Fancy a sporting car of immense charm that looks terrific, is great to drive and can be picked up from just £1500 used? Tempted by the prospect of a turbine-smooth 228bhp at 8300rpm? Of course you are. Of course it’s a Mazda RX-8 and of course it’s a Wankel engine. But wait, before you go… hear me out. 

You see, if you try an RX-8, you will find it a bit of a peach. From new, in 2003, you could choose from either a 198bhp or a 228bhp version of Mazda’s 1.3-litre twin-rotor rotary engine. The former was a pleasant thing, but the latter was the one to have, capable of propelling the RX-8 from 0-62mph in just 6.4sec and on to a top speed of 146mph. 

Power went to the rear wheels through a super-slick manual gearbox with five speeds in the lower-powered engine and six speeds in the lustier version. With the engine being so small, it was logical to place it well back in a front-mid-engined layout, which helped achieve the RX-8’s ideal 50:50 weight distribution.

Underneath, it had double wishbones up front, a multi-link rear and a limited-slip differential.

The whole car was pretty light, too; keen drivers were rewarded with sharp steering, an engaging chassis and agile handling. 

They also got four doors, the two rear being ‘suicide’, or rear-hinged, which was another talking point (if the engine wasn’t enough of one), and there was space in the rear for the kids. It was all low-slung in there and well-finished and rather attractive. 

An update to the RX-8 in 2008 brought revamped styling, stiffer suspension and shorter gear ratios for better performance, while the 190bhp version bit the dust. The last cars hit British shores in 2010, before production ended for good in 2012. 

That’s the good bits covered. The bad side is that the seals that are axiomatic for compression in that sweet little engine are prone to wear. Really bad wear. It’s also not the cleanest engine ever made, nor the most frugal (you will be lucky to see 20mpg in daily use). Oh, and it loves to burn oil, to such an extent that you will be petrified of those glue-loving protesters. It’s also not known for low-down torque; hop in and drive around town and you will wonder if you left the handbrake on. 


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