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Buyers Guide to:

Mazda MX-5

Useful Info

Also Known As

Eunos Roadster, Miata


1989 to 1998

Fuel Type


Engine Sizes

1600cc, 1800cc

Engine Type


Drive Configuration


MX-5 Owners Club

Just Kampers

01256 862288,


The idea for Mazda’s two-seater sports car had first been raised as far back as 1979, but it wasn’t until January 1984 that work started on developing what would become the world’s best-selling roadster. The Mazda MX-5 debuted at the Chicago Motor Show in February 1989 and proved an instant hit, buyers falling in love with the sharp styling and agile road manners. It was launched with a twin- cam 1.6-litre engine boasting 114bhp – plenty powerful enough for such a lightweight car – which was joined in 1994 by a 131bhp 1.8-litre unit (the output of the 1.6 dropped to just 88bhp at the same time.) As well as the Japanese ‘Eunos’ and American ‘Miata’ versions, there was a wealth of special edition models over the years which can be worth more today. The original model was replaced by the NB version in 1998.

  1. Scuttle
  2. Windscreen surround and A-pillars
  3. Wheel arches
  4. Sills ahead of the rear wheels

The Checklist

  • That drain holes haven’t become blocked as this will lead to corrosion. Rust in the sills ahead of the rear wheels can spread into the structure so check the area carefully, especially if there’s evidence of previous repair
  • The paintwork on the sills. The original finish was of a rougher, stone-chip type so if it’s smooth it’s been repainted in the past
  • For rust in the floor, jacking points, sub-frame mountings, and front chassis rails
  • The nosecone for signs of misalignment – it could point to previous accident damage, and low values could have meant repairs done on the cheap. Dented panels and scuffed bumpers are a sign of neglect, so you’re better off finding another car
  • Whether you’re looking at a genuine MX-5 or a Eunos import, although the latter are no problem. An import will have ‘NA’ in the chassis number, while UK cars will have ‘JMZN’
  • The engine for oil leaks. They tend to come from the front crank pulley seal, cam cover gasket, or cam sensor seal. Lack of oil changes leads to sludged hydraulic tappets so check the service history
  • That the cambelt has been changed at five years or 60,000 miles. The engine won’t get damaged if it breaks, though
  • Underneath as the exhaust could have been damaged by contact with speed humps and the like
  • The health of the cooling system. The water pump can leak, while correct coolant strength is needed to prevent damage to the alloy cylinder head. If the coolant looks murky, regular servicing could have been neglected
  • For a slick gearshift. If it’s sticky, it probably means the rubber boot beneath has split and allowed the lubrication to leak out. Manual cars can suffer from a failed clutch slave cylinder, although it’s an easy fix. If an automatic gearbox is fitted, the car is an import
  • For corrosion around the suspension mountings, and for worn bushes. Lowered examples are common, but check the work has been done properly. And check the tyres for uneven wear as the cars are sensitive to correct wheel alignment
  • That brakes aren’t suffering from corroded pipework or seized rear calipers. ABS was added later, so ensure the warning light illuminates and extinguishes correctly on start up
  • Whether power steering is fitted - it can suffer leaks from the fluid pipes. Unassisted steering is best avoided as it spoils the agile nature of the MX-5
  • The cabin for tatty trim and damage caused by water leaks. Replacements parts and upgrades are easy to source, but budget accordingly. Replacement hoods aren’t too pricey, either, but quality items will be double-skinned around the rear quarter sections
  • That all the electrics are working, including the pop-up headlamps. Electric windows can fail, usually because of frayed cables or worn motors. And ensure that the correct gel battery is fitted in the boot as fumes from lead acid items can lead to corrosion forming

Everything Check Out?

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