Buying a 2.0 NC 3.5/3.75 PRHT - what do I look for?

As someone in at “at risk” group my miles have come down and I have been working from home and such is my popularity in the office I’ve been told that even if things got back to normal it’s worked so well without me being there, they’d be happy if I reduced my days in the office. I’m coming out of a new car PCP and the vast expense of this and NC used prices becoming sensible combined with me having less day to day requirement for a car have sort of made my mind up that I should finally scratch the itch and also reduce my motoring costs drastically but still get tremendously excited about this new world!

But I only reduce my costs drastically if I get a solid one!

So, I’m kind of prepping very early here as I don’t want to have to settle for something that’s not spot on how I want it. It’s a car I want to keep for a few years, and the after-market support and mods available to make a nice job of getting one exactly how you want it are an appeal.

However, I hear quite a few horror stories about 2.0 units getting through oil at a right old rate - is this something that mainly afflicted earlier models - the 3.5 and 3.75 must be old enough for these issues to be showing now if it was still to be an issue.

Is there any give-away, or other symptoms that might lead one to the conclusion a potential car would have this affliction?

I’m probably going to get an AUC from Mazda UK, looking for something topping out at around the 40-50,000 mile mark and looking not looking to part with any more than ten grand, but as I know from past experience buying used through a dealership is no guarantee of a better car, it just makes picking the bones out of buying a dud a bit easier.

Because the MX-5 will be quite a lot slower than what I’m replacing, in time I will probably be looking at a BBR Super 200 upgrade. I don’t know for certain as it’s mainly for overtaking purposes, but I might feel so wee and vulnerable my overtaking days might be behind me (if that’s not some kind of contradiction!).

So I suppose the engine and oil consumption are my main concerns, and possibly gearbox. But essentially… are there things I should be looking at in its service history, things I can ask about and what things can I check for in the flesh? I don’t really want to leave any stone unturned in what I know about what I’m buying. Thanks in advance, as I don’t know what I’m doing at the best of times, so people’s help will be immensely valuable.


Hiya, you could just go straight to BBR and get one of their cars from the get go?
Example here:

I realise I’m not answering your queries but someone else will be along to sort that for you I’m sure. Just for interest, my own 2010 Sport Tech PRHT is on 117k miles and runs absolutely perfectly, Full Mazda history until recently may have helped here.


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Just keep a look out for members cars coming up on here for sale. Most I hope should be better than dealers can offer, you just don’t get the after sales service/warranty though. A risk yes but one I’d take and if chosen correctly you’ll probably be better off.


Perfect answer by MickAP.
Talk to the seller, does he/she know what they are talking about, dealers just want to make money and couldn’t care less.

I looked under a 2011 (I think) NC at the local dealer with about 35k on the clock. Was shocked at the state of the rust. I wouldn’t touch it with a barge pole…
Bought a 2008 (so mk3.0) with 72k that was much better. Didn’t have any service history, but a good check round didn’t set off any alarm bells.

I had to swap the dampers, 12 year old shocks are not going to be “as new”, and gave it a full service changing all fluids as well as new wheels and tyres, new head unit as well as little things here and there that needed doing.

Net result is I have spent just under £5k on the car in total, and it has used about 100cc of oil in almost 4,000 miles and is really nice to drive.

My other car is a 340hp BMW, the mx5 is 160 so I understand the concern on performance; but the mx5 is quick enough as is. The mk2.5 1.8 I used to have was a slug compared to the mk3, although on paper they appeared to be quite close. I am now considering selling the BMW as I like the NC so much.

Buying from a dealer may give you a security that if it is a lemon you can return it, but I am not sure I would buy from Mazda. It seems to me they over price their older cars to make depreciation on new cars look less than it actually is (“Just look at our stock sir, and you can appreciate how they hold their value…”).

I am relatively mechanically competent, and the mx5 wasn’t bought as my daily driver, so I maybe more comfortable taking a risk than others. But I would have no concerns buying privately, especially from someone one here when you can do a search on their posts to get a feel for how they have treated their car.

