BBR Mazda MX-5

BBR Mazda MX-5: Two-Minute Road Test

BBR Mazda MX-5Northamptonshire-based tuning company BBR has taken a 2.0-litre fourth-generation Mazda MX-5 and kitted it out with everything it offers to make the ultimate demonstrator. The big news is the £1,995 ‘Super 190’ upgrade pack, comprising the firm’s cold air intake system, a sports exhaust with twin tailpipes and an ECU remap.

Caterham Seven 160

What are its rivals?

You can spend as little as £22,000 on a brand new 2.0-litre MX-5 with the BBR Super 190 pack, meaning there’s very little out there that can compete. The Caterham Seven starts at a fraction under £19,000 for its 160 – but that’s a much more focussed car, and not one you’d want to take for a weekend away, never mind use every day. Starting at £41,749, Porsche’s new four-cylinder Boxster seems more than a tad expensive compared to a tuned MX-5.

BBR Mazda MX-5

Which engine does it use?

Although the firm does offer tuning for the smaller 1.5-litre engine, it concentrates on the 2.0-litre (after all, if power’s what you’re after, why would you opt for the 1.5 in the first place?). Power is boosted to 193hp, up 33hp from the standard model.

BBR Mazda MX-5

What’s it like to drive?

No one has a bad word to say about the regular MX-5, but this tweaked version really is staggeringly good. With a 30mm drop in ride height, the stiffened springs make for an even sharper drive than the standard car – no longer do you have that hint of roll that has featured in every MX-5 since the original 1989 model.

But, pleasingly, it doesn’t make for an uncomfortable ride either. It’s firm, but the damping does a superb job of smoothing out bumpy road surfaces. It’s ideal for UK B-roads and, although we haven’t tried the Super 190 on track, we reckon it’d tighten things up very nicely for track days.

BBR doesn’t provide a 0-62mph time but, naturally, it does feel quicker than the regular model (we expect it’s less than 7.0 seconds). Chase the redline and it just gives and gives, where the regular model tails off at 6,000rpm. And all the time, the raspy exhaust provides a much more satisfying note than the standard model. It’s a tad on the loud side – not ideal if you want to pass by unnoticed – but not tiresome.

BBR Mazda MX-5

Fuel economy and running costs

The standard 2.0-litre MX-5 returns a combined fuel consumption figure of 40.9mpg, and BBR claims the Super 190 upgrades actually makes it slightly more efficient. If you’re getting more than 40mpg from it, you’re driving it wrong, in our opinion – but it should still be cheaper to run than something like a Porsche Boxster. While the upgrades do void Mazda’s official warranty, the company offers its own for £150 a year, while specialist insurers shouldn’t be too concerned by the upgrades.

BBR Mazda MX-5

Is it practical?

Not really. One of our biggest criticisms of the standard fourth-generation MX-5 is its lack of practicality. Sure, you wouldn’t buy one of these if you wanted to carry four passengers and a weekly shop, but a glove box and a few extra cubby holes around the cabin would make things a bit more pleasant on longer journeys. As much as we like what BBR’s done, fitting extra cup holders isn’t quite the firm’s bag – so the MX-5 remains as impractical as ever.

BBR Mazda MX-5

What about safety?

The regular MX-5 fell short of the full five-star Euro NCAP rating, losing points for its lack of technology such as autonomous braking. Again, BBR isn’t in the game of making cars safer, but then it hasn’t exactly removed safety, either. The airbags are still there… the increase in power just means you could potentially hit a tree with more force. Still, it’d be marginally more comfortable getting it wrong in this than something like a Caterham.

BBR Mazda MX-5

Which version should I go for?

We’d be tempted to go for the full BBR setup, as tested here. At the very least, £1,995 for the Super 190 pack fully fitted, offering greater performance through its cold air intake system, sports exhaust and engine remap, strikes us as a couple of grand no fourth-generation MX-5 owner would regret spending.

