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What Car? says

4 out of 5 stars

For The most practical coupe, and fantastic to drive

Against The rotary engine guzzles oil and petrol

Verdict A brilliantly designed, fine-handling and well-built sports car at an affordable price

Go for… The fastest RX-8 is the best - go for the 228bhp version

Avoid… The 189bhp version isn't quite as quick, but it's still pretty fast

Mazda RX-8 Coupe
  • 1. Wonderfully inventive design gives it four doors, four seats and even a decent boot
  • 2. Don't worry if your car starts using oil at an alarming rate - this is normal for a rotary engine
  • 3. All cars have alloys, climate control, a CD multichanger, electric seats and stability and traction controls
  • 4. Two people can sit comfortably in the rear seats - almost unheard of in a coupe
  • 5. Go for the 228bhp car; although the lower-powered one is fast, the 228bhp car is something special
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Mazda RX-8 Coupe full review with expert trade views

Sports cars this talented just don't come this cheap. Or at least, they didn't until the Mazda RX-8 came along. It's a bargain as a new car, and if you plump for a used example, it's even more of a steal.

What sets the RX-8 apart from other coupes is its practicality. The wonderfully inventive design gives it four doors and four seats, the rearmost of which will carry adults in comfort. Not many four-seat coupes can say the same. There's even a decent sized boot.

It's the drive that really impresses, however. Both versions give exhilarating performance, and the engines make a great noise.

The handling is terrific, with seemingly endless grip and wonderfully direct steering. The ride is a touch firm at low speeds, but not offensively so, and it becomes impressively comfortable at high speeds.

There's plenty of equipment on both versions, build quality is excellent and you can look forward to cast-iron reliability.

Trade view

John Owen

Reliability concerns on earliest cars. Beware: it likes a drink of oil and petrol

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

All RX-8s use a 1.3-litre rotary engine, which uses spinning rotors rather than cylinders to generate its power. This allows a higher rev limit, so you can squeeze more out of each gear. Mazda is the only manufacturer to use such an engine, but they've been at it for years and really know what they're doing.

You can have either a 228bhp version, or a slightly de-tuned version that delivers a still-healthy 189bhp. Both are very quick, but the 228bhp gives that bit of extra performance that makes you feel like you're in something really special. That makes it our favourite, but whichever version you choose, you won't be disappointed.

There's just one trim level for both versions, but lots of kit is provided. All cars have alloy wheels, climate control, electric windows, a nine-speaker Bose sound system with CD multichanger, electrically adjustable seats and stability and traction controls.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Plenty of customers for these and the 231bhp is the one everyone wants

James Ruppert
Used car guru

Considering the amount of car you'll get for your money, there's not a lot in the coupe market that can touch it.

It's still not a car that everyone will be able to afford, however. The RX-8 cost well over £20,000 when new, and strong residual values, and the fact that the car has only been on sale since 2003, means that even the oldest used examples will still cost a lot.

Running costs can be crippling, too. While rotary engines are immensely powerful, they're also very thirsty. The 228bhp version returns just 25.2mpg, and the 189bhp car doesn't do much better with 26.7mpg. And, that's on paper - start to use anything like full power on a regular basis or spend a lot of time in town, and you'll see that drop to nearer 20 in the real world.

Insurance bills won't be cheap, either. The 189bhp car has a group 15 rating, while the 228bhp version is in group 16. Servicing isn't exactly cheap, but compare your maintenance costs to those of the Audi TT or Alfa GT, and you'll be quids in.

Trade view

John Owen

Reliability concerns on earliest cars. Beware: it likes a drink of oil and petrol

John Owen
Buyer,
Fords of Winsford

Mazda can always be depended on for bullet-proof reliability. The big Japanese firms are always right at the top of the table when our regular reliability survey rolls around, and Mazda is one of the very best.

The most recent JD Power Customer Satisfaction Survey did throw up some concerns over engine reliability, but don't worry if your car starts using oil at an alarming rate - this is normal for a rotary engine.

Bear in mind, though, that some recalls were issued on early cars. Some experienced a loss of steering due to a cracked joint in the lower suspension arm, while heat insulators on the dynamic dampers also suffered cracks. The most worrying recall, though, was for a fuel leak that occurred because of overheating exhaust components.

When buying an RX-8 of any age, check the VOSA website (www.vosa.gov.uk) to see whether your car was affected by recalls, and whether the work has been carried out.

Trade view

James Ruppert

Plenty of customers for these and the 231bhp is the one everyone wants

James Ruppert
Used car guru
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