Review and photos by Greg Wilson

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

With the new and improved 2006 Mazda MX-5 Miata arriving this year, there is arguably little point in considering the outgoing 2005 Miata. But as Autos contributor Laurance Yap reported recently, the ’06 MX-5 is bigger and ‘less edgy’ than the current Miata. And for enthusiasts, the lightning quick reflexes and greater horsepower and torque of the turbocharged 2005 Mazdaspeed Miata may prove more attractive than the new Miata’s roomier cabin and more refined driving character.

Mazdaspeed, as you probably know, is Mazda’s in-house performance tuning division. In addition to the Mazdaspeed Miata, they’ve also introduced the new Mazdaspeed6 and previously, the Mazdaspeed Protegé. Mazdaspeed models are built in limited numbers, and considering the additional equipment and performance offered, are a real bargain – especially as all the parts are covered under the Mazda basic 3 year warranty and 5 year powertrain warranty.

A 2005 Mazdaspeed Miata may be hard to find though, as Mazda is now producing 2006 models – but some dealers may still have them on their lots.

The 2005 Mazdaspeed Miata features a modified 1.8 litre twin cam 16 valve four cylinder engine with an IHI turbocharger, Denso tube-fin air-to-air intercooler and attractive red “wrinkle-finish” valve covers. Horsepower rises from 142 @ 7000 rpm to 178 @ 6000 rpm and torque from 125 @ 5000 rpm to 166 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm.

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

Note how the Mazdaspeed Miata not only develops more horsepower and torque than the non-turbocharged 2005 Miata but does so at lower engine rpms.

The 2005 Mazdaspeed Miata also develops more horsepower and torque than the 2006 non-turbocharged model. The 2006 Miata’s 2.0 litre engine develops 170 hp @ 6500 rpm (166 hp w/ AT) and 140 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm.

Unlike aftermarket kits, the Mazdaspeed’s turbo wasn’t just bolted on. To accommodate the engine’s extra power, Mazdaspeed engineers re-shaped the cylinder head and pistons, enlarged the cooling system, added stronger engine mounts, and re-tuned the exhaust system.

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

As well, they beefed up the standard 6-speed manual transmission, strengthened the clutch, drive-shaft and rear end, and added special Bilstein gas shock absorbers, bigger stabilizer bars, and revised springs for firmer handling and a lower ride height. Grippy Toyo Proxes 205/40R-17 inch performance tires and 17 x 7″ Racing Hart 5-spoke alloy wheels are standard.

Visually, the Mazdaspeed Miata can be distinguished by its darker tinted headlamps, lower front air dam with integral fog lamps, side sills, and trunk spoiler, and discreet Mazdaspeed logo on the tail. Inside, there is a unique black cloth interior with sport seats, leather wrapped steering wheel, shift knob and handbrake handle, standard Bose stereo, stainless steel pedals, and a Mazdaspeed logo on the door sill.

Driving impressions

For my 5′ 9″ frame, the MS Miata’s driving position is perfect, even though the seat is not height adjustable and the steering wheel doesn’t tilt (a tilt wheel is standard in the ’06 Miata). However, drivers over 6 feet tall will find the top of the windshield obstructs their forward vision. The only solution is to recline the seat and lie back so that you can see under the windshield header.

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

The MS Miata is an easy sports car to drive – like other Miatas, the standard 6-speed manual shifter has short, quick throws, and the clutch pedal effort is not too heavy. However, I had a problem with the position of Reverse gear which is over to the far right and down. When attempting to back up, I engaged 6th gear instead of Reverse a couple of times – and in one instance on the freeway, I attempted to shift from fourth to sixth and almost engaged Reverse!

By the way, an automatic transmission isn’t offered on the Mazdaspeed Miata.

The turbocharged 178 horsepower 1.8 litre four cylinder engine is considerably more responsive in the upper rev ranges than the standard non-turbocharged 142 horsepower powerplant – the turbo boost comes on about 3500 rpm. Then all heck breaks loose and the engine rushes to its redline of 6500 rpm. It happens so quickly in first or second gears, that it’s easy to go right past the redline – that is if it wasn’t for the electronic rev limiter, which I bumped up against on more than one occasion. The Mazdaspeed Miata accelerates from 0-100 km/h in about 7.1 seconds, or about a second faster than a standard Miata, however the MS Miata is much quicker during mid-range acceleration or highway passing because its sweet spot is between 3500 and 6000 rpm.

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

The standard engine-speed sensitive power steering requires little effort at parking lot speeds and its tight 10.4 metre (34.2 ft.) turning circle makes whipping in and around slower cars a breeze. At higher speeds, the steering is firm, responsive, and quick. In fact, it’s so quick that taking your eyes off the road to adjust the radio is enough time for the car to veer slightly from the intended course. You really have to keep your eyes on the road.

