Turbocharged Mazda MX-5 by BBR

The Mazda MX-5 is a masterclass in measured restraint - a lightweight, perfectly balanced sports car that eschews outright power in the pursuit of an uncorrupted driving experience.

Additional power would require bigger brakes, stronger suspension and larger wheels, all of which add weight. So Mazda gives you as much power as the MX-5 needs, and not a bit more.

Or does it? Because the thing is, while the MX-5 is undeniably poised and accessible, it also gets hoovered up by diesel VW Passats on the motorway, and intimidated into the pits by similarly priced Caterhams and Lotuses at a track day.

BBR has a solution as simple as the MX-5 it is based upon – drive to its Brackley garage with £4,995 and leave with an extra 90hp courtesy of a big ol’ turbo, among few other tweaks that we’ll detail.

Hang on – isn’t the Mazda MX-5’s naturally aspirated engine the whole point?

Yes - the Mazda MX-5 is one of the last bastions for sports car drivers who want razor-sharp throttle response, a screamingly high redline and an unadulterated soundtrack.

Thing is though, while those things are present in the least powerful 1.5-litre motor, the larger 160hp, 200Nm 2.0-litre lump is actually quite a lot less exciting, so it’s a good base for improvement.

It’s a well-judged upgrade too - rather than shrinking the MX-5’s power delivery to a truck-like band of torque in the middle of the rev-range, the BBR-tweaked Mazda actually delivers peak power of 252hp at 7,150rpm – some 800rpm higher than the naturally aspirated engine.

How does BBR achieve this wizardry?

Well for a start it’s not the first time BBR has tuned an MX-5, with upgrades available for the three previous generations of roadster, plus less powerful ECU tunes for the current gen.

As well as a special twin scroll turbo you also get a cast iron manifold, an aluminium intercooler, plus some new stainless steel lines and silicone pipes.

With the bonnet up you’ll notice the carbonfibre heat shield and K&N Typhoon induction kit, while invisible upgrades include a tweaked ECU.

What does all of that mean?

More power at the top of the rev range, and crucially more torque (320Nm) at the bottom, meaning when you press the accelerator, the BBR MX-5 gets into its stride much quicker than the standard car.

There’s a hint of boost as the turbo comes on song but unlike most forced induction engines, the BBR MX-5 revs happily up to its redline, with speed and noise increasing exponentially.

As you’d expect the extra power has a profound effect– 0-60mph tumbles from 7.3 to 5 seconds, and the top speed is limited to 155mph, as opposed to the standard car’s 133mph.

Does it improve the Mazda MX-5?

That sort of depends on your world view but we found the BBR car to be just as good as the standard car when you need it to be, with an extra injection of pace just a foot twitch away.

There is a more powerful version in the works but we reckon this stage one upgrade is a real sweet spot – endowing the MX-5 with eye-opening pace that you can exploit fully on the road.

There are two caveats to this – our test car had an uprated clutch and lower, stiffer suspension. While both upgrades (particularly the latter) make the MX-5 feel a lot more serious and engaging, they also work against the car’s easy-going, accessible nature. Neither comes as standard with the BBR kit though.

Sold, how much is it?

Take a 2.0-litre MX-5 to BBR and you’ll pay £4,995+ VAT for the fitted kit (so, £5,994), or alternatively the tuning company will sell you a new, already modified car for £29,995.

Either way, the work is fully reversible and there are a range of affordable warranty packages available, from 12 to 36 months. The donor car is in Sport Nav trim, and you can have either soft or hardtop RF

We love the MX-5 and remarkably, even with the BBR power hike it still represents great value for money. Best of all, the upgrades give it loads of extra pace without compromising the original car’s character.

Mazda MX-5 BBR