Mazda Jota MX-5 2.0 GT Roadster Coupe road test

  • Performance mods by Jota Sport racing team
  • Uprated 2.0-litre engine produces 203bhp
  • Well-judged package but it costs £29,995

This is no ordinary Mazda MX-5 – this is a specially prepared MX-5 GT from the Jota racing team.

For £29,995 you can lay your hands on an exclusive version of the popular roadster boasting 203bhp with improved performance to match. It’s good but is the Jota version really worth an extra £6,900 over the standard MX-5?

Looks the part

Customers start with their box-fresh MX-5 2.0-litre Roadster Coupe and via renowned Mazda dealer Lodge Garage, and then an order is placed for race preparation team Jota Sport to undertake the modifications.

Although there’s a visual link to the GT4 racing specification MX-5s that pound the UK’s racing circuits, there the similarity ends.

It nevertheless looks the part with a carbon fibre under-bumper splitter, a thin blade-like rear spoiler and a matching diffuser below, but more of interest is the Jota MX-5’s lowered stance.

Not only is the visual effect a positive one, the specially developed Ohlins road and track suspension further hones the MX-5’s trademark handling finesse, becoming even more adjustable without making it too much of a handful.

The existing limited slip differential at the rear remains unchanged.

Power boost

An extra 45bhp has been liberated from the non-turbocharged 2.0-litre engine through a series of embellishments including a revised air intake system and a new camshaft. Jota claims these measures improve performance and driveability although our experience suggests it depended on the type of road you were driving on as to how successful the changes are.

Cruising along motorways it feels little different from a regular MX-5, a reflection of how well-sorted the suspension is as much as anything, but there’s a noticeably deeper burble from the specially designed exhaust.

Sports cars tend to be happiest on roads where driver engagement is more of a ‘full on’ experience and here the Jota MX-5 excels. Hang in a lower gear than you ordinarily might and savour the aural delight as those snarlier tailpipes respond melodiously to the engine revving past 5,000rpm. It’s a fun car to drive but you need to make the engine work for it.

This must produce a detrimental effect on fuel efficiency but as it’s an after-market conversion, Jota still quotes Mazda’s official claim of 36.2mpg. The car’s trip computer suggested an indicated 25mpg during the more spirited driving of the test.

At one with the car

Clamber inside the familiar snug cockpit and nestle into the supportive Recaro seats which offer a small degree of extra cabin space and adjustability which will be welcomed by taller drivers.

Being able to perfect ones driving position allows the driver to feel more in unison with the Jota MX-5 and be able to enjoy the balanced, feelsome steering, the slick six-speed manual gearbox and the nice positioning of the pedals.

Those Recaro seats and a special Jota plaque aside, the specification mirrors the Sport Tech trim offered my Mazda, meaning heated seats, climate control and cruise control are part of the kit list, as well as the folding metal Roadster Coupe roof.

Further good news comes in terms of warranty with the Jota-specific parts also enjoying three years or 60,000 miles of cover, with Mazda protecting the factory-fitted components.

Should you buy one?

With only one dealer selling the Jota MX-5 GT and with plans to keep offering the conversions in small numbers through to the middle of 2015, it’s going to prove to be a rare and quick way to enjoy Mazda sports car motoring.

So that’s a thumbs up, right?

Well, no, not exactly. As enjoyable as the Jota MX-5 is, we don’t believe it’s almost £7,000 better than Mazda’s own unfettled 2.0-litre example. The additional outlay is simply too great considering the Jota’s performance and handling benefits.

You can read the full Parkers Mazda MX-5 review here.