The CarScoop Diaries: Summer Kisses, Winter Tears or Why I Bought My RX-8

Last time I told you about my decision to buy a Mazda MX-5 roadster. Well, that didn’t last long. You see, three months into my MX-5 ownership, and the honeymoon was ending. In fact, you could say our relationship was getting shaky due to the diminutive roadster entertaining and frustrating me in equal measure.

You don’t really get into an MX-5, but instead you drop into the as-low-as-it-gets seat and marvel at how closely placed all the controls are. Then you try to find a place to put your belongings and, eventually, settle for the passenger’s seat. Basically, if you don’t carry a bag, when you stop you’ll be retrieving them from the floor.

That’s because this little car really incites you to behave, um, let’s say immaturely. Its zippy four-cylinder responds readily to throttle inputs and, along with the LSD made controlling oversteer with gentle blips of the throttle and measured opposite lock a cinch.

The compact dimensions may result in a snug-fitting cabin but they also mean you have lots of room on the road to play with and the steering and low driving position gives you accurate info in real time about what’s going on in both axles.

Fuel costs are low, too. There’s no trip computer and I really didn’t keep track of the fuel consumption like I used to when road testing cars in my previous employment, but visits to gas stations were infrequent enough for me not to worry about giving it some stick.

Now here come the things that annoyed me. The soft top was not as air- or watertight as it should have been when closed, particularly on the driver’s side. Unclipping a plastic part and fiddling with an adjusting screw fixed it, though, I had to adjust the other end too, so they were aligned. It was something that I did quite often as broken roads and scuttle shake meant it would come loose again after some time.

Noise was a major issue as well. True, no canvas or cloth top is ever going to get close to matching the noise insulation of a metal roof but it felt like I was driving with the window open, which is good when you’re in the mood for it, tiring after a while, exhausting during a trip.

Not as tiring as having to deal with a two-seater while having three other members in the family, though. I firmly believe that a kid’s place, even if it’s a 10-year old, is in the back, not in the passenger seat . No rides with daddy then, which was really a shame.

Slowly, but steadily, the idea of swapping the fun to drive, but utterly impractical MX-5, for a four-seat rear-wheel drive car crept into my head. When winter started to show its teeth, I had to face the harsh truth that roadsters are meant for singles, preferably young at age, of which I am neither. I know; I should have thought it before I took the plunge, but I went against my own advice and made a buy based on impulse, not reason.

The MX-5’s replacement was bought on emotion, too, which goes to show that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I had been eyeing it for quite some time, sitting in the forecourt of a dealer; it was on my way home and its striking blue color made it hard to miss anyway.

Yes, it did have four proper seats and, as a matter of fact, four-doors too (but a tiny boot). Like the car I had, it was also made in Hiroshima, but instead of a 1.8-liter four-cylinder it had a 1.3-liter rotary engine that revved beyond 9,000 rpm and was notorious for its fuel (ed. note: and…oil) consumption.

In my defense, it had full service history complete with receipts. That’s very important when buying used: service books can be forged, receipts dating years back can’t. Moreover, I also ran a check on Mazda’s database, from which it came up as advertised, before saying “I do”.

There were cheaper examples out there, but paying a little extra to get a car with a verified clean record seemed worth the expense. Even more so, as unlike most sellers, said dealer was happy to take the MX-5 as an exchange for the exact price I had paid for it and came with brand-new tires that, at 225/45 18, are worth nearly a grand. Still, my part exchange only covered half the price so the rest was on a bank loan with a monthly payment I could afford.

Picking up a 2006 RX-8 Cosmo as your daily driver when you know you’ll get 14 lt/100 km (17 mpg) at best and above 18 lt/100 km (13 mpg) when pushed hard as the fuel price hovers around the €1.6-1.7 per liter and you’ve heard all sorts of horror stories about rotary engine (un)reliability, is not exactly rational.

You only live once, though, and with it, I had all the bases covered–well, apart from the consumption and the miniscule boot. What I got was 228HP (231PS) for a 0-100 km/h (0-62 mph) in the mid-6 seconds, a slick six-speed manual transmission, rear-wheel drive with a Torsen limited-slip differential, ideal weight distribution and four seats.

As for its drinking habits, thanks to my country’s (Greece) completely irrational taxing system that penalizes engine capacity, its 1.3-liter engine meant the annual road tax disc came to only €135 – cheaper even than the wife’s Kia Venga 1.6 (€245), and way below a comparably powerful 2.5-3.0-liter naturally aspirated engine that costs somewhere in the region of €1,500-1,800 a year.

My thinking was that the considerable amount of cash saved on road tax would cover for the extra fuel. I was at the mercy of gas prices but, like most good things in life, nothing comes free.

On the way home, I was as happy as a clam. I was a bit sorry to see the little Miata go, but as I revved the rotary unit and felt that little gem of an engine spin past 7,000 rpm with barely a hint of strain, I assured myself that I had made the right choice.

I stand by my decision until now, which means the RX-8 is still here, even though soon enough (yeah, you guessed it) some foibles came up. More on that in the next installment of The CarScoop Diaries

By Andrew Tsaousis

Photo Credits: Andrew Tsaousis / CarScoop



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