Another first time buyer

Hello all, I’m a new member and have spent the last few days trawling through the threads, trying to absorb all the advice. My intent is to look for a winter bargain at ~£6,000 come the end of the year (the boss assures me we should have enough money by then!) so I have plenty of time to take it all in and hopefully make the right choice!

It’s great that so many people seem to have been looking at the same sort of choice as I am, as it gives me plenty of information to work with. This forum seems like a really helpful and friendly place, which is wonderful for someone just starting out like me! Above all else what really sells me on a 5 is how much pleasure their owners always seem to derive from them; Having a round commute of 1 hour or more every day, slinging a fun little roadster around corners (safely!) is something to look forward to!

Over the last ~15 years we’ve owned a variety of hatchbacks and superminis. All nice enough cars in their way, but all very sensible, very proper, largely family-oriented cars, and now my wife and I feel we can cope with one sensible car and one fun car, and what could be more fun than an MX-5? We’re lucky to live within a few minutes walk of a garage who’ve done very well by us (and out of us) over the years, so I’m hopeful that they can keep up that good track record.

So, in terms of the sort of range I’m looking at, here’s my current thinking

  • Mk3.5 w. 2 litre engine for preference
  • Hard top
  • Adjustable height driver’s seat (big difference in height between my wife and I)
  • Stereo with iPod connection
So, a few questions about specific things I’ve not been able to find out on my search through the last several months (and years) of posts...

I would prefer a hard top to a soft top for security (the car will likely be parked on the road) and noise concerns. However, I note that the hard top means losing the cubby holes behind the seats. Can anyone with a hard top give an opinion on the in-cabin storage capacity, please? Does the central cubby between the seats go as well? How much can the glovebox hold? At present, I typically have a torch, car manual and USB power pack (for my phone) in mine, although it frequently accumulates things like packets of sweets as well!

While I would prefer the 2 litre engine, can anyone who’s driven both the 2 litre and 1.8 offer an informed opinion of the tradeoffs, please? My main reason for thinking bigger is better is that I settled for a smaller engine on my current car, but as an MX5 is so much smaller than a 5 door hatchback, maybe I’m being overly picky.

Similarly, while my preference is for the mk3.5, the practical differences between that and the earlier mk3 are tough to nail down – overall refinement seems to be the thing. While newer is probably better for a long-term investment, does it make any real difference to the cars overall? Are there any direct comparisons between the 3 and 3.5? I looked at but it’s hard to envision how much of a difference the changes make. Some reviews say ‘a lot’ and others ‘not much’.

I am not completely hopeless with fixing anything wrong with a car – I can change bulbs, wiper blades and fluid and other minor things… But anything much more complex than that is pretty well beyond me. I know that rust and water leakage are the two big issues with Mk3 cars. Are there any good guides on how to check for these issues when buying? Photos would be great – although I’m sure it’s difficult to take photos of something without giving away you’re using it as a cautionary tale! Additionally, as I’d like to take really good care of the car, is there a Haynes manual or similar for this version, or any good guides for general car maintenance?

Is there any consensus on the best trim level/model to go for on a 3/3.5?

Also, any guide to best practice on keeping and maintaining a 5 in best working order? As I say, it’ll likely have to sit in the road (or on the drive at best) so it will need to operate in all weathers.

With regards to the stereo, I’ve been 10 years in a car with a single CD player and no mp3 connection, and I really want at least an auxiliary connection on my new car. If it’s not fitted on whatever car I end up going with, can an aux/USB connection be added at a later date, and if so, can anyone say how much it’s likely to cost? Or is it something that I could do myself?

For what it’s worth, I’m ideally looking at Copper Red, Stormy Blue or a dark grey (Meteor?) for the paintwork – assuming I don’t change my mind! This isn’t critical, but certain colours definitely appeal more than others.

Thank you in advance for any help that you can give. Some of these may be fussy questions, but after years of idle fantasy I’ve now been looking seriously at buying for about 4 or 5 months, and hope to start taking test drives shortly (albeit deflecting sales talk until the autumn… )

If you haven’t already looked at it check out


It lists all the special editions and has a lot of info on the Mk3’s
I bought a 1.8 after my mr2 roadster. For me, being a more enthusiastic driver, I wasn’t happy with it. It was fine driving around town but I found it didn’t have as much torque as I would like. After about 18 months I’d moved onto a 2.0 which I’ve had for 3 years. I’m a lot happy with her and have no urge to swap her. Blag a decent test drive at a dealer in both before jumping in and making the mistake I did.

