Review

Mazda RX-8 coupe (2003-2010)

Mazda RX-8 coupe (2003-2010)

reviewed by Carbuyer

Pros
  • Sharp driving dynamics
  • Eye-catching looks
  • Surprisingly roomy cabin for a sports car
Cons
  • High running costs
  • Small boot
  • Poor resale values

"Four-seater coupe is surprisingly spacious and hugely entertaining to drive, but running costs will hit your wallet hard."

With its distinctive styling and rear-hinged half doors, Mazda's RX-8 is one of the most eye-catching sports coupes on the road. It's unique in the market because it's powered by a rotary engine, which is smoother and more powerful than a conventional piston engine of a similar size. Thanks to its excellent handling and comfortable ride, the RX-8 suits a wide variety of different driving styles, but running costs are very high due to the large amounts of fuel and oil that the rotary engine requires. Boot space is limited, although there is plenty of room for four passengers inside.

MPG, running costs & CO2

1.5 / 5

High fuel and oil consumption will hit your wallet

Combined fuel consumption of 24.6mpg is poor, and you can expect real-world economy to dip below the 20mpg mark, especially if you do a lot of urban driving. Then there's the extra oil you'll have to pay for. Owners have reported using around a litre of oil for every 1,000 miles driven. Due to the unique nature of the 1.3-litre rotary engine, it's taxed as if it's a conventional 2.6-litre engine, and high emissions place it in the top band for Road Tax and company car tax.

Interior & comfort

3.5 / 5

The Japanese coupe is a surprisingly comfortable long distance cruiser

As you would expect from a sports car, the RX-8 has firm suspension, but it's not too uncomfortable on motorway journeys. There's a gentle whirr from the engine when cruising, and it doesn't really become any noisier when it's revved. Standard Recaro sports seats mean occupants up front are held tightly in place.

Practicality & boot space

3.5 / 5

All occupants get decent head and legroom

Considering its sporty looks, there's a surprising amount of space in the Mazda. Access is made easier thanks to the rear-hinged half doors, which can only be used once the front doors have been opened. A centre console that runs the length of the cabin makes the RX-8 a strict four-seater, but there's decent head and legroom front and rear. The only major drawback is the small boot, which is further emphasised by the narrow boot opening.

Reliability & safety

3.5 / 5

Rotary engine has a thirst for oil as well as petrol

Owners need to check the oil level of the rotary engine on a regular basis. That's because this type of engine uses more oil than a conventional one to keep its moving parts lubricated. If you do let the oil run low, you can expect to pay a hefty sum to get the engine repaired. Other than that, the RX-8 is reliable, with no major issues reported by owners.

Engines, drive & performance

4.0 / 5

Few cars are as entertaining as the Mazda

Thanks to its rear-wheel-drive layout, the RX-8 is an entertaining car to drive. Direct steering and stiff suspension combine to make the RX-8 a delight on the road. The 228bhp rotary engine is very smooth, but it needs to be revved to make the most of its performance.

Price, value for money & options

3.0 / 5

Few cars serve up as much performance and style for the price

The RX-8 is competitively priced when compared to rivals such as the Audi A5 Coupe and BMW 3-Series Coupe, and the R3 model comes with plenty of kit as standard. A BOSE stereo, Bluetooth telephone connection and part-leather Recaro sports seats are just part of the long equipment list. However, owners will have to factor in higher running costs because of the car's rotary engine.

What the others say

3.8 / 5
based on 4 reviews
  • 4.0 / 5
    Has long been one of our favourite coupés, because it looks great, drives brilliantly and has reasonable practicality. The R3 is expensive, but it's still worth it
  • 3.0 / 5
    Will not stand short runs from cold starts, rotary engine lacks torque and needs to be worked very hard most of the time, high CO2 emissions plus poor fuel economy.
  • 4.0 / 5
    When it was revealed in 2003, the RX-8 created quite a stir. Thanks to its novel ‘suicide’ rear doors the rakish coupe stole a practical march on more conventional rivals. The latest version retains this neat layout, while subtle tweaks to the shark-like nose freshen the car’s distinctive looks. Entry-level versions get either a 189 or 228bhp version of the high-revving 1.3-litre Wankel rotary engine. The range-topping R3 adds sports suspension and bodykit. Read more: 
  • 4.0 / 5
    There's enough room for two in the back and a half decent boot, making the Mazda a useable coupe. It's great to drive with well weighted steering and minimal body roll, however while the rotary engine sounds good, it has to be worked hard to get meaningful performance and lacks pulling power. As a result fuel economy is poor.

Last updated 
28 Jun 2013

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