The departure of the Mazda RX8 - a fond farewell, or good riddance?

When Mazda announced in April that the RX8 was being dropped from the UK line-up, there is likely to have been a mixed reaction from the nation's car enthusiasts.

As a rotary-engined sports car, the suicide-door oddity was one of the few cars to offer buyers something genuinely different to the industry's standard interpretation of what a sports car should be.Of course this individuality came at a price. The RX8 has an unwelcome reputation as a drinker, not just of petrol, but also of the oil that is critical to maintaining that high-revving Wankel engine.

In order to work out whether we'd miss Mazda's unlikely creation, we spent the last week in the company of one of the final top-spec R3 RX8s.

Even on first encountering the car, it is clear that the RX8 is littered with little quirks designed to distinguish the model from the rest of Mazda's range.

The triangular theme that begins at the R8's distinctive exhaust is repeated throughout the car, including a novel triangular-handled handbrake.

The suicide doors are another of the oft-discussed features of the sports car, but any notion that this turns the RX8 into a practical coupe are rapidly dispelled.

Parking, for example, is a nightmare thanks to the poor visibility. While the MX5 convertible is no better in terms of the visibility over your shoulder, at least there you can whip the roof off for a better view while in this hardtop you are left with an element of guesswork as to where you are going.

Still, we doubt anyone would have considered buying the RX8 on the basis of its capacious practicality, and it is on the road where we realised just why there will be many people sad to see it go.

One of the first things you notice is the rev counter. While many cars stop at around 5,000 or 6,000rpm, here the dial goes all the way up to 9,000rpm, and that is no idle threat.

If selecting a low gear and holding on for dear life is your preferred game, this car is well up to the task. The 228bhp, 1.3-litre engine takes it to 62mph in just 6.4 seconds, and it keeps going to 146mph.

The gearchange helps this – it is classically Mazda in that it uses a short gearlever so has little distance to travel and is cleanly precise and satisfying. It feels most comfortable when being given some revs between each change though – slow speed changes into third are at times a little jerky.

But that is about all that is jerky about this car; it pulls beautifully smoothly all the way through from low revs, and sounds fantastic while doing it. The rotary engine noise is pleasingly different to a conventional unit – changing tone three or four times in its long rev range as it delivers a growling sci-fi howl before the RX8 warns you to change up.

The car is also blessed with responsive steering and a surprisingly stiff chassis (considering Mazda sold the car partly on its ability to swallow rear passengers) but it must have been difficult for prospective customers to get away from the fact they were parting with over £25k for a car that could only offer 24.6mpg if you drove with the patience of a saint.

It is a measure of just how unlikely that figure is that the official RX8 owners' club forum has a section dedicated to members of the 300 club – owners who have managed to go 300 miles on one tank of petrol. It is a small group.
Another factor to consider if you chose to pick up one of the last 100 RX8s is that you will never see anything like the £25,540 you paid for it ever again – the car sheds value almost as fast as it drinks petrol.

But the benefit of this is that used examples are looking like a great bargain, with prices starting from just over £3,000 for early models. So long as you factor running costs into your budget, a second-hand RX8 could be a performance bargain for those who like their cars from the left field.

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