Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The Mazda RX-8...

We've been scouring the internet for months watching the prices of these. They've been dropping slowly and now they're firmly nestled within our all-important sub £2000 domain. The first sub £2k examples were all, well, they'd all blown up. Now, however, there seem to be examples with their Wankels still in place. Don't know what a Wankel is? Worry not, we'll get to that later.

The best looking car for under £2000?

We love the RX-8 here at Not £2 Grand because it was clearly designed during the Christmas party - you simply don't end up with a car like this without the aid of alcohol and photocopying your bottom while Steve from accounts tries to snog the receptionist.

It's as mad as a box of frogs. A box of frogs that's been shaken up no less. It only seats four, it has pillarless 'suicide' rear doors, it's rear wheel drive, it only does three foot to the gallon and the exterior colour is splashed through its innards in equal measure. Even if the chosen hue is bright red. Nice.

Why are the doors... The seats are red... How does the... We need a lie down

Its most bonkers and frog maddening attribute, however, is its engine. There's no pistons or con-rods in this sucker. There's no in-line four or 'V' cast block. No, what lies under the hood of an RX-8 is a rotary Wankel engine. Stop giggling, it's a real thing.

Er, that's not a Mazda. Nor is it very pretty

That there is an NSU RO80, a car most people have never heard of. This is due in part to them rusting into oblivion as soon as they made contact with oxygen. It's also because they broke down a lot. Still, the NSU was the first car help the rotary Wankel engine reach notoriety, even if the notoriety came through said engine exploding a lot.

Invented by Felix Wankel in late 50s, it had been an idea buzzing around his head since he was 17. A Wankel engine works via the mediums of prayer, magic, witchcraft and the tears of squirrels. Actually, we have no idea how they work. We think it's on the principle of two 'cylinders' which each have a triangular 'rotor' with an offset position on the crank. This rotates creating three chambers within the 'cylinder'. Then magic happens, a human sacrifice is made and the fairies of internal combustion punt you towards the horizon. Er, maybe. Tell you what, have an animated .gif to explain a bit better.


Any better? No? Sorry. Look, we don't do science or mechanics here, that's what Wikipedia is for. We once tried to change the radio in our Austin Mini and managed to set fire to our Ford Orion. No, really.

There's more witchcraft when it comes to the engine's capacity. It's technically a 1.3, but because of the way a Wankel works (ooh, that was fun to say) it's sort of a 2.6. We think. Maybe. That's what your evil insurance company will class it as anyway, the buggers. Oh, and it also revs to 10,000rpm, which is good if you like big numbers.

So, why is this fantastic and fairly modern car so cheap? Mainly because they are famous for a niggle or two. When we say "niggle" what we mean is 'catastrophic failures'.

Firstly, they drink fuel. Nail one of these suckers up the A38 and you'll see the 192 or 231bhp (depending on the spec) Wankel producing 15mpg on the digital readout. When fuel is so expensive it makes gold look cheap that's not a good thing. It is monumentally fun to drive fast though, so it's kind of a fuel/fun quid pro quo.

Secondly, they stop working. Lots. The Wankel is a clever little engine, but reliable it is not. Solid consumer advice isn't really our thing, but if you want an RX-8 make sure it's got full service history. If not, it'll probably explode and take your bank balance with it.

This is where you go. Don't look at the MPG read out, though. It'll make you sad

So, in light of the aforementioned propensity towards mechanical horror, why should you buy one? Allow us to list the options in a dazzling, scrolling fashion...

One of the best handling cars of the last decade. It might not blow up. It's actually a decent family car. It's bloody fast. It's not a certainty it'll blow up. They all had leather trim. It might only be a little explosion. Get one with SatNav - it pops out of the dash in a James Bond style. It might not blow up until you've sold it on

So, there you go. The stylish, funky, fast, won't-blow-up-well-it-might and brilliant to drive RX-8. Go on, get one bought!