark

    If you have ever owned or driven and MGA the Mazda MX 5 is a great and wonderful replacement. A true sportscar in the British tradition. In fact trancended and improved the true british sportscar. Little wonder that they sell so well all over the world. Enjoy!! Especially top down.

  • Toscanofigueira

    a gem to drive and own! Reliable as a dog, agile and smooth as a rabbit! just love it!

  • Rodger

    A very good description. According to the British 2011 JD power quality survey the best sports car / cabriolet available. “thanks largely to its brilliant driving dynamics, low ownership costs and reliable mechanicals”

    http://www.whatcar.com/car-news/jd-power-survey-2011/sports-cars-and-cabriolets-winner/257096#

  • Anonymous

    For once I can agree with you.There is quit a lot of truth in your dog and rabbit comparison. This is one of the few cars where one can still go for a ride just for the fun of it.

  • http://www.sacars.com.au/ used cars Adelaide

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