Have you ever woken up one morning and thought to yourself, Gee, I wish I had a wildly impractical, quirky, inefficient and polluting Mazda to do my daily commute in? Well I did. It was that morning I set my sights on owning a Wankel Rotary and it was that afternoon that my Mazda RX8 left the second hand dealer and began its unreliable adventure with me.
It was on the trip home that the check engine light came on. I breathed a sigh of disbelief and finished my journey knowing that this was surely just the beginning. Diagnostic tests showed that the catalytic converter was clogged full of magical unicorn rotary dust and was pottering along killing trees in its wake. Hours upon hours underneath the car rectified the issue by means that aren’t to be discussed on here. Similar things happened with the ignition system, the brakes, the power steering, the air conditioning and the intake. My RX8 had been unloved for its life so far and this was showing.
It was after I worked through these ‘niggles’ though that I absolutely fell in love with this car. As I put more and more time into, each time it was getting just that little bit better, that little bit faster and a whole lot more full of soul. It turned from being an unreliable little beast to starting on the button and giving its owner some big smiles.
The things to love about the RX8 definitely start with its looks, or more, the looks it gets. When you open one of the small rear suicide doors, people stop and stare wondering how and why this little sports car is spreading its wings like that. The lights and curves of the body are unparalleled to other sports cars of the time and its road presence, low down and wide, is gorgeously JDM.
The feeling of complete and utter stability let you take every corner with confidence and the buzzy little 1.3 Wankel engine is so giving. It’s like a little reliable donkey this car. It keeps pushing and pushing, it never gives up until it starts to scream at you that enough is enough, then you change gear and it starts again and again.
While 177kw isn’t a huge amount of power to have on tap, the car is pretty light at only 1250kg so it makes good use of the power it has. All of that 177kw isn’t hit until 8500rpm though and the torque is quite non-existent. The rotary mated to Mazda’s 6 speed manual box, then through to a hefty LSD which has a solid feel. The downside to Mazda’s rotary though is the absolute lowest fuel economy I can get is around 17L/100 which scientists would call pretty shit.
Technology isn’t great, DSC and TC are standard but that’s where it stops. No AUX input, no Bluetooth and no parking sensors are to be seen. The Bose 9 speaker stereo option (which is an option that the previous of my owner thankfully accepted) is pretty decent and gives off a half alright sound. Even with the two shallow, door fitted subwoofers.
Interior fit and fish is great, the seats are well bolstered and hug you tight through the corners. The big aluminium triangles pressed into the leather racing seats are also a nice touch. The car feels put together beautifully and is still tight even after 100,000km. Steering and feel are like nothing else. You feel the road so beautifully through the power assisted rack and pinion set up and the confidence it gives you is marvellous. The traction control let’s just that little bit slip so you can have fun but still not end up in your neighbour, Kevin, front yard I the way home from the shops.
Service costs are pretty normal, you are looking at around $200 for your basic and labour is the same as everything on the rotary takes about the same amount of time to do as a normal piston engine.
I think that car lovers everywhere really should get down and pray that Mazda’s skunkworks somehow make an efficient rotary. If you haven’t experienced one of these unreliable lumps of fun, give it a go and I guarantee you will fall in love with the little donkey. Don’t let them scare you as they are so easy to work on and are pretty easy to source Japanese parts for online.
So if you do wake up and think that your morning commute could be made that little bit more fun with a new car, I would suggest one of these.