BBR Mazda MX-5 review

8 Jan, 2016 3:00pm Jonathan Burn

Tuning firm BBR makes Mazda MX-5 roadster more powerful and even more fun

Verdict

5
Hand over your MX-5 to BBR, and you’ll drive away a car that handles, sounds and performs better than the already brilliant standard model. BBR has managed to keep the Mazda’s famous character intact, but inject the pace and precision customers have been craving. At £1,995, the upgrade comes at a reasonable price, while performance fans will also be pleased to hear that the tuner is working on a 200bhp-plus version.

The first question on everyone’s lips at the launch of the new Mazda MX-5 was when a faster version would follow. Tuner BBR is usually first to provide the answer, and here it is: the MX-5 BBR Super 190.

Best sports cars to buy right now

BBR has been heating up MX-5s for 25 years, and the Super 190 is the brand’s first go-faster version of the all-new model. As a base, BBR takes the more powerful 158bhp 2.0-litre model (kits are also available for the 1.5-litre) and adds a cold air intake and a stainless steel exhaust. Plus, it tweaks the ECU to produce an additional 32bhp and 32Nm of torque – up to 190bhp and 239Nm. The upgrade costs just £1,995.

It sounds promising, and that’s before you discover that the ride height has been dropped by 30mm, the springs stiffened and wider OZ wheels have been added for extra zip in corners. That shift towards the tarmac gives the car a far meaner look than the standard MX-5 – something that’s also amplified by the alloy wheels’ black finish.

Fire the Mazda up, and the new exhaust system gives a raspier note, but what’s less evident is the impact the shorter and stiffer springs have on ride quality. The car is firmer yet compliant and comfortable, with the excellent damping smoothing out rutted surfaces. It’s rare for such a small trade-off in terms of comfort to bring such huge handling and agility improvements.

• Best convertible cars on the market

Thread the BBR Super 190 through a series of bends, and there’s precious little lean, unlike in the standard car. So, you can use that extra performance to greater effect – delivering more power, more of the time.

The engine is also far keener to rev, and as peak torque now comes in around 1,000rpm sooner (at 3,550rpm), the extra urgency can really be felt – slashing around half a second off the 0-62mph sprint time. Crucially, BBR hasn’t overpowered the MX-5, meaning the roadster holds on to its fine balance and accessible performance.

The only downside is that the upgrade invalidates Mazda’s warranty. BBR will sell you its own for £150 per year, though.

Key specs

  • Model: Mazda MX-5 BBR Super 190
  • Price: £23,295 + £1,995
  • Engine: 2.0-litre 4cyl petrol
  • Transmission: Six-speed manual, rear-wheel drive
  • 0-62mph: 6.8 seconds (est)
  • Top speed: 138mph (est)
  • Economy/CO2: 40.9mpg/161g/km
  • On sale: Now