Best & Worst Mazda RX-8 Years

I've taken a closer look at every Mazda RX-8 from 2004 until 2011 and categorized the best & worst Mazda RX-8 years in this guide.

In this guide, I’ll break down all Mazda RX-8 model years, highlighting the RX-8’s best years to buy and the worst Mazda RX-8 years to avoid.

Leveraging many reliable sources, from NHTSA recalls to consumer satisfaction reports, our analysis offers an authoritative glimpse into the RX-8’s legacy. Trust our insights to navigate the nuances of its model years.

In this article, I’ll spotlight the standout years that define the RX-8’s lifespan, pinpointing RX-8’s yearly reliability scores, common problems with Wankel engines, and standout features.

Let’s dive right in!

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Table of ContentsShow

Mazda RX-8 Generations

The Mazda RX-8 hit the roads in 2003, showcasing its unique rotary engine, rear-hinged ‘freestyle’ doors, and a design aimed at providing sports car performance with some practicality.

It was a fresh take on the coupe category, featuring a 1.3-liter Renesis rotary engine that made it stand out.

Here is a table showing the only generation of the Mazda RX-8 between 2004 and 2011:

1st generation (SE3P)2004-2011

We present this breakdown of generations to enhance comprehension, as notable changes between generations can often be the key to making an informed decision on which model year to opt for.

Mazda RX-8 Best, Neutral, and Worst Years

When assessing the top and worst Mazda RX-8 model years, our rankings and categorizations take into account a comprehensive set of factors, including:

  • Owner-reported reliability (surveys)
  • Annual maintenance costs
  • Safety ratings
  • Consumer Reports reliability scores
  • Consumer Reports owner satisfaction scores
  • NHTSA recalls, investigations, and complaints
  • Edmunds owner ratings
  • JD Power owner ratings
  • Kelley’s Blue Book (KBB) owner ratings
  • VehicleHistory owner ratings
  • owner ratings

The forthcoming graph will present a consolidated view of the Mazda RX-8’s performance based on the aggregated ratings from the above sources.

Mazda RX8 Car Smite Score Combined Overall Score

Next, we’ll look at a table categorizing each Mazda RX-8 model year to guide you toward the best, neutral, or worst Mazda RX-8 year for your needs.

GenerationBest YearsNeutral YearsWorst Years
1st generation (SE3P)2009

“Neutral Years” often represent a balanced option with fewer reported issues than the worst years but lacking the consistent praise of the best years.

It’s important to note that more NHTSA recalls and consumer complaints typically correlate with a decrease in a car’s perceived reliability.

Let’s dive into the best, neutral, and worst Mazda RX-8 years.

Best & Worst Years for Mazda RX-8 1st Generation (2004-2011)

Mazda RX 8 1st generation 2004 model
The 2004 Mazda RX-8

The Mazda RX-8 first appeared in 2003 as a 2004 model year, heralding a new era for sports car enthusiasts with its unique rotary engine and sporty design.

2009, 2010, and 2011 are Mazda RX-8’s best and most reliable years to buy, while you should avoid 2004 and 2005 Mazda RX models at all costs.

The Best Years: 2009, 2010, 2011

In the best years of the Mazda RX-8’s first generation, models from 2009 to 2011 are considered the peak in quality and performance.

These models featured the refined version of the 1.3L Renesis Wankel rotary engine, which delivered 232 hp when paired with the six-speed manual transmission and 212 hp with the six-speed automatic.

Fuel economy hovered around 16 city/22 highway mpg for the manual transmission models.

Trim levels included the Sport, Touring, Grand Touring, and the enthusiast-focused R3. The R3 package, introduced in 2009, featured sport-tuned suspension with Bilstein dampers and a foam-filled front cross member for a stiffer, more responsive ride.

Aesthetic and comfort improvements were also added, such as xenon headlights, LED rear combination lights, and a redesigned rear spoiler.

Safety technologies were enhanced across the trim levels with advanced airbag systems and dynamic stability control, adding to the RX-8’s desirability.

These years showcased fewer technical issues and recalls than earlier models, solidifying their status as the best years to own an RX-8.

The Neutral Years: 2006, 2007, 2008

The 2006 to 2008 Mazda RX-8 models served as a bridge between the initial problematic years and the more refined final years.

These models still offered the high-revving 1.3L Renesis engine with the same power outputs as the best years, paired with a six-speed manual or automatic transmission.

The 2006 Mazda RX-8 introduced a six-port high-power version with a maximum engine speed of 9000 rpm for manual transmission. In 2007 and 2008, a new Renesis II with improved oil injection for better reliability was available.

These years did not witness notable enhancement in fuel efficiency, staying similar to the later models. Trim levels were consistent with the last years yet lacked the R3 sport package.

The Grand Touring trim offered luxury features such as leather seats and a Bose audio system. Safety upgrades during these years included the addition of standard side-curtain airbags, which was a notable step forward.

These neutral years were still prone to issues that plagued the earlier models, including recalls related to the clutch assembly and potential fuel leaks.

The Worst Years: 2004, 2005

What years of the RX-8 to avoid? The 2004 and 2005 Mazda RX-8 model years were the introductory phase for the Mazda RX-8 and were unfortunately marred by several significant issues.

The Renesis engine, while innovative with its compact design and high-power output, suffered from problems like excessive oil consumption and early wear, particularly in the apex seals, which led to reduced compression and engine failures.

The six-speed manual version boasted a power output of 238 hp, while the four-speed automatic was rated at 197 hp, yet both suffered from reliability issues.

The 2004 and 2005 RX-8s were subject to several critical recalls, including those for fuel pump leaks that could lead to fires and steering issues that could result in loss of control.

Owner complaints frequently cited clutch and engine failures, leading to costly repairs.

These persistent issues and substantial improvements seen in the 2004 and 2005 model years are why these are considered the Mazda RX-8 years to avoid.

See NHTSA 2004, 2005 Mazda RX-8 recalls and complaints.

Mazda RX-8 Resale Values

The following graph shows the trends and averages in resale values for the Mazda RX-8 across different model years.

Mazda RX8 Average List Price


As we round off our exploration of the Mazda RX-8, it’s clear that the 2009-2011 models stand out as the best Mazda RX-8 years, while 2004-2005 models should be avoided.

What years of the Mazda RX-8 balance performance and reliability best?

Share your thoughts below in the comments!

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Jonathan Eckert

Jonathan is an ASE-certified mechanic with over 22 years of hands-on experience in the automotive industry. His expertise spans a wide range of vehicles, but he specializes in diagnosing and repairing Japanese cars. His previous workplace highly commended his meticulous attention to detail, and that's exaclty what he uses at Car Smite to craft the best guides for each purpose.