With its 52/48 front/rear weight distribution, and fully independent double wishbone suspension, the MS Miata is very balanced and controllable at speed. However, I found it bouncy on the freeway when the road is not perfectly flat. The gas-filled Bilstein shocks do a good job of damping up and down motions, but there’s not much suspension travel to work with.

I didn’t drive it in the rain or snow this time, but from past experience, I can tell you that wet roads require caution to prevent the rear end from sliding out in a corner, and snow covered roads absolutely require snow tires.

The four wheel disc brakes with ABS are fabulous, in part due to the car’s light curb weight – which is only slightly heavier than the non-turbocharged Miata by the way.

Here’s a tip: the low front air dam can easily be damaged by those concrete curbs you find in many parking lots – and the bill for repairing it isn’t cheap. I’m sure it’s not a conspiracy, but these concrete curbs are not all a consistent height and while you can clear some, you can’t clear others.

Interior impressions

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

The MS Miata’s cabin is snug, but that can be a good thing when you’re enjoying a twisty back road. The unique sport seats have integral head restraints and protruding side and thigh bolsters to keep you from sliding around. The seats are covered in a soft black cloth with ribbed bolsters – they look good, but they’re hard to keep clean. Apparently, leather seats are available in the U.S.A., but not in Canada.

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

The leather wrapped, three-spoke steering wheel has attractive red stitching, as does the leather shift knob and handbrake handle. The MS Miata also has attractive silver-coloured gauges, carbon-fibre-like trim around the silver coloured centre instrument panel, stainless steel pedals, and bright metal doorsills with Mazdaspeed logos.

A 225-watt 6-speaker Bose audio system with an in-dash 6-disc CD changer is standard, but a cassette is not included. The heater controls are straight-forward, although the ventilation choices are almost too small to see from the driver’s seat. Air conditioning is not included in the base price, but is available as a dealer installed option. The buttons for the power windows are in the centre console,

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

not the doors, and the driver’s window has an ‘automatic down’ feature. The wipers have a fixed intermittent setting – I would have liked to see a variable intermittent setting.

My main beef with the Miata’s interior is a lack of storage space. There is a small glovebox, a covered bin between the seats, a pocket on the back of the passenger seat, and a mesh pocket on the rear firewall, but it doesn’t add up to much. The trunk is wide but shallow – a temporary spare tire resides beneath the floor.

Convertible top

The MS Miata’s convertible top is easy to put up and down, but while you can flip it open from the driver’s seat, it’s difficult to close it from the driver’s seat.

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

To lower it, you first unlatch the two clips on the top of the windshield header, push up, and flip it over. But if you want to attach the tonneau cover – which keeps out the dirt and looks better – you have to get out of the car and attach it with the clips.

The convertible top includes a glass rear window with an electric defroster – much better than the clear plastic rear windows in earlier Miatas. However, the glass rear window is a little smaller, and does not zip out.

2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

There is an adjustable wind blocker behind the rear seats, but I couldn’t detect any major difference in wind buffeting at highway speeds.

During my week-long test-drive, I found that the best time of the day to put the top down is in the morning while it’s not too hot, on overcast days, or in the evening. Summer evenings are particularly pleasant because the hot Sun is not beating down on your head and you can enjoy those cooler evening breezes. On hot summer days, it’s actually nicer to leave the top up with both side windows down.

Safety features

The MS Miata includes driver and passenger airbags, and a key-lock to turn off the passenger airbag in a situation where a small child or a child seat is installed in the passenger seat.

Despite being a small, convertible sports car, the Miata has a good safety record. I’m sure that’s due in part to its ability to avoid collisions. In a 35 mph frontal crash test, the NHTSA gave the Miata four stars for the driver and five stars for the passenger. In a side collision, the Miata scored three stars. And its rollover rating is an excellent five stars. See for more details.


2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata
Click image to enlarge

A less tangible but still important benefit to the Mazdaspeed Miata is its reputation for reliability and quality. The Miata is consistently at the top of Consumer Reports list of reliable sports cars, and has a solid record of reliability since 1989. To put it simply, this is a very well built sports car. In the driver’s seat, you do get a sense of how tight and solid it is, and over the years it’s trouble-free nature is rewarding to the owner. I haven’t heard any reports that the turbocharged Mazdaspeed Miata is any different to the regular Miata.


A highly enjoyable, fun-to-drive sports car that’s not very practical but was never meant to be.

Technical Data: 2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5 Miata

Base price $34,395
Freight $1,195
A/C tax $100
Price as tested $35,690
Type 2-door, 2-passenger sports car
Layout longitudinal front engine/rear-wheeldrive
Engine 1.8 litre 4 cyl, turbocharged, DOHC, 16V
Horsepower 178 @ 6000
Torque 166 lb-ft @ 4500
Transmission 6-speed manual
Tires Toyo Proxes 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.)
Trunk capacity 144 litres (5.1 cu. ft.)
Fuel consumption City: 11.5 L/100 km (25 mpg) Imperial
  Hwy: 8.4 L/100 km (34 mpg) Imperial
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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