First drive: Mazda RX-8 R3

* Face lifted coupe driven * Updated exterior styling * On sale now for £24,995...

First drive: Mazda RX-8 R3

The coupe world spins even more quickly than the rotary engine in the Mazda RX-8.

If you're not the newest, funkiest or fastest, you're old news.

That's why it was high-time for Mazda to face-lift its five-year old coupe, and the new RX-8 R3 is the result.

Exterior changes amount to revised lights front and rear, new wheels, slightly larger tailpipes, and a bodykit.

Underneath, the body and suspension have been stiffened, the steering sharpened, and the slick-shifting gearbox from the MX-5 fitted.

It all adds up to an RX-8 that's been to the gym for a few months.

The 228bhp of the engine is unchanged from before, as is the pulling power of 156lb ft, so straight-line performance is largely as before.

The gearbox ratios have been lowered slightly over those in the old RX-8, which helps acceleration but means the engine is revving harder at 70mph.

This manifests itself as a constant background hum, although the high volume of road noise does tend to distract your attention from any din generated by the engine.

All this motorway driving, however, is slightly missing the point, because the RX-8 truly comes alive on twisty, serpentine pieces of Tarmac.

Find a good road and you'll start to grin inanely as you snick up and down the gearbox, giggle as you use the engine to its 9000rpm maximum and marvel as the nose of the car follows your hands' commands instantly.

The RX-8 does mundane, too. Its boot is roomy, and you can easily carry four people. Just be prepared for an overly firm urban ride, huge fuel bills and make sure you follow the rigorous oil-checking schedule to the letter.

Mazda RX-8 R3Price £24,995
On sale Now
You'll like: It's even more fun to drive
You won't: It's thirsty; stiff urban ride