My MX5 dilema Mk2 vs MK3

Hello there,

Hoping to get some information on buying either

Mk2/2.5 mx5 or Mk3/3.5 mx5.
It would be a 1.8 in the mk2 and 2.0 in the mk3.

Which one would you choose an why?

My heart says mk2, looks like a baby rx7 but my head says the mk3 is less likely to have such catastrophic rust like the mk2, although I’ve seen a lot of Mk3 rusting.

Oh and the mk2 would need to be 2003 onwards so I can use it in the ultra low emission zone which is is why mk1 is off of the menu.

I dont do much mileage so need something that is fun.

Because if the rust issue now on most mark 2 i think there is really no contest,yes some of the mark threes are starting to rust very badly,but you say a mark 3.5 you will be able quite easy to find a nearly factory fresh one of those.

All best in your hunt Simon

Hiya, first off, choice. Potentially 9 years of production run for the mk3/3.5/3.75,only 2 years left on the mk2.5. Secondly price, if comparing model/condition/mileage/service history etc, a mk2.5 will be less expensive (Generally) than the nearest equivalent later car. Rust is inevitable at some point I reckon, either now or at some point down the line. You really need to get some drives sorted in the respective models to get a feel for what you prefer. I think your last sentence sums it up though, you want fun and I reckon you’ll get that whichever car you go for! :+1:
There are some fantastic examples out there, of all the models, so buy on condition etc, first and foremost. Not that this may be important to you, but a folding hardtop is available for the later cars, not on the mk2.5. Removable hardtop for that model though instead. Massive aftermarket parts plus OEM stuff available for both mk’s, service parts etc so no issue there. Good luck in your search and keep us updated on your search. Just my opinion by the way :smile:

We had a mk 1 for 4 years then changed for a mk 2.5 which we had for 17 years and absolutely loved it, (seemed to get better with age). We were going to get a mk3, but opted to wait as they had just bought out the mk4 which I preferred the looks of. So we changed our mk 2 last year for a new mk4.
I have driven mates mk 3, and it is a different animal to the mk2, feels heavier and softer and probably a better car for “touring”, particularly like the practicality of the PHT, (which is what we would have had if we had gone with a mk3).
I think the problem will be finding a “good” 2.5 that ticks all your boxes, at the end of the day the youngest one will now be 15+ years old, and in car age terms you are now in “banger” territory, (no offence to mk2 owners, ours was really nice nick, low mileage and really good condition, (sills had been done, but haven’t they all?), and still drove like new).
From a purely practical point of view you will probably find it easier to find a mk3 that meets your requirements as there is simply more choice.
Depending on your budget and inclination you could go down the mk 2 route and be prepared to spend some money on some level of restoration, (if that floats your boat). Either way both are great cars…

Apparently the rust problems can be quite bad on the 3 but this got better with the 3.5?
That said I am keeping my 2.5 now that the rust is all sorted and it is stored in a garage we will have lots more summers together.

Having had a 2007 MK3 and 2012 car, I now own a very well sorted MK2. I personally prefer the Mk2 which is a1.8 Ltr 2000 model, if you budget for any car you have to take into consideration any work to be carried out in the future. Like you I prefer the look of the Mk2. Early Mk3s can be as ropey as some dodgy Mk1s and Mk2s and there are a few out there. Just don’t fall for that patter about will soon be a classic and the cars a load of crap, especially Mk1s that are being asked silly money for and have been messed about with. Look for a good standard car and take it from there, take your time plenty out there.

If you are prepared to put in the time and effort you should be able to find the car you want. If it was me I would try and find the best mk2 I could get for my budget. I owned an early mk2 for 3 years (2000 MY) and replaced the rear sills and kept an eye on the chassis rails (which were sound). Although I have a mk4 now I do miss the classic lines and simplicity of the mk2. The mk3 is a different beast altogether, more spacious and refined but less of a sports car. As these cars are often used as 2nd or even 3rd cars good examples still exist , but needless to say there are lots of rubbish ones too, so ylou need to be careful. Good luck!

Nice one, thanks for the replies.

What kind of price should I be paying for a good mk2? I have been looking for a few months now and potentially missed two very nice cars but they were quite far away from where I am located.
£2500/3k seems to buy a nice mk2 but I guess you never know until you get there.

If I needed both sills done and repainted or chassis rails replaced, what kind of discount should I be asking for from sellers?

Can anyone can recommend a good place in the London area that works on mx5s or south UK?

I have seen mk3.5 on 50k for £5500 does that seem about right? Seemed a bit cheap to me but if that’s what they go for then they are with in budget but sadly the MK4 isn’t for me, although it does look lovely.

