The Goodwood Test: Mazda MX-5 BBR stage 1

09th July 2017
dan_trent_headshot.jpg Dan Trent

Each week our team of experienced senior road testers pick out a new model from the world of innovative, premium and performance badges, and put it through its paces.



For many people, the idea of tuning cars carries a certain stigma. That could be the emotive one of association with the boy racer image of aftermarket wheels and exhausts, or the more practical fears of tampering with factory settings and warranties. Done right though tuning unlocks potential in cars manufacturers are unable, for various reasons, to realise themselves. Brackley-based BBR has been souping up MX-5s for two decades now, offering a huge range of go-faster packages for all four generations of MX-5 ranging from cheap but effective ECU tweaks to full-on turbo kits. This is the latter, a new 'stage one' 247bhp upgrade for the latest MX-5…



The beauty of BBR's approach is one of sympathy with the original concept. So although this MX-5 has nearly 100bhp more than a standard 2.0-litre version if it weren't for the stickers (optional, obviously) and OZ wheels (ditto, but actually rather nice) there's little to set it apart. You might notice the slightly lower ride height, this being a simple spring kit custom tuned to match the Sport model's standard Bilstein dampers. But the real effort of this conversion has been devoted to the under-bonnet hardware. Even this has been carefully integrated to look as if it were a factory Mazda upgrade, a theme that carries over into the way it drives.



With a power to weight ratio better than a Porsche Boxster it goes without saying the BBR upgrades light the blue touch paper under the MX-5's performance. For all those who think the standard car is cute but underpowered here is the answer. But it's not the quantity of the performance – it's the quality. This is no bodged, over-boosted tuner car in the stereotyped fashion. Throttle response and appetite for revs are exactly as per the zingy standard car. There's now just much, much more mid-range and sophisticated, carefully calibrated throttle response. So you can thrash it and enjoy it like before. But you also get huge in-gear flexibility, delivered with near zero-lag and an impressively 'factory' feel. 



BBR will explain the technical reasons why this conversion feels so in tune with the MX-5's overall ethos. But it's a credit to their expertise that for all the extra power none of the qualities we all love so much about the standard car are overwhelmed. They're just enhanced. BBR's faith in its engineering and the under-stressed nature of the conversion mean they'll warranty it for three years too. Better still you can have a complete car off the shelf for the same price as the closely related Abarth 124 Spider but with considerably more power and the Mazda's sharper looks. If you're looking for downsides the advice would be, don't waste your time…

Price tag of our car c. £35,000

(Mazda MX-5 2.0 Sport for £24,195 plus Stage One turbo kit £5,994 fitted including VAT, plus wheel, brake and suspension upgrades; complete car from £29,995)

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