What to look for… well no point re-typing the thousand other posts on the Web, but basics of checking oil and water (and look at the caps) for condition can tell you a lot. Do the electrics look in good condition, or hacked about (quick look in the fuse box - should be clean and not “hairy”). Are tyres matched, if not is that a symptom of unloved cheapest maintenance possible? Pedals and other contact points - excessive wear? Does it run smoothly and cleanly, or is there smoke? Was the engine warm before you arrived, if so, why? Check air con works as it should. Heated seats? Put the roof up and down a few times, not just when you arrive, drive the car and make sure it was not just perfectly poised on the forecourt, make sure it works at the side of the road, should be almost silent in operation.

And lastly the dreaded rust… if it is pristine underneath, someone is pulling a fast one, easy to paint over the cracks. Is it rotten, then you know the score. Mine was very good, been rust treated as a young car with just surface rust on the subframes. Nothing to worry about for another few years.

Look at MOT history, also look on v check for salvage history. Many imaculate cars are freshly rebuilt due to accident repair. Mine was a write off, but VCheck had all the salvage photographs and it was clear it was only minor damage.

Mine has worked out well for me, and now thinking about selling BMW. It was a risk with no service history and being an insurance write off, but that was why I only paid £2700. I now have the computerised service history from Mazda, so maybe I was lucky.

I am also not sure about the ‘horror stories’ with oil consumption and detonating engines. From what I can gather the 2.0 is a safer bet than the 1.8. Engine problems are largely associated with low oil, and oil consumption seems to associated with valve stem seals. If the car smokes, then probably walk away, but if you fancy a gamble, and the price is low because of the smoke, it could be a quick fix for a couple of hundred pounds if it is the valve stems. If it is smoking under acceleration it is more likely to be terminal.

Best of luck with the search.

Agreed at that price I would avoid the dealers as at least £2k will be their costs and markup.
Yes you get warranty but hey it’s an MX5…
I always look for the seller before the car. Is it in your name, can I see it at the registered address, how long have you owned it? Then follow
Up with service and maintenance questions.
I reject 75% on the first three questions alone.

Owned my 3.5 for 8 years now, admittedly low mileage but other than oils (all
of them) and filter changes it has had a set of tyres, a set of pads and a battery so I am quite happy.

A huge thanks to everyone who’s replied. Much appreciated. I suppose because I’m naturally quite risk averse, the idea of going head first from a series of brand new cars where everything is always someone else’s problem when it goes wrong to a 7 year old motor is a shock enough to the system without doing so with no safety net. I have negotiated with Mazda before with subsequent issues on cars purchased within their used programme (neither an MX-5) and although they made heavy weather of it, they coughed up in the end. It was a while back now, mind.

In an odd twist of fate, aside from always being on my list at the back of my mind, with the gathering of years and seeing how many cars mechanically suffer after such time, the NC with all its in-built impracticality becomes one of the most practical decisions for me as I don’t need the space and it ticks every other box on my list. It’s just until quite recently it seems to have held on to its price quite well and not made any sense as it wouldn’t have saved me that much cash.

I think £1500-£2000 rip-off dealer stealer tax is something I’d already factored in to that price and against what I’ll be saving it’s worth the trade-off for a good night’s sleep (for the first year!), but the other thing is it’s not like there aren’t an awful lot of NCs out there - although there are colours I like, spec wise I’m not overly bothered so as with all dealer prices they are just starting points. But that doesn’t mean to say it’s my only option - I won’t lie to you, it’s the probable one.

But this community seems a fairly stand-up one and a late tidy car in a colour I liked being up for grabs would certainly have my eye, but although there my be nothing unscrupulous going on, at the end of the day it is a used motor, and sometimes you get unlucky but I just want to mitigate that as much as possible as it will be my daily and only driver. But yep, a car that’s been owned by someone for a while and has obviously had a lot of love is always a good bet - I just want to be armed with all the right things to check.

