MX5 Performance Tuning tips

"The Fantastic MX5 Eunos or Miata "

The Mazda MX5 (also badged Eunos and Miata) is what every small roadster should be.

They are superb at handling thanks in part to the great chassis design and the cars light weight.

It was an instant hit, when it was introduced in the late 80's/early 90's and each model revision sees improvements.

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Its back to basics approach captured the spirit of a fun roadster and won the car many fans.

One criticism thrown at the MX5 is the lack of power. Originally provided with just 2 engine options, a rather revvy and sporty sounding 1.6 and the slightly more powerful 1.8. The first task then is to uprate the power. Thankfully Mazda have provided a good block which has substantial scope for improvement.

Each new generation of the MX5 have brought significant improvements to the car. The latest 1.5 (132bhp) and 2.0 engines (162bhp) are quite lively and the power output is more suiting the car, but even then we want to wring out a few more horses!

The late 2018 revision to the 2.0 engines raised it's power to 185bhp and the redline was raised to match that of the (1.5 which always felt sportier although it was less powerful.)

mx5-tuning

Internal modifications should include a fast road cam, ported and polished head with a 3 angle valve job.

If budget allows then blueprinting and balancing the engine and fitting a low ratio gearbox will further increase the cars appeal.

A lighter flywheel will make the car rev more easily and it appears that the MX5 becomes quite a different beast with a slightly lighter 10lbs flywheel. (NB: If the flywheel is too light then the car will be hard to drive in stop start traffic.)

The clutch is a different story and should be the primary upgrade before any other MX5 engine tuning is attempted especially if the mileage is getting up there.

Small and nimble the only criticism is a lack of power, add some sensible tuning modifications and you have a world class roadster.

Engine mods

Getting the best modified mods for your planned usage of the car is a time and money saver. Stage 3 motor sport mods just won't work well on the road and will make the car undrivable.

To remap the MX5 you should really go with an aftermarket ECU, or piggyback solution. The ME221 ECU which is drop in gives a good base for your tuning project and is used by many respected MX5 tuners.

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Lighter flywheel, Sports exhaust, Remap, Alloy wheels, Suspension upgrade (drop 30-40mm), Panel air filter.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: Ported and polished head, Fast road cam, high flow fuel injector, fuel pump upgrades, Power/Sport clutch.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Competition cam, Sports gearbox, Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Engine balancing.

One popular mod on the MX5 is the addition of forced induction. For all those newbies who think you can just bolt on a turbo or supercharger we need to state the obvious here, you can't - a lot more is involved.

Whilst turbos can be added it seems slightly easier and makes economic sense to fit a supercharger.

You will find that turbo engines need quite a few extra parts namely an exhaust manifold, intake piping and ideally stronger lower compression pistons and a diverter valve whereas a supercharger is pretty much a bolt on and remap upgrade.

Turbo kits abound for the MX5 and we particularly like the offerings from BBR, pulling another 90bhp from the engine!

There is still a lot of debate or arguments between the MX5 turbo owners and supercharged owners as to which is the most cost effective, and which suits the car the most.

Dyno results are generally fairly similar but the power delivery is very much down to personal tastes.

The supercharger has a linear smooth delivery and the turbo gives a fun wallop in the back part way up the rev range.

We've also seen some tuners experimenting with twin charging conversions and making some seriously high power gains.

When this is properly setup you can hit power figures in the order of 200 to 300bhp or around 250 bhp on stock internals.

The stock engine will also benefit from some basic tuning modifications. Most owners will add an induction kit although the benefits of this are questionable unless you also add a cold air feed pipe. A sports exhaust and sports catalyst will free up a few more horsepower on the NASP versions and even more if you have added forced induction with a bolt on turbo or supercharger kit.

Intake and Exhaust Tuning.

Now we move on to the intake and exhaust and ensure proper flow through the engine. Induction kits are only beneficial to add power if the cars air intake is restricted!

If you have heavily modified your engine and it's need for air INCREASES DRAMATICALLY then an induction kit is the answer and will help remove this restriction.

Induction kits can work well on turbo engines and larger engines (if supplied with a suitable cold air feed or air box), generally though we'd just recommend for MX5 engines you fit a sports panel air filter preferably made from cotton.

Sports exhausts generally help improve air flow out of the engine but avoid an exhaust that is too wide or you could very well end up with a reduced flow rate. So generally speaking, keep to 1.5 to 2.5 inches for best results.

Getting a professionally ported and polished head with larger valves can fully maximise your power gains. A good triple plate fast road upgraded clutch will help to keep that power going where it should. Never cut corners or ask a standard OEM clutch to cope.

The best mods we recommend for your MX5 are a remap especially on a turbo, a fast road camshaft and sports exhaust, with a good air intake. NASP engines do not achieve big power gains if you remap them, unless you have done extensive modifications. With turbocharged engines this is another story. A remapped turbo will give phenomenal power gains and fully release the potential power of the engine.

We've also come across some owners experimenting with twincharged conversions and making some seriously high power figures.

Despite the large cost involved adding forced induction to a NASP engine will give large power gains. It is generally cheaper to bolt on a supercharger than it is to install a turbo. Turbos give boost in increasing proportion to the engine speed and this can make mapping difficult.

Superchargers will give a boost which is directly proportional to engine speed so is simpler. Adding forced induction will generally require a lower compression ratio or water injection.

Suspension and handling improvements

Handling is already very keen but adding some uprated suspension can dramatically improve the handling. All older models will benefit from the fitment new rubber bushes (bushings) as these tighten up the suspension especially when there is old worn out soggy suspension components.

It should be noted that some owners reported worse handling with polyurethane bushes as these cut out the passive rear steer effect (passive toe-in) which makes these cars so much fun.

The standard brakes on the MX-5 are great considering it's light weight of the car and most owners consider the expense of bigger brakes to be a waste of money. But for serious track days where you drive harder you should at least consider uprating the brakes. Fitting better pads will improve things but for the best effect you should really get a big brake disc conversion and 4,6 or 8 pot calipers.

Stick with 16 inch alloys for best performance although 17 inch alloys might look marginally better to many people,  it will stuff the handling and performance, smaller wheels are better from a performance point of view.

Alloy wheels will help the brake cooling and are usually lighter than steel ones. Don't forget that your choice of rubber greatly affects your cars grip and handling. It is not worth compromising performance with cheap tyres when you can buy track legal slick performance tires.

A strut brace will keep the alignment of the chassis and help to prevent flexing. Fitting a rear anti roll bar is not an option as the MX5 comes with a good anti roll bar. To join us in our friendly tuning forum and meet other MX5 owners and swap tips hints and tuning ideas click here.

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3 Responses to “MX5 Miata Eunos Tuning”

  1. ROBERT BENNETT says:

    Good Info. Thanks.My 2011 MX5 1.8 Powered roof requires more bhp to approx 150 bhp at flywheel, please suggest and your charges for this. Thanks. RB.

  2. TorqueCars says:

    What mods have you done to your MX5? What mods work best, which were the most disappointing and what mods have you got planned for the future? Please share your tips.

  3. Shahar says:

    Hey wil a sr20dat engine with turbo will fit and mx5 nc?

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