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Reader test: Mazda MX-5

2009-09-30 09:05

Henk Roux

I’d always wanted an MX5. This desire became even stronger back in 2006 when Mazda released the latest revision. In 2007 I started looking around for second-hand deals and came across a 1991 NA model.

I was pretty skeptical since it was almost 20 years old with no service history and it was an import from Japan (badged Eunos). This made it neigh on impossible to track a proper history of the car.

Nonetheless, I took it for a test drive, and boy did it blow my mind. I could never have guessed that it would be that solid, that grippy, that revvy and, with the hood down, that cool. My doubts about the car being that old were completely abolished.

A few fixes

The road to roadworthiness took six months in total, and about twenty grand. New tyres, a cam belt and a buckled belt pulley were the biggest of the expenses and quickly sorted out.

But it was the smaller things that proved to be the headaches. The dealers don’t carry parts anymore - not even parts which are shared with the brand new MX5 available today. But each of the smaller items I’ve had to repair or replace I could do myself. The car is very easy to work on in every respect. Though obviously this particular area is not for everyone’s enjoyment.
I have no concerns over long-term reliability either. Given the state of some of the dust covers that I replaced on the suspension and steering parts, and were exposed for a long time, none of them required reconditioning or replacing.

Old, but good

As for the engine, it’s still the original and so far I’ve only had to replace the plug leads and one relay. This engine is good for another 100 000 km, if not more. The engine is a bit lazy by now and is sluggish on the pull-away, but come 3 000 r/min it really rushes onwards to the 7 000 r/min redline.

The fuel economy is not that good. On an engine this old, the latest frugal figures quoted by manufacturers are truly wishful thinking. Expect nothing more than 9 km /l on average for the month.

The ride is hard, especially on the more bumpy roads. Driving it every day sometimes has me wishing for the highway instead of the back road. But, show it a corner and you’d be hard pressed to fade the smile on your face. With its perfect driving position, it’s a confidence-inspiring experience one hundred percent of the time.

All in all, it’s the best car I’ve ever driven and owned. But it is most definitely an enthusiast's car at this age, and an expensive one to maintain at any age. Though, with a bit of sunshine and the hood down, it’s worth every penny and all the effort.

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