Looking for a fun, reasonably affordable roadster that will provide years of thrills, without breaking the bank? The NC-generation of Mazda MX-5 may be just the thing...
Years of manufacture: 2005-2015
Engine specification: 2.0-litre, four-cylinder petrol (also available with a 1.8-litre engine)
Transmission: 6-speed manual, RWD
Curb weight: 1 110 kg
Where was it built: Hiroshima, Japan
How many were built: around 90 000
What you can expect to pay for a good-condition example: R150 000 – R200 000
To find a Mazda MX-5 for sale, go here
The owner of this 2009 Mazda MX-5 admits that the sporty little roadster from Hiroshima was somewhat of an impulse buy, both for him and his wife. Having never owned any type of sports car before, he came to the conclusion that there was simply no other car (at this price point) that ticked as many boxes as the MX-5.
"When I first got behind the wheel, there were immediate stand-out features, like the driving position, which really is spot-on. Then there is the gearchange action... it is pure heaven, direct and short. The only element of the car that I can criticize is the performance. If only it had that little bit more power."
This "NC" generation of MX-5 was primarily powered by a naturally-aspirated 2.0L 4-cylinder engine that develops 118kW and 188Nm of torque. Power goes to the rear wheels via a 6-speed manual transmission. When tested locally by CAR magazine in 2006, the MX-5 sprinted to 100kph in 8.2 seconds and achieved a 216kph top speed. So there certainly is ample performance.
The owner does love the fact that the roof can go down, and drives it top-down often, but also rates that the car is reasonably practical for regular use, even though the boot is small. "I can fit about a week's-worth of grocery shopping in the boot."
One of the most alluring attributes of the car is its relatively low price. "You pay around half for one of these compared with what you'd pay for a Honda S2000, but the MX-5 certainly doesn't only offer half of the thrills!"
“I bought the Mazda in mid-January 2021 after seeing it advertised online. Since then, I’ve added around 2 500 km to the odo. Being based in the Cape, I travelled up to Johannesburg to give the car a thorough inspection. It was a one-owner car previously owned by a lady. She forwarded all the paperwork to me, so I had some time to go through it.”
The paperwork came in handy, as the new owner had done a lot of research on these cars prior to making a decision. “In the end I realized that you can’t really go wrong in terms of reliability with a low-mileage MX-5. The colour combination of this particular example, Galaxy Grey with the Tan interior, was the clincher for us.
“During my drive down to Cape Town I discovered a few small issues that I would need to attend to. The rims were scratched and so I had them repaired and painted. The driver’s seat had some scuffmarks which were repaired."
The MX-5 also needed a new set of tyres, not that there were anything wrong with those fitted to the car. "The tyres were fine, but they were mismatched, which I don’t like. The car had also missed its 60 000 km service. So, when I bought it at 73 000 km I knew that I would need to take it for a service the moment that I arrived in the Cape.
“I had the car serviced and had all the fluids replaced. These include the differential oil, gearbox oil, engine oil, coolant and brake fluid. It cost only R3 500 at a specialist! The power steering fluid was not replaced as that was still in a good condition."
MX-5 enthusiasts recommend that engine and diff oil are important things to keep an eye on, as the manufacturer-scheduled change intervals are possibly too far apart. When test-driving note that the gearbox can feel stiff when cold, but should loosen up quickly. Also be sure to listed for a noisy diff.
Being meticulous with his cars, the owner decided to have the car polished, had the faded headlights treated and a protective film put over them.
“The NC is seen by many MX-5 aficionados as a bit of a black sheep in the iconic car's lineage because it was the heaviest MX-5 to date, except for the NC roadster/coupé with its folding hardtop. That doesn’t bother me though, it is still a lightweight roadster and even if you are over 6 feet tall (182 cm) you can still comfortably fit in the car and drive it. I’ve talked to an owner who can get into NCs, but struggle behind the wheel of the smaller NBs.”
“I’ll be keeping the car standard. I’m not too keen on modifying this car. Having said that, I would like if the car sounded better. I’ll consider fitting a different exhaust system, but it mustn’t look any different to the stock system.”
Having done his research on preventative maintenance, this MX-5 is now in a near-perfect condition. One of the first tasks was to remove the rear bumper, and strip the luggage compartment. “The actual metal bumper at the back (behind the visible plastic bumper) is mounted to the chassis in the factory before the cars were painted. Thus, there is no rust-proofing or paint between those two parts. So I stripped it, removed the rust, painted it and put everything back together. Any rookie DIY’er will be able to do it.
“There is a wealth of information on MX-5s on YouTube. After a few evenings of watching these videos, you can quickly become a theoretical expert on these cars."
What should potential buyers look out for?
“Don’t let a wet interior put you off from a potential buy. It is very easy to fix the likely causes of this problem. It is usually one of two things: the drain plugs for the hood are blocked and then the water runs into the cabin behind the seats. Secondly, there are plugs at the cowl, close to the windscreen. If this rubber perishes, the water runs into the car and the footwell gets wet. Both are easy to fix with no mechanical knowledge.
“A full service record is always necessary. Interestingly, I know of a car that has 220 000 km on the odo and its original clutch! Often these cars don’t have very high mileage as they are someone’s second or third car.”
Finally, the owner mentions the soft-top roof. “Pay good attention to the condition of the roof in terms of age and inspect for any tears.”