Hard tops are not really any quieter than the soft tops in my experience. Security is obviously a lot better. Losing the cubbyhole behind the seats wasn’t an issue for me. I never used them in my soft top. You do keep the chubby between the seats of the prht. Never found the storage to be particularly bad the glove box is a decent size ( better than the mk4’s ). I don’t see that storage is any worse than a small hatchback so nothing to worry about.

3.5’s are a better drive than a mk3 however it’s not a huge issue if I was you I’d look for the best low mileage well looked after example I could find. I have a mate with an excellent mk3 I’d rather have that any day than a tatty 3.5.

Specification is a tricky one there are a lot of special editions out there to consider. The aforementioned website should help you narrow down your options

A trawl through Mx5 parts website should be able to help sort out any connectivity issues you may encounter.

If it’s sitting outside in all weathers then rust proofing is something you should seriously consider.


Hello and welcome to the club and forum

Thanks for the advice and the welcome

Hi there, bought my first mx5 less than 2 weeks ago, coming from owning a saxo, c2 and fiesta! Went for the 2 litre. I’ve always played it safe and ended up wishing for more power. 

Mine lives on a road so wanted more security than a soft top offers, and wasn’t keen on the basic looking radio/cd in a lot of models. Found one with the PRHT and sat nav stereo system, was local to me and loved the colour. You are being a lot more sensible in your approach. I literally woke up one day, thought about changing cars, looked into them and bought one within a week. My fiesta was less than 3 years old, was great on mpg etc, but guess we all get that Roadster itch at some point. Only thing I’ve missed so far is ford’s heated front screen. 

So maybe look at a folding hardtop model unless you have room to store a removable hardtop. Most models I believe have an aux input. Some like mine also have USB. I guess now is the best time to buy as I assume prices will rise as the temperature does. 

Some info here on the different models

Oh and I’ve found storage perfectly fine so far (haven’t done any trips away yet though). 

You have a decent sized storage compartment behind you between the seats, a sliding one next to your left elbow (you can take the cup holder thing out to create more room, still have a cup holder in each door), a net pocket thing on each door, and the glove box is a decent size.

The PRHT lose the ‘hidden’ ones behind each seat. 

You’ll have no trouble at all fitting in the things you’ve listed. 


That’s great, thanks!

I called into our local dealership recently and had a sit in a mk3 - seemed comfortable, albeit only for five minutes! It was a soft top and my hair was brushing the strut across the middle. The salesman suggested this wasn’t an issue on a hardtop, but honestly, I’m in my mid 30s and not likely to grow too much more!

Next step is to get my wife into one and make sure she’s comfortable with it. If she is, we’ll be good to go, I think; Just counting the days and making sure we don’t have any unexpected expenses that deplete what I’m already thinking of as my ‘new car’ account…

See if there is a local club meeting near you, I am sure a few members will let you sit in their cars to help you decide what one you want. And they may know of local ones for sales, it’s something I wish I had done before buying my first fives. A wealth of free information for fellow owners.

Thanks, I’ll look into that. I think I’m in the North Thames region, so will check out that section.

I agree with Wolves MX5, just buy the best example you can find.  I did that and ended up with a Mk3 2.0 Sport, soft top.  It was just the best example by a long way.  I viewed three MK3.5’s and four Mk3’s, over a large price range.  The newest car was a 2013 and had loads of scuffs, the gearbox was notchy even when warm.  The gear change from 1st - 2nd is not the best on 6 speeds, when they are cold, but should virtually go away when warmed-up.  When I was looking I had decided that I wanted a powered hard top, but looked at both.  The car I bought was the oldest and was a soft top, the bodywork on it is pristine, underneath was too (a rarity for these cars at this age, if used all year round, without being rust-proofed), I’ve since rust proofed it.  In my case it was too good an example to let go, after travelling so far to view average - poor examples.  I have a garage so security isn’t a huge issue.

I’ve only just test driven mk3.5’s but I found the difference fairly negligible to the Mk3 in the handling department.  The engine feels slightly more revvy in the Mk3.5 2.0 litre, it is also more noisy, as I believe the air induction pipework is routed into the cabin or something. 

When looking at these cars, all of them, but more so the older ones, make sure you get underneath it, the factory undersealing on these cars is pathetic.  I looked at one ten year old car, and one eight year old car, the crappy effort of under-sealant, had more or less totally come off, it was hanging off in loads of places, there was lots of surface rust in numerous places.  I couldn’t believe how good the one I bought was.  Was obviously garaged and only used in good weather.  I have since rust proofed it myself, which was a truly horrible job to do on the drive.  Also check the rear wheel arch lips, the side window quarter light bars, these are places that I noticed rust, as well as the underneath.  Mine also had a worn drivers seat bolster, despite being low mileage, they are not the easiest of car to get in and out of.  The good thing about leather is that you can repair it yourself, if you buy a repair kit and view youtube videos.  So don’t let that put you off, it’s minor compared to bodywork issues.

There is a lot of choice with these cars, I believe that I viewed so many ropey cars, as they are so affordable, and as-such I would imagine many owners aren’t as enthusiastic regarding the cars up-keep, as members of this forum will be.  Just walk away from any shi*ters, you’ll find a good one in the end.  Good luck 

Thanks, Cletus, very much appreciated!

So, to stick, or twist?

I’ve been looking seriously for about a month now. I’ve looked at a few, enquired about several, and narrowed down my choices… perhaps too much.

I started by looking for a hard top 2 litre mk3.5. That’s still broadly what I’m looking at, but I’m now looking for one at sub-40k miles, and I might go for a 1.8 if every other box was ticked. It occured to me that a 2 litre engine may be wasted on the largely windy country/urban roads that I do 95% of my driving on, so as a compromise the 1.8 may be okay.

Even so, finding good examples is difficult - all the more so as I don’t want a silver one, as they seem to make up 50% of the hard tops out there.

I was all set to make an offer on a black one with 15k or so on the clock… then the price myseriously rose by £500, pushing it out of my budget.

I’m spending altogether too much time on autotrader, cargurus and the like, trying to track something down. There’s one on the south coast that may be okay… but it’s a long, long drive from Hertfordshire if it’s a bust. Croydon, Guildford, Skipton… Good cars, tick-every-box cars, are out there… But I’m fussy, and my budget is tight (c.9k + whatever I get for my old hatchback) so I’m struggling. I’d like a bit in the budget after buying to tweak things, too - the SmartTop roof mechanism is high on my list…

So this is mainly just a bit of a grumble, for which I apologise. Looking idly, the possibilities seemed endless, but now I’m really looking, and I’m reluctant to blow all my budget on an older car (pre 2011, say), or buy one in a colour I’m less taken with… It’s not easy. I may be asking too much.

There’re diamonds out there, but it’s proving much harder than I expected to track them down. I’m grateful that at least my old car is still plugging away, even if it’s not going to be worth much towards the cost of the new, as at least this way I’m not being rushed into making a decision.

Bide your time, the right car for you is out there somewhere.

I’m in the same boat myself.

Have you had a look here?: 

Hi, I have, yes. A couple of nice cars there - the multi-coloured one ticks all the boxes… Except for the colour! I’m just a little leary as they seem to specialise in the higher end - very nice cars, but not much in my price range.

That said, the red hardtop they have in at the moment is tempting… And I may well give them a call in a few days if it’s still available.

I’ve enquired about a couple which are on the edge of my range for travelling when I have to work. Otherwise… Well, I’ll keep looking. There’s just enough available to hold my interest, and someone local will surely be in the mood to sell my dream soon!

Majick, it’s good that you’re based ‘down south’ though.

Up here in Scotland they throw so much salt on the road in the winter that any car that’s lived up here usually suffers from underside corrosion.

The only think that concerned me when buying the MK3.5 Sport Tech I have was the corrosion underneath. After posting photo’s on this forum I came to the conclusion that the rust was ‘as expected’ for a 59 plate that’s lived on the west coast of Scotland. It’s going in for undersealing soon though.

In future I’d take the advice someone on here said…look for cars that have spent their life in the south of the country…preferably the Channel Islands where no or very little salt is dispersed in the winter. That’s all good for those who live in the south but not really too convenient for those of us north of Hadrian’s Wall!

Good luck with your search!

Thanks, Mike. You have basically the exact car I’m looking for, lucky swine!

Thought I had something and have been corresponding with a dealership most of today. Ticks all the boxes, reasonable price… but silver. A dark silver, but silver. Not sure if my rapidly melting convictions are exasperation or a new-found appreciation for the colour I’ll sleep on it, I think…

Majick, isn’t the colour something that you quickly get used to and end up liking?

I went out looking for a Soul Red MX5. Didn’t see many available nearby and so ended up with Stormy Blue! Now, I really like the blue and think it looks really classy whereas the red to me now looks a little brash!

My ‘everyday’ car, a Mazda 6 estate is in Blue Reflex. Was looking for a red one then too. I now love the look of the 6 in Reflex Blue. Was looking for a Soul Red but now have 2 blue Mazdas! What happened there?!

Personally I like the dark grey, or Meteor Grey.

Let us know what you chose.

You just have to bide your time. I spent more than 2 years looking on and off, with the same issues…wrong colour/too high miles/too far away.

I’d just about given up on ever finding what I wanted when a casual 5 minutes surfing Autotrader brought up the perfect car within 20 miles of my home - it was mine the next day.

Nearly three months on and loving every minute of driving it, so keep looking!