Mazda’s RX-8 is something rather special, with a unique character due to its unusual rotary engine.
It has the looks and prestige of a coupé, but has an immediate advantage on account of its ‘suicide’ rear doors.
These permit easy access to two proper-sized rear seats, making it genuinely capable of carrying four adults and more practical than any rival.
Big question marks hung over the RX-8’s expected reliability as, historically, rotary-engined cars needed regular engine rebuilds.
Five years on, Mazda’s insistence that it had solved the issue has been proven, and although it still requires special attention, a used buy need not be a leap of faith.
Owners do need to appreciate that the engine will consume oil by design, so regular topping up is as necessary as fuel stops, and RX-8s use plenty of fuel.
Driving and performance
The engine is very compact and tucked right at the back of the engine bay, helping the Mazda to feel well balanced and agile.
It comes with one of two engine outputs, 192bhp or 231bhp.
Both feel swift and accelerate so smoothly that the red-line on the rev-counter is combined with an audible chime to remind the driver that the engine is doing 9,000rpm.
There are more powerful rivals, but the RX-8 is a very satisfying car to drive.
The rear seats accommodate six-footers in snug bucket seats, with easy access through the rear-hinged back doors, which open only with the front doors to create a single, large opening.
Front passengers get great seats too, along with a distinctively-styled dash that is hi-tech and sporty, and appears to share nothing with other Mazdas.
It hasn’t been crash tested, but there is lots of safety kit, including six airbags and stability and traction controls.
Parker's buyers' lines
"Great handling – you can really hit those corners with confidence."
"I can get 25mpg, but it makes you want to put your foot down."
"Even the new price gives a high fun-to-money ratio."
On the forecourt
Limited-edition model with uprated suspension, a sportier exhaust and ever more distinctive looks.
Trade: 06/06 – 07/07: £13,700 - £15,900
Retail: 06/06 – 07/07: £14,850 - £17,650
Ones to Avoid
They may have a bit more power, but it’s difficult to verify the service history which is so critical with this car.
In the workshop
2004 – possible cracking of heat insulator. 2005 – loss of steering may occur. Possible fuel leak.