Is there much difference between the MZR 1.8 or the 2.0 engines as i have been told the 1.8 is a nicer engine to drive.

Smaller engines often were smoother “when I were lad” but I think it’s old hat now with modern technology. Certainly, “proper”! 1600cc Mk1/ Mk2 Mazda engines are nicer…our 02 1839cc Sport engine is a rough old nail by modern standards but Mk3/3.5’s IMHO are virtually indistinguishable apart from grunt and both rev to the limit very smoothly in comparison. Remember the likes of Porsche & Mitsubishi resorting to counterbalance shafts in the “old tech” days to smooth out 2.4ltr & above top ends? Volvo & Audi’s 5 pot engines offering the “economy of a 4 with the smoothness of a 6”? If your are thinking of buying a M3/3.5, drive at least two examples of each. 1.8’s and 2ltrs are really “upgrades” for the older cars from 1.6 to 1.8 IMHO. Mk3/3.5’s need the 2ltr…the 1.8s are nice, competent 2 seater saloons with frankly pretty limp performance while the 2ltrs are  less frantic to stir along. (An opinion drawn from extensive mileage with all of them last year and one which my passengers tended to agree with.) Perhaps performance is of little interest to you, but in bald terms, our Sport ( a bit lighter, Bilsteins etc + more power ) will mince an Mk3/3.5 1800cc Xcountry, but a 2ltr Mk3/3.5 will have it’s guts for garters in the right hands.