Why Was the Mazdaspeed Miata a One-Hit Wonder?
The MX-5 Miata is very fun to drive, but Mazda’s affordable sports car isn’t precisely overwhelmed with power. As a result, engine swaps and aftermarket turbo kits are popular amongst the Mazda Miata fanbase. However, the automaker briefly did offer a version with a bit more juice: the Mazdaspeed Miata. But it’s a model Mazda hasn’t offered since.
The NB Mazdaspeed Miata: what made it special
By 1999, the Mazda Miata was in its 2nd generation, aka the NB. Compared to the earlier NA, the NB has a stiffer chassis, larger anti-roll bars, and brakes, and a more powerful engine, Road & Track reports. However, even after receiving a mid-generation upgrade, the NB’s 1.8-liter four-cylinder topped out at 152 hp.
That changed, Roadshow reports, with the 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata. Mazda’s performance division had already boosted the Mazda 3 and Mazda 6 sedan and now turned to the roadster. The Mazdaspeed Miata still has a 1.8-liter four-cylinder, but it’s turbocharged, with an air-to-air intercooler, Motor Trend reports. That lets it develop 178 hp and 166 lb-ft, Car and Driver reports. The added output cut the 0-60 time by 1.4 seconds and the ¼-mile by 1.3 seconds.
Because of the added power, the Mazdaspeed Miata’s clutch, driveshaft, 6-speed manual, and the limited-slip differential are strengthened compared to the standard NB. It also has upgraded Bilstein shocks, stiffer springs, larger front and rear anti-roll bars, and a front strut-tower brace. Plus, the Mazdaspeed model rides lower than the base NB Mazda Miata and has wider tires. Unfortunately, although MT reports the larger Racing Hart wheels are lighter than stock, Jason-Parker.net reports they’re actually heavier than other NB wheels.
Did all these mods make a difference? Yes. Compared to the stock NB, the Mazdaspeed Miata has noticeably less roll and more grip, Road & Track reports. And while the turbo doesn’t add a lot of power, it also has very little lag. And while the ride is firm, it isn’t overly so.
But while the steering appears to feel quicker, it actually just has a shorter stroke, creating a wider turning radius, Mazda-speed.com forum users report. Many speculate it’s because of the larger wheels, and fear that they would rub. However, Miata.net forum users report that it might be to prevent the steering rack from knocking into the turbo plumbing.
In short, the Mazdaspeed treatment adds to the Miata’s charms and strengths. The turbo NB isn’t significantly faster, but enough to be appreciated. So why did Mazda only offer the trim for the 2004 and 2005 Miata?
Why weren’t there more Mazdaspeed Miata models?
It’s not just the Miata that’s lacking a Mazdaspeed trim. None of Mazda’s current vehicles, not even the Mazda 3, offers one.
Part of that is due to the company’s current business strategy. Mazda’s trying to move its way up-market, which, based on recent reviews, seems to be working. But it’s also because, compared to just a few years ago, the Japanese automaker’s in a much different place.
When the 3rd-gen Mazda Miata, the NC, came out, Mazda was owned by Ford. And unlike the NA and NB, the NC didn’t have a unique chassis. Instead, it had a modified version of the RX-8’s platform. And most of Mazda’s other vehicles rode on Ford platforms.
Now, though, the brand is fully independent and able to make its cars the way it wants to, R&T reports. Combined with the premium positioning, Mazda simply doesn’t see the need to make Mazdaspeed models anymore.
But, if you want a turbocharged Miata, you can still get one technically. The Fiat 124 Spider is based on the current-gen ND MX-5. And every 124 Spider comes with a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder in various states of tune. Ironically, though, 2019 and later ND Miatas’ 2.0-liter naturally-aspirated four-cylinders are actually more powerful, Car and Driver reports.
Getting one today
Mazda only made about 5400 Mazdaspeed Miatas, DrivingLine reports, due to a production-facility fire. And due to that rarity, plus the factory upgrades, they’re a bit pricier than most NBs.
For context, I paid less than $7000 for my 1999 10th Anniversary Edition NB a few years ago. That’s roughly the average price of a good-condition example today, Hagerty reports. However, the Mazdaspeed model’s average price is about $10.5k, Hagerty reports. And on Bring a Trailer, it’s not unusual to see the turbo cars going for closer to $15,000.
But, if you’re planning on modifying your Miata, the stock NB might be the better buy, Miata.net forum users report. Instead of buying the MSM, you can buy a normal NB and put the difference towards a turbo kit, like the one from Flyin’ Miata. You’ll end up with roughly the same, if not more horsepower. But, if you want more power from the MSM, you’ll have to upgrade the turbo, the exhaust manifold, and so on anyway.
However, if you’re after an older Mazda Miata with a bit of extra kick, the MSM delivers it straight from the factory.
Follow more updates from MotorBiscuit on our Facebook page.