Amid all the praise heaped upon the Miata since its debut, there's always been a small voice whispering, "Chick car." This spring, Mazda hopes to silence that at last with a turbocharged, limited-edition special, the Machospeed-er, make that Mazdaspeed-MX-5.
Like most factory tuner exercises, the Mazdaspeed Miata has more power, bigger wheels and tires, and better handling. But unlike some one-offs, which are crude agglomerations of aftermarket parts, the Mazdaspeed Miata is well thought out and seamlessly put together.
The big news is, of course, the turbocharger, which whistles to life at around 4000 rpm and helps the 1.8-liter engine make 178 horsepower and 166 pound-feet of torque, versus the standard engine's 142 horsepower and 125 pound-feet. Acceleration falls short of neck-snapping, but the turbo means that Miata owners no longer will have sand kicked in their faces by bullies driving BMW Z4s and Honda S2000s.
The Mazdaspeed MX-5 also looks the part. The smiley face of the stock Miata has been replaced with a more aggressive front end whose open mouth showcases a bad-boy intercooler. Shorter springs lower the ride height by a quarter-inch, and seventeen-inch Racing Hart wheels and 205/40 Toyo Proxes fill the wheel wells stylishly.
With its lithe chassis and short wheelbase, the Miata always has cornered like a go-kart. With the addition of Bilstein dampers, bigger antiroll bars, and a strut tower brace, the Mazdaspeed MX-5 moves into 125-cc shifter kart territory. A quicker steering ratio makes turn-in virtually instantaneous. And the car stops even better than it goes.
At $25,500 ($26,200 with leather), the Mazdaspeed exacts a very mild premium over lesser Miatas. Choose velocity red or titanium gray; sorry, no white, no yellow, no sky blue. The Mazdaspeed Miata isn't that kind of car.