Mazda Miata MX-5 Performance Mods

I doubt Mazda had any idea how popular the MX-5 would become one day when they initially launched it back in 1989. Initially designed as a small, lightweight roadster, the Miata is widely regarded as one of the cheapest and most tunable sports cars of our generation. People love how affordable they are to buy, maintain, and fit aftermarket parts to. Speaking of aftermarket parts, I don’t think there’s a single car out there with more tuning potential than Mazda’s brilliant MX-5. That being said, if you’re looking to upgrade your MX-5, here’s where you should probably start.

Wheels and Tires

Forget about adding power or fitting larger brakes when you’re just starting out. A set of decent tires is the single best upgrade you can do, regardless if you’re going to be tracking the car or not. What good is fitting a supercharger if you can’t put all that power to the ground, right? If your budget allows it, opt for a set of lightweight wheels too (second-hand work just as well). They not only look great, but they reduce unsprung weight.


Mazda Miata wheels, tires and suspension upgradeA lot of people like to turbocharge or supercharge their Miata before even touching the stock suspension, but going down that route would be a massive mistake. The stock MX-5 suspension is not able to handle increased amounts of power, as it is far too soft and probably worn out (seeing as how most second-hand examples are now over ten years old). If your budget doesn’t allow a quality set of coilovers, at least get some decent lowering springs which will stiffen-up the ride and give you a noticeable drop in height.

Exhaust and Cold Air Intake

Both of these mods allow the engine to breathe better, as they free up airflow and reduce unnecessary restrictions. Cold air intakes are simple and easy to install, but exhaust systems are more expensive and require slightly more knowledge to install. In addition to gaining a few valuable ponies, with the help of an aftermarket exhaust, your MX-5 will sound a lot better too.


After you’ve done everything we just outlined above, now’s the time to start thinking about adding more power. Both the 1.6 and the 1.8-liter four-cylinders can handle moderate levels of boost without too much sweat, but reading up on forums you’ll find it’s actually the smaller 1.6-liter that’s the more durable of the two. If you go down this route, you will need a beefier flywheel/clutch sometime down the road though, when the stock clutch inevitably gives up the ghost.

Brake kit

NB Miata MX-5 performance upgrade

Because the MX-5 is exceptionally light, most people fit a set of upgraded performance pads to the stock braking system and call it a day. Some like to change the stock hoses for braided ones or fill the system up with performance fluid for a higher boiling point. If you track the car regularly and you’re running forced induction, you should probably look at big brake kits. Yes, they’re costly, but they’ll be able to stop you better for far longer, as they’re more fade-resistant and have a better bite.


Photo ©: Toby Parsons & Richard Manship

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