MK2 Buyers Guide & Checklist - MX5 Parts Info
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MK2 Buyers Guide & Checklist - MX5 Parts Info

Mk2 Buyers Checklist

OK, so you’re going to buy a Mk2 (NB) Mazda MX5. Here’s what you need to know before laying down the cash.

Choosing the right Mk2 for you

  • Before you even hit the classifieds check out ‘Which MX5 model have I got?’ guide to the Mk2 to help refine your search and pick the right model for your needs.
  • Mk1 or Mk2? The popular vote will tend towards the Mk1 for the more purist feel and charismatic appearance. But Mk2s are pretty much as fun to drive while offering a much more modern feel, with better equipment, improved safety features like dual airbags, ABS, ISOFIX child-seat mounts (on later versions) and better hoods with a proper glass rear screen. ‘Unloved’ is perhaps a little strong but it’s true the Mk2 is a little overlooked and, with prices squeezed between Mk1s and early Mk3s, it will always be cheaper to buy.
  • There are two distinct generations to consider when looking at the Mk2, commonly referred to as Mk2 and NB, the latter referring to cars introduced after the 2001 model year range update. You may also hear this referred to as the NB-FL.
  • Facelift or not facelift? Some think the earlier Mk2s are less prone to chassis-rail rot than the later ones but the later Mk2.5 has more versions to choose from, improved equipment and a more modern feel. The easy way to tell them apart is by looking at the front – pre-facelift cars have a plain bumper and simpler lights while facelifted cars have additional mounts for foglights (or blanks if not fitted) and triple-lens headlights.
  • Which model? While it shared much of its fundamental make-up with the Mk1, the Mk2 has more model variants to choose from. Initially you could have 1.6 or 1.8, both with a five-speed gearbox and the latter uprated from the Mk1 with 140hp. Given the Mk2 is a little heavier than the Mk1 the extra power and torque of the 1.8 is worth going for. From 2001 onwards the 1.8 gained S-VT variable inlet valve timing and had 146hp, the Sport with a six-speed gearbox, Bilstein dampers and limited-slip differential the most in-demand now.
  • Take your time, look at as many cars as you can to get a feel for the market – there are plenty around and you can afford to be picky. You’ll quickly get a sense for what qualifies as a good car and what doesn’t – your choice and the price you pay should be dictated by the condition of the car you’re looking at over all other factors.
  • Think you’ve found ‘the one’ and ready to put your money down? If you know the registration you can swot up on the MoT history before seeing the car in the metal and get a sense of how whether the claimed mileage stacks up and whether there have been any recurring failures for potential red flag issues like corrosion.

The Mk2/NB ‘Buyer’s Checklist’

Found your perfect Mk2 MX5 or Eunos? Here’s the essential checklist to take with you when looking at the car.

  • Paperwork: Is the vendor legit and is the V5 in their name? Does the MoT paperwork and service history tally with the online check? An extensive service history and folder full of receipts is useful evidence and worth taking the time over – do the dates and mileages on the invoices stack up? Has the owner kept on top of maintenance? A lack of paperwork is a concern but, if you know what you’re looking at, you can still safely buy a car ‘blind’ if you’re confident with the visual/mechanical checks.
  • The five-minute check: Walk around the car and check for obvious damage. Are the tyres from a matching brand? Are they quality rubber or cheap ditchfinders? Is the hood in good condition with no cracks or rips? Are you happy what you’re seeing corresponds to the claimed mileage and description in the advert? If yes then proceed with a more detailed check, if not then be ready to walk away.
  • Rust has to be your absolute priority when considering an Mk2 MX5. Rear wheelarches and outer sills are easy enough to check and a warning sign of further dangers but the nature of the corrosion means even an apparently pristine car could be hiding something nasty, whether the vendor is aware or not.
  • While you’re looking for signs of corrosion take the opportunity to also check for signs of accident repairs in the boot (check under carpet and trim) and engine bay. Many Mk2s will have had some sort of bodywork repair by this stage so signs of new paint and suchlike don’t necessarily signal accident damage. Whatever work has been done just make sure it’s been carried out to a good standard. You’ll get a better picture of this from someone who’s owned the car for a while and can provide evidence of where work was carried out – if someone is selling it on quickly after a short ownership be prepared to look extra hard and ask yourself why they’re moving the car on.
  • Front chassis rails are where the most dangerous rot sets in, the double-skinned design meaning trapped water can rust them from the inside out and by the time it’s evident it’s too late. The best way to inspect is with the car on a ramp and the undertray removed but if this isn’t practical try putting the wheels on full lock and looking into the front arches – take a torch and don’t be scared of having a good poke around.
  • Engine and transmission: With the engine cold open the radiator cap and check coolant level and condition. Do the same for the oil, both via the dipstick and the filler cap on the cam cover – you’re looking for signs of emulsification that could suggest a failing head gasket, often presenting as white gunge or ‘mayonnaise’ on the underside of the cap. It’s not common on MX5 engines but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check. Look at the condition of the belts and ask the owner when they were last changed – if it was more than five years ago budget for a cambelt service in your negotiations.
  • MX5 engines and transmissions are generally tough but do the usual checks for obvious oil leaks in the engine bay and underneath.
  • Suspension, steering and brakes: Has the car been used regularly? If not the rear calipers could be seized or sticking. Look through the wheels at the condition of the discs and pads – they’re not too expensive to replace but it’s another potential bargaining chip if they’re rusty, scored or otherwise showing signs of age or neglect.
  • Whether you test drive it yourself or ride passenger alongside the vendor get a feel for the way the car drives. High-mileage cars may have some rattles and clonks from the suspension, which can be sorted out relatively easily. Geometry is often overlooked but can have a big influence on handling – thankfully everything is adjustable on MX5s so don’t be too worried if it’s not handling the way you might like.
  • Mk2s are stiffer than Mk1s but can still wobble over bumps, especially with stiffer suspension. This is normal enough but if the structure feels ‘loose’ or there are serious knocks and bangs from bumps, potholes or speed humps you might want to check the structure again or perhaps drive a few more to compare. There are plenty around and you can afford to hold out for a good one.

The Mazda MX5 Mk2/NB buyer’s checklist – at a glance

  • Set your budget, parameters and desired spec before hitting the classifieds and stick to the plan!
  • Paperwork – check the MoT history online, compare against paperwork and service history accompanying the car
  • The once over – check tyres, bodywork for obvious rust or damage and the hood for tears or other damage
  • Engine – visual check for fluids and ‘mayonnaise’ in radiator and oil filler caps; check when belts were last changed
  • Suspension and brakes – check for obvious knocks, clonks or rattles and budget accordingly; sticking rear calipers are a common problem
  • Interior – inspect footwell and boot for damp, make sure electric windows and ventilation system operate correctly
  • Buy on condition – by all means have your dream spec and colour but be fussy and buy the best your budget allows

Already bought a Mk2? It might be worth a quick look at the top 5 things we recommend you buy for your new purchase

In the market for a different Mk? Click the Mk you fancy below: