2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
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Review and photos by Greg Wilson

As the owner of a first-generation Miata, I have to confess a certain bias in writing this review of the new Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata (herein to be abbreviated to MS Miata), but I promise to be totally and completely objective (seriously!).

While there are numerous suspension, tire, and body improvements to the MS Miata, the heart of the car is its turbocharged 1.8 litre four cylinder engine. With 178 horsepower (compared to 142 horsepower in the normally-aspirated Miata), the MS Miata is the most powerful production Miata ever built and a car that many Miata fans have been waiting for for a long time. Unfortunately, only 300 are available for the Canadian market, and if they haven’t been sold out already, they will be soon. Its MSRP of $34,395 equipped with everything except air conditioning is an attractive price in the premium sports car field.

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata with author’s ’93 Miata in the background

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

The MS Miata is tuned by Mazda’s performance division, Mazdaspeed, which explains why there are so few of them. It’s a limited production vehicle modified by a group of in-house Mazda enthusiasts. These are the same people who did the Mazda MP3 and Mazdaspeed Protege, performance versions of the Protege. I can’t wait to see what they do to the Mazda3!

The MS Miata’s 1.8 litre twin cam 16 valve four cylinder engine is equipped with a single turbocharger with 7.25 psi maximum boost and an air-to-air intercooler. Maximum horsepower is 178 horsepower at 6000 rpm and 166 lb-ft of torque at 4500 rpm, 25 and 33 percent more respectively than the normally aspirated Miata’s 142 horsepower at 7000 rpm and 125 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm.

With all that extra horsepower, some engine modifications were needed to keep things together. The piston shapes were revised to handle the extra fuel-air mixture created by the turbocharger, oil cooling was improved, and harder rubber mountings for the engine and differential were used to handle the extra torque. An extra oil line was added to the engine for the turbo, a Denso fin-tube air-to-air intercooler keeps the turbo cool, a bigger radiator core and larger cooling capacity maintain proper engine temperature, and the six-speed manual transmission, clutch, driveshaft and rear differential were all strengthened – the latter is a Bosch torque-sensing limited slip diff.

The Miata’s ride height was dropped 7 millimetres by using shorter springs with higher spring rates, and Bilstein shocks and larger front and rear stabilizer bars were added. As well, a brace between the front struts across the engine was added to improve chassis rigidity. To add a sporty look, the springs and valve covers are painted red, the aluminum oil cap has a Mazdaspeed logo, and the shocks and brace are painted silver.

All MS Miatas come standard with Toyo Proxes 205/40R-17 inch high-performance tires mounted on 17-inch Racing Hart aluminum alloy wheels – the first time a Miata has come standard with 17 inch tires and wheels. Four wheel disc brakes, with silver painted calipers, have standard ABS, and the power steering has a quicker steering ratio.

MS Miatas come in one colour: Velocity Red Mica. Other unique Mazdspeed Miata features are ‘smoked’ headlamp surrrounds, a unique front air dam with fog lamps, side sills, a rear lip spoiler, rear bodywork, and large exhaust tip. There are also classy polished stainless steel Mazdaspeed plates on the door sills and metal pedals.

The interior is black with bright red seat and door inserts, and red stitching on the leather covered steering wheel, shift knob, and handbrake lever. Silver gauges and faux carbon fiber trim surrounding a silver instrument panel create an overtly sporty look. MS Miatas feature a standard 225-watt Bose sound system with six-disc CD changer, speed-sensing automatic volume control, and six speakers.

Like other Miatas, the MS Miata has a manually-operated soft vinyl top with a glass rear window and electric defogger.

Though the MS Miata is well-equipped, air conditioning is a dealer-installed option priced at approximately $2,500 with labour, according to a Mazda spokesperson. That’s a bit steep. An automatic transmission is not available, and neither is a detachable hardtop – apparently the company predicted there just wouldn’t be enough demand to make it optional.

Interior impressions

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

Getting in to the Miata is more like dropping in to a hole. The driver sits low, but it’s a small car, and drivers over six feet may find the car a bit confining. The one-piece sport seats have great support and are very comfortable, and even though they are not height adjustable and the steering wheel doesn’t tilt, I found the driving position very good. The instruments and controls are easy to see and reach, and the shift lever is nicely positioned for reach.

There are two cupholders behind the shift lever – not a great place to put a full cup of coffee when driving. But Miata drivers don’t do that anyway, do they? Interior storage space is at a premium – the glovebox and storage bin between the seats aren’t that big, but there is a mesh-type storage area on the lateral beam behind the seats. You can also throw loose items into the space occupied by the top when it is in the up position, but they aren’t secured there.

One small criticism: a cigarette lighter/powerpoint is located on the lower centre console, but there’s no storage compartment to put your phone while you’re charging it.

I liked the dead pedal to the left of the clutch pedal, but on one occasion, my wide dress shoes were just too wide to fit in the narrow space.

Driver and passenger airbags are standard, and because it’s a two seater, there’s an on/off key activated switch for the passenger airbag so that smaller children or child seats can be positioned there.

Lowering the manual convertible top involves undoing two latches on the top of the windshield header, and pulling back. The rear window does not have to zipped out like earlier models with plastic windows, and you can lower the top from the driver’s seat. However, the tonneau cover which keeps dirt out of the top area and makes the car look better, must be attached with clips from outside the car.

As well, lowering the top is best done from outside the car. It’s very awkward to pull up the top from the driver’s seat, and you’re likely to pull a muscle. The tonneau has to be removed first anyway.

The trunk is small and shallow, enough for a couple of small overnight bags for a weekend getaway.

The important thing to remember about the MS Miata’s interior is that it is only for two people, and that it’s cosy – all the better to keep you in place during spirited driving.

Driving impressions

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

There’s definately more power here. The MS Miata has a 0 to 100 km/h time of 6.9 seconds, more than a second faster than the regular Miata with a six speed manual tranny. You really notice a surge in power at about 3500 rpm when the turbo spools up and it lasts all the way to the redline at 6500 rpm redline. I noticed a little blip in the boost around 4500 rpm when the engine is warming up – not sure why. The engine has a raspy, mechanical sound to it, unlike the smoother sportier tone of earlier Miatas, and there is a faint whistle from the turbo.

At freeway cruising speeds, the engine is very smooth even though it’s revving at about 3,100 rpm at 100 km/h and 3,500 at 120 km/h.

The six speed manual shifter has short, easy throws and clutch pedal effort is light. It’s really a joy to use. Braking is fabulous – four big discs, ABS and a lightweight car make for shorter stopping distances.

The MS Miata’s shorter springs, stiffer shocks, and low profile tires result in a stiffer ride than other Miatas. The shock rebound is short, so there’s a lot of bobbing on uneven pavement. I never found it harsh or uncomfortable, but the ride is not as smooth as the standard Miata. Handling, courtesy of the independent double wishbones at each corner and performance unidirectional Toyo Proxes 205/40 R-17 inch tire is very sticky and flat. Coupled with fast variable assist power steering that require little input to put the car where you want it to go, the MS Miata darts from place to place with reactions quicker than most drivers have. A 34 feet turning circle provides the manoeuverability performance-minded drivers require.

With the top up, the Miata is a dry, comfortable place to be even in the worst weather, but of course a lightweight rear wheel drive car in Winter is going to need four good snow tires and maybe some sandbags in the trunk. For summer driving, with the top down, the Miata is terrific fun – some may lament the lack of a power top, but the manual top is pretty easy to use. Wind buffeting is not too obtrusive, and conversation is possible at freeway speeds. The small adjustable wind blocker behind the seats is meant to prevent air buffeting the back of the occupant’s head, but I didn’t notice much difference.

The Mazdaspeed Miata is sure to become a collector’s item – unlike other special edition Miatas, this one has a turbocharged engine and other unique performance goodies – and only 300 are available.

Click image to enlarge


A big boost in performance makes the turbocharged Mazdaspeed Miata even more fun to drive than the normally-aspirated model, but the ride may be too stiff for some. Criticisms? A/C is an expensive option, storage space is limited, and a detachable hardtop is not available.

Technical Data: 2004 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

Base price $34,395
Freight $925
Price as tested $35,320
Type 2-door, 2-passenger sports car
Layout longitudinal front engine/rear-wheel-drive
Engine 1.8 litre 4 cylinder, DOHC, 16-valve, IHI turbocharger
Horsepower 178 @ 6000
Torque 166 lb-ft @ 4500
Transmission 6-speed manual
Tires Toyo Proxes R28 205/40R-17
Curb weight 1127 kg (2485 lb.)
Wheelbase 2265 mm (89.2 in.)
Length 3945 mm (155.3 in.)
Width 1678 mm ( 66.1 in.)
Height 1228 mm ( 48.3 in.)
Fuel consumption N/A
Minimum fuel requirement Premium unleaded, 91 octane or greater
Warranty 3 yrs/80,000 km
Powertrain Warranty 5 yrs/100,000 km

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