The extra £495 for BBR’s high performance springs (fitted with full alignment) also seems to be excellent value to make things a smidgen sharper, reducing roll without making things uncomfortable. And it would only take rounding one B-road bend to find a tractor in the road to make £195 on upgraded brakes seem well worth spending.

BBR Mazda MX-5

Should I buy one?

Buy a top-of-the-range MX-5, take it to BBR and give them a blank cheque, and you’d still struggle to spend more than £30,000. For that money there is nothing else you can buy new, this side of a Caterham, that would be as fun to drive. And, unlike a Caterham, a BBR-tuned MX-5 is still useable every day and for long journeys. We had more fun on rural Northamptonshire B-roads in this than we’ve had in sports cars costing twice as much.

BBR Mazda MX-5

Pub fact

BBR started by offering a turbo conversion kit for the first-generation MX-5. Approximately 850 Mk1 BBR MX-5 turbos were made, boasting around 154hp and a 0-62mph time of 6.8 seconds. The kit was so good, Mazda endorsed it through its own three-year warranty.

Fancy a bargain 225hp Mazda MX-5 runout special?

Fancy a bargain 225hp Mazda MX-5 runout special?

Fancy a bargain 225hp Mazda MX-5 runout special?

We’ve recently been driving the all-new Mazda MX-5 and concluded it was a driver’s car of immense ability, particularly in relative-bargain 2.0-litre guise.

However, despite boasting a high-tech SKYACTIV motor, its 160hp output isn’t exactly headline-grabbing by modern standards. It’s quick, thanks to the car’s low kerbweight, but not exactly a rocketship.

Here’s where aftermarket tuning specialists BBR make things interesting – by offering a 225hp power upgrade for the old-shape Mazda MX-5 at a price that, once you’ve factored in the cost of the kit and the price for a runout old-shape MX-5, will probably roughly the same as the 160hp all-new car.

Able to be fitted to all 2.0-litre third-generation models (which can now be picked up on Auto Trader for less than £4,000), BBR’s ‘Super 200’ upgrade package starts at £3,490 plus VAT.

Fancy a bargain 225hp Mazda MX-5 runout special?

That means you can buy a 225hp third-generation Mazda MX-5 for around £8,000… now that’s a tempting proposition.

The following is included in the pack:

  • BBR stainless steel 4 into 1 exhaust manifold
  • BBR high performance intake and exhaust camshafts
  • BBR 3.5 inch diameter branded tailpipes with stainless steel clamps
  • BBR badges for front wings and bootlid
  • Drive by wire controlled direct to head shaftless AT Power individual throttle bodies
  • Bespoke AT Power / BBR curved inlet extensions
  • CNC machined 20mm alloy inlet ram pipes
  • MAP block assembly (enabling OEM Mazda MAP sensor installation)
  • Ramair foam air filter (Optional BBR airbox and replacement OEM intake for trackday use)
  • BBR Engine breather system

Unlike other BBR packages, the Super 225 pack boosts the MX-5’s power while remaining naturally-aspirated, meaning it will stay true to its roots.

BBR’s Neil Mckay said: “Compared to our hugely successful 260-380bhp turbocharger conversions for the MX-5 normally aspirated tuning can seem relatively expensive.

“Therefore target power figures aside, our primary objective with the Super 225 program was to retain as much of the original Mazda electronics system as possible, to cap costs at a realistic level for our enthusiast market and avoid the need for a motorsport style engine management system.”

This results in 228hp at 7,900rpm – a gain of 68hp over the standard 2.0-litre MX-5.

Prices start at £3,490 for the DIY pack, while a drive-in, drive-out installation is available for £4,295.

BBR launches 270hp Mazda MX-5


We’re big fans of the Mazda MX-5 here at MR – which is why we’re very excited to hear that tuner BBR is launching a 270hp turbo version of the two-seater sports car.

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