All good and sound advice above, however, I was in the same predicament heart said MK2 head said MK3 so I decided to give it a while to see if any MK2 s came up with plan B being a MK3, it paid off and I found a MK2.5 with a genuine 15k miles zero rot or rust that had been off the road for 10 years, it had had a major overhaul prior to its sale and drives like new, it has some minor paint blemishes and was priced down accordingly, I paid £3.5k for it and consider it money well spent, I am told it would probably fetch £1k more than that, both my wife and I have fallen in love with it, dirt in the tank after 10 years off the road and a blown ip bulb, long story (sorry about that) to show they are out there, I had to compromise on colour and spec but the condition was far more important glad I did it, of course you may never find the right MK2 but then again !? First thing to do is check the online MOT HISTORY CHECKER, I saw some apparently pristine cars with no hint of rust only to find the MOT history told a different (horror) story. Good luck keep looking buy with your head and let your heart take over once you’ve bought the right car you won’t regret it.
Kind regards Dave.

That sounds seriously cheap

We sold our rather tidy Mk2.5 1.8 Metalic Grey Phoenix 45k miles (owned from new) to a mate for £2,500 which included a hard top. Probably too cheap but I had tried Facebook and not had any (serious) takers.
Bodywork was almost “as new”, (never used in the Winter), the sills had been done at about 7 years old and there may have been the odd little “bubble” coming back and the alloys really needed re-doing. Every year at MOT time I asked our local garage to check the chassis rails and he always said they were fine.
Problem for us was being in “rural” Wales it’s a limited market for buyers. We could have probably got more on Autotrader, but then that adds cost, and possibility of tyre kickers / chancers/time wasters, so I was happy it went to a mate (no hassle), even if it was probably a few hundred quid less than I could have got (?).

2500 with hard top, sounds like they got a good deal. I am happy to pay the money for a good mk2 but also happy to pay a little for low mileage mk2 that needs sills and chassis rails.

Was quoted 300 per sill and 350 per rail, does that seem right? C & C Sparkes Motor Engineering quoted me that.

@999to5 It’s probably a write off, it was on ebay private sell so no information was really given on history.

@stubod Yeah maybe I am lucky being close to London, more central so more options but also I have the coast not too far so worried about costal cars being more likely to be rusty due to the sea air.

£300 per sill is probably about right. £350 for rails seems really cheap, when this problem first came to light I think it was more like £1,500 per side, but I guess they have “kits” available now and people have got to grips with how to do it.

I seem to recall that you can now do it without removing the engine.

On a positive the mechanics seem to be pretty bulletproof. In 17 years I think the only problem we had was with the drivers side electric window mechanics packing up. A real pig of a job, and with hindsight it pays to keep the cables “greased” occasionally which alleviates this problem.

Although I really like our Mk4 (1.5) I do miss our mk 2.5. I recently ran a post about if you could have any model “new” which one would you go for, and I think I would still opt for the mk2. I used to love the Mk1, but I now prefer the looks of the mk2. A mk 3 would probably be in my 4th place…but that’s just me…each to their own, and it does depend very much on what you want the car for, touring, day to day workhorse, or summer only fun car…

…happy hunting, whichever one you get you won’t be disappointed…

Having owned both a 2.5 and 3.5 simultaneously I am firmly in the 3.5 camp provided you got the Mazda lowering springs (Eibachs) or similar.
The stock mark 3 is a bit floaty over crests for my taste but sorted with the Springs.


I hear a lot of horror stories about MK3 rusting, all the subframes rusting, arches/sills just as bad as mk2 but the cars are double the price. Need to find out specifically what the issue is and go from there but I prefer the look of the 3.5 vs 3.

When I was looking earlier in the year, I found a YouTube video where an American mag ran all four Marks on a test over a couple of days. Each journo had different views and opinions; but the mk3 was the overall winner. Search and ye shall find.

Also, be aware it is relatively easy to stuff some newspaper into rusty holes, cover with filler and rattle can spray. Point is unless you can clearly see what work needs doing, make sure you see receipts for work done.

And yes there are some pretty horrible rusty mk3 out there. But there are plenty really good ones. Not many nice mk2 left that have not been repaired. If I was buying a mk2, I’d be looking for one that had receipts for about £2k from an mx5 specialist for rust repair and treatments. And would expect to pay £2500 to £3000. Either that or buy one cheaper and expect to scrap or repair within a year or so.

I think that rust will basically lead me down the 3.5 route, getting something on lowish miles in good condition and then getting it under sealed.

People still want a lot for mk2 with rusty sills. I have seen 3 cars now, all with sills rusting away yet they don’t tell you in the advert and don’t want to take any money off.

I sold my mk2.5 in Feb for £700. I reckon getting it through another MOT would have cost me £2k. It was a good low milage engine and gearbox, with nice history and no damage. But it was a base model with cloth seats and no air con.
I bought it a year earlier for £900, so didn’t lose much.
Basically I think an average mk2 will be worth about £1000. If it needs work, will be less. If it has had £2k spent on it, maybe worth £2500.
A lot of sellers seam to be dreamers, but if people are daft enough to through money at them, why not…?

That the same situation I’m in with my MK2.5, although I think new sills will be next

I think I will just look for late mk3 and mk3.5s the cost of a decent mk2 rivals a nice mk3 or at least it seems to from the sites I’ve used, autotrader and gumtree.

Rather pay £6k and get a nice mk3.5 vs the 3.5/4k people are asking for their mk2.

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