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John Joins The Rotary Club


Three and a half years ago I swapped my fancy, gas guzzling BMW 325Ci for a small, faster, more highly equipped Renault Clio Sport 182. Since I was commuting to work every day I needed something that did better than 20mpg. It’s been a great little car, cheap to run, very fuel efficient considering its performance and I have lots of happy memories blasting along country roads, cruising up and down motorways and carrying things to the local tip from time to time.

However since I now work from home I hardly do any miles at all. We thought about going from being a two car family to one but realised that despite my not doing a lot of driving, we both needed to drive to different places at the same time frequently enough to kibosh that. Also, my Clio was starting to cost me a bit of money. French cars tend to be pretty good for a few years in my experience then start falling apart and costing lots of money, so after the last BMW-priced service (in that I’d expect to pay that to service a BMW, not a Renault) I thought it was time to get something different.

Fuel economy was no longer an issue for me and thanks to the world recession and car tax in the UK penalising gas guzzling high polluters, fast sports cars are dirt cheap. So after a bit of research I managed to pick up a year old Mazda RX-8 with a mere 30 miles on the clock – so effectively brand new – for a price I still can’t quite believe!

My New Mazda RX-8

It’s ‘sparkling’ black, has a cream leather interior, an amazing Bose stereo, that new car smell, rear wheel drive, 2 seats in the back you can get adults into (via the rather cool rear suicide doors), proper pin-you-to-the-back-of-the-seat acceleration and most interestingly for me a Wankel rotary engine under the bonnet. Rotary engines work somewhat differently to the standard engine you find in most cars. Rather than bore you with the details, just read the Wikipedia article if you’re interested in how it works. Anyway, the end result is that it red lines at 9500rpm – almost motorbike numbers – and yet sounds amazingly smooth and is accompanied by a lovely engine note quite unlike any car I’ve been in before. It’s very easy to drive and tame when you go around town, but if you get the revs up it turns into a racing machine that’s beautifully balanced and seems to have endless power on tap and loves being driven fast.

All this does come at a cost though. The engine may have an official size of 1.3 litres but it’s actually equivalent to a 2.6 litre ‘normal’ engine and therefore drinks quite a lot of petrol. Drive it like a grandmother in 6th gear at 56mph and you’ll maybe get around 25mpg. Drive it like a normal person with a pulse and you’ll get around 21mpg. Drive it like a maniac and you’ll get under 19mpg. It also pumps out more CO2 than my friend’s Jaguar V8 which has a 4 litre engine. This puts it in the top road tax bracket of Β£400 per year. So it ain’t cheap to run.

Fortunately as I said I don’t do many miles so the fuel economy doesn’t really matter as much and the driving I do might as well be fun. If I had to commute to work it would be rather costly (and a stupid choice of car) but driving to football a couple of times a week and away hiking and such like at weekends might cost me slightly more than before but it’s a small price to pay for a much newer car with a long warranty period, amazing performance and handling and a genuinely innovative and unique engine. To get a BMW with similar performance would cost me double what I paid – and having had one before I can honestly say I prefer the RX-8 in every way.

Oh, and it has the bonus that every time I describe it to friends and say ‘Wankel’ my wife can’t stop herself from laughing! πŸ™‚

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Creator of John's Background Switcher. Scotsman, footballer, photographer, dog owner, risk taker, heart breaker, nice guy. Some of those are lies.

18 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. Don’t the Wankel engines need to be completely stripped every x-thousand miles and rebuilt? Maybe that might be the earlier versions, but I’m sure I heard that quite recently from a motor mechanic friend of mine.

    Not that it matters — top car. .


    • The earlier ones definitely needed rebuilding after a shockingly short amount of time. But as long as I make sure the oil is kept topped up (as oil gets used in the combustion process and if there isn’t enough the rotor tips wear out) then I should be alright. Apparently Mazda are very good about sorting out broken engines even when the 3 year warranty has run out. But just the same when mine runs out I think I’ll be going for the warranty extension just in case!

      And thanks, I’m loving it! πŸ™‚


  2. Ouch, I didn’t realise that the fuel economy and emissions were quite so bad! Is it turbocharged?

    Oh and you might have hidden the washing for the photo! πŸ˜‰


    • Nope, no turbo, it’s all natural grunt! Yeah, the fuel economy isn’t great but it’s worth it!

      And that’s my next door neighbour’s washing – I didn’t think it fair to take it down just for a picture! Suppose I could have taken it from the other side…


  3. heh “wankel” I almost got one then went with a Golf GTi I do 62 miles a day for my commute and had heard horror stories on petrol and oil… glad I didn’t get one, wish I’d got one, fantastic car, stunning looking, get to say wankel, and the design is brilliant.


    • Heh heh, the Golf’s a lovely car and has great fuel economy (I’ve many fond memories of my old Mk2 Golf GTi). I have a friend who’s got an RX-8 and he told me that the oil consumption is a bit of an urban legend, but the low mpg is completely accurate!

      I love how the interior has had a designer’s eye over it with a circular and triangular theme (which I later realised signifies the rotar which is itself triangular inside a cylinder).


  4. Nice car πŸ™‚

    I’ve found black cars a right pain to keep clean. Maybe it’s because the only black car I’ve had had more rust than paint?

    WRT the washing on the line – I thought you were a Photoshop wizard and could have “shopped” it out? πŸ˜‰

    …and of course, you can’t put a price on being able to say “Wankel” at will.


    • Thanks! I’ve never been one of those people who tries to keep my car clean all the time (although may change my tune with this one) but it does seem to get dirty almost immediately!

      Ach, sometimes I can’t be bothered cloning things out in Photoshop, this was one of those times!


  5. After having an old Renault 19 16V and a Saxo VTS when I was a nipper, I have to agree with your sentiments on French cars. Great while under 3, then as soon as they start to go they really start to cost!


    • Both great hot hatches there! But the fact that you rarely ever see any examples of them these days says a lot about their long term reliability!


  6. Hi John

    Nice Car can you fit your bike in the boot. Fancy driving over to Oldham and go for a ride?

    Just got a new car ourselves Panda 1.4 100HP as my beloved 96 Mini Cooper 35 failed its MOT big style.

    I’d love to see a picture of the interior.



    • My friend who has an RX-8 can get his bike in the back of his so I’m guessing yes. Only problem is my bike’s been gathering dust, unused in my garage for the last 3 years! It’s been far too long, we’ll have to drop by (with or without the bike)!

      Shame about the Mini, quality pieces of kit. What went wrong?


    • Well mine was a year old with 30 miles on the clock and was listed at 15 grand, rather less than it was new. It has about 230bhp I believe, so quite nippy!


  7. Nice car, John. My first car was a black Mazda, actually. I like the RX-8.


  8. Coool car John, enjoyed our “flirting” last night on the road between Silsden and Skipton – its been a long time since I’ve stretched my cars legs – GENERAL NOTE FOR OTHER READERS: No speed limits or other rules of the road were broken during the course of the flirting. The Kuro badge is a particularly cool! Its great to meet up with someone who shares the same passion for cars – I just don’t get the same conversations out of the wife or kids – there’s hope for my 2 year old son though, but I’ll just have to wait a while. Next time we meet perhaps you could wash mine and I could wash yours!!


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