As with buying direct from BBR, that Kuro caught my eye a few weeks ago. Oddly, although I’m sorely tempted from the spec of it, just the look of it is not quite there for me and I’m just about the only person I’ve shown it to who doesn’t think it’s amazing. It’s not through anything they’ve done to it cosmetically, so maybe I just really want a 3.75…! But the other factor is, I’m not certain I’ll bother upgrading whatever I get. As McTrucky says the performance of the 2.0 NC is adequate in isolation as it all seems a lot faster when your bum’s on the floor, but I’m just used to having a big wall of induction assisted overtaking oomph and there’s no doubt about it, you can’t execute those moves as easily in a boggo MX-5.

If I buy from Mazda anyway, I won’t want to do anything inside of 12 months to my warranty anyway, but regardless I may feel the power is adequate and I love the car anyway and is spending 20% or more of its purchase price money well spent if I’m happy, or I’ve got the alternative scenario of getting over-familiar and disappointed with the power in a car I otherwise adore and then having some fairy dust sprinkled on it and having a bit of excitement injected in it for a relatively modest sum and falling in love all over again.

Ordinarily a car’s colour has never been a massive issue for me, particularly when I’ve been buying used as I was always chasing down the exact spec I wanted in 6-pot BMs. But I’ll be keeping this for a while, seat colour isn’t a big issue for me and the stereo will be getting replaced for a modern head unit whatever, so a 25th Anniversary or the Graphite in Aquatic Blue are at the top of my wish list, but not if I find an otherwise ideal car.

I can bide my time anyway. I probably don’t even need a car for the next six months anyway, so when the right one comes along I’ll feel it and all the stars will be aligned.

I’ve got the bug now. NDs are coming down in price but I’m thinking that if Mazda never make a replacement MX-5 again (who knows?), at least I’ve got somewhere fresh to go from an NC.

This will be my first ever Japanese motor as well…

Cheers once again. I’ll keep you posted and keep scouring the ads on here too.

I bought direct from BBR - went well for me - got a car I’m thrilled with! They’ve too good a reputation to mess around with rotters!

Does help that I live in Brackley anyway but even so, recommended!

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Yeah, I don’t think I have any trust issues with BBR, it’s just I like the idea of getting the MX-5 in standard spec, bleeding the enjoyment out of that and then getting it warmed up and seeing the difference it makes and sort of getting a new car for not much extra cash.

Is yours kitted up with the Super 200?

Just FYI if buying a used car privately.
You have 28 days warrantee from the seller by law, this isn’t he statuary rights. You are given these rights by the courts and they can not be taken away either. A receipt claiming ,sold as seen, or, no warrantee implied or given, is not worth the paper it is written on. You and the seller do not have the legal power to over rule the courts of the land.
There are only 2 ways a car can be sold without this warrantee, it sold as scrap/spares or repairs, or if sold trader to trader within the motor trade.
My best mate found this out to his detriment when he sold a car and the turbo failed after 12 days. He was taken to small claims court and had to pay for the repairs or refund the buyer. His ‘sold as seen’ receipt was described as a contemptible show of disrespect by the judge. He also had to pay costs.

Yes mine came in 200 spec but I do also understand what you mean about seeing the benefit for yourself.

I was replacing an NC1 in standard spec when I bought my BBR so I got that step up as it were

Yeah, I was going to ask what you had beforehand actually. How do you find the difference - is it just a bit more oomph everywhere than lightning? An MX-5 is such a departure for me, I may just not need it, but if I do it’s there. Just out of interest, how is a Super 200 car on oil?

Cheers for that. Worth knowing. It’s a whole nest of vipers I don’t really want to get tangled up in though. It’s always a lot easier having a big aggro session with a dealership than some meathead who stands an awfully high chance of being a lot harder than me!

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Agreed. Being technically correct doesn’t always mean it is easy or the best route. Path of least resistance is often the best one I find. :+1:

Not sure where your based in the country, but this MX5 specialist is worth a look.

Cheers 1954.

I’m in Cheshire, but England’s a fairly small country - for the right motor, anyway! Is this guy fairly well recommended then? I have been on the site before and he has been bookmarked :slight_smile:


To be honest I have never had any dealings with this specialist but his cars all seem to be low mileage top condition cars. Must be worth a phone call.

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