By on April 19, 2017

2017 Mazda MX-5 Sport

Sometimes a manufacturer churns out a base model in which it might be more prudent to spend one’s extra cash on aftermarket upgrades and not a more expensive trim. Here’s a candidate.

Many songs of praise have been penned and much digital ink spilled of Mazda’s rear-wheel drive, two-seat roadster. From the original version in 1990 to the current fourth-gen model, Mazda has always managed to keep a lid on cost and weight, two things which generally spiral out of control in both successive iterations of a popular vehicle and my own personal lifestyle as I age.

A total of $5,150 separates the base MX-5 Sport from the top rung Grand Touring model. Is that sum of cash better spent on DIY upgrades? Or should buyers spring for the high-zoot MX-5? Let’s find out.

All iterations of the MX-5 deploy Mazda’s 155-horsepower 2.0-liter Skyactiv-G inline-four, so one’s extra cash is for naught down in the engine room. It’s a fantastic engine, somehow managing to be simultaneously efficient and fun. Armchair racers tend to cry for more powerrrrrr when yammering about the MX-5, but I think a bigger engine would simply upset what’s already a well-balanced 2,332-pound car.

One could make a case for the mid-range Club model, which offers 17-inch rubber and a front shock tower brace for a near $3,900 premium, but it would behoove shoppers to remember the vaunted Brembo/BBS package costs another $3,400 on top of the Club’s MSRP, leading to a $32,200 price tag. This makes opting for the base MX-5 an even tastier proposition, as the price difference grows to a not-insubstantial $7,285.

A brake kit from Flyin’ Miata runs about a grand, while a full Koni Stage 2 suspension package is less than $1,500. Even big-kit Brembo packages from Rev9, which deploy calipers from a Ferrari 360, are only about the same price as Mazda’s factory Brembo package. And, yes, I’m ignoring installation costs in those figures. You’re doing all this work yourself, right?

A sweet-shifting stick is standard and you should buy it; even considering an automatic-equipped MX-5 is tantamount to automotive treason. Leather covers the steering wheel and shifter knob in the base model, and the steering column adjusts for reach and rake. Air conditioning is on board for muggy days when the top stays up but the outside air feels like thick soup. The sole non-grayscale color on the MX-5 palette costs an annoying $300. Suck it up and get a black one. (Or get a white one because it’s 15-pounds lighter than the three-stage paint models. —Ed.)

Mazda is one of the few automakers that continues to refine and develop a rear-drive chassis for deployment on a single model. Nothing else in Mazda’s catalog shares it. Sure, its infotainment knobs are comfortably operated only by those with the arms of T-Rex, and its cup holders are directly astern of the driver’s elbow, but the driving experience more than makes up for any foibles. It is perfectly imperfect.

Would you buy a base Miata MX-5 and install a few aftermarket parts? Or would you sign the note on a $30,000+ model? My decision is clear. If there’s a better spend of $24,915 in a showroom today, I can’t think of it.

Not every base model has aced it. The ones which have? They help make the automotive landscape a lot better. Any others you can think of, B&B? Let us know in the comments. Naturally, feel free to eviscerate our selections.

The model above is shown in American dollars with American options and trim. As always, your dealer may sell for less.

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49 Comments on “Ace of Base: 2017 Mazda MX-5 Miata Sport...”


  • avatar
    Matt Foley

    Pretty sure the Club has limited-slip differential and the Sport does not. That’s the main reason I’d spring for the Club.

    • 0 avatar
      319583076

      Matt Foley’s paying attention. Matthew Guy isn’t.

    • 0 avatar
      jonnyanalog

      agreed. THE LSD is worth the extra coin.

      • 0 avatar
        Caboose

        Is it, though? If you’re not tracking the car, what does the LSD gain you in enjoyment?

        But fine, you want the LSD bragging rights for a car you might take to an AutoX weekend someday.

        Rev9 will sell you a Cusco LSD (arguably better than the stock LSD in the Club trim car) for $1,049.
        http://rev9autosport.com/cusco-type-mz-limited-slip-differential.html

        Wheels and Brakes? Me, I’d keep the Sport’s 16s, knowing I can still fit a nice big brake kit put together by GoodWinRacing for $550. (http://www.good-win-racing.com/Mazda-Performance-Part/61-1721.html) and still keep a nicer ride quality. That BBK from GoodWin is fully four pounds lighter per front corner than the stock brakes, and waaay lighter than the Brembos on the Club trim car.

        And so on, etc. In performance terms, you can do *everything* that’s on the Club w/ Brembo/BBS package aftermarket, with lighter and higher-quality bits, for less money total, from established, reputable sources, by starting with the Sport trim of the car.

        • 0 avatar
          ajla

          I think I’d still rather have the Club.

        • 0 avatar
          bumpy ii

          “If you’re not tracking the car, what does the LSD gain you in enjoyment?”

          LSDs are also useful in spirited street driving.

          • 0 avatar
            PrincipalDan

            I would also think that the LSD would be an advantage if you want to drive your Miata year round and have some tires that are good for more than summer driving.

            The posi-trac in my Oldsmobile certainly helped in Ohio winters.

          • 0 avatar
            TMA1

            What’s odd is that if you’re willing to cough up even more cash for the Grand Touring, Mazda takes the LSD away, as well as the Brembo option. But at least you get a few more colors to choose from (blue!) and even the possibility of an interior that’s not all-black.

    • 0 avatar
      rpn453

      I’d be tempted to upgrade to the Club for the LSD, but $3900 is a bit much.

      Caboose, I’m simply assuming that the Miata is capable of spinning its inside rear tire when making an aggressive turn in first from low speed or a stop. If it can’t, then I suppose the LSD is probably unnecessary for summer street use.

      What sort of LSD does the Club have? What sort LSD does Cusco offer? Both Mazda and Cusco seem to think that should be a secret. I’d prefer a Torsen-type. I suspect Quaife would also offer one.

      Regardless, I’d be inclined to go base, as I prefer more tire sidewall and I could always add the LSD if I ever got any inside rear wheel spin.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      You could still get there cheaper aftermarket.

      Goodwin racing’s 12.8″ brake package ranges from 1200-1500 based on caliper choice ($300 to install a bbk generally), clears stock wheels, and is better than Flyin Miata’s kit or the factory brembos because it gives you more rotor aka more heat capacity. A good LSD like a Cusco or Quaife will run you under $1400 installed as well.

      You could move to wider wheels/tires for less than $1400 (17×7.5 Enkeis with Hankook RS-4 at ~$325-350/corner), and a strut brace costs maybe $200 at most for something name brand. Add in the Koni package and you’re still ~$1500 under the price increase to the Club with Brembos for a provably more capable car in the braking and handling department.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    IMO the only reason a 2,300-pound car needs a brake kit is to make the calipers *smaller* to downsize (and therefore lighten) the wheels.

    QOTD: base Miata, or try to swing a deal on a lot-welded Fiat 124?

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      I was going to bring up the Fiata as well. It starts at only $80 more than the Miata, and it comes in brown. The colors inside and out are not as dour as the Miata, and on a fun, cheerful car, that’s actually important to me. Plus, Fiat is waiving a $500 rebate in my face, which actually makes it cheaper than the Miata.

      By the time you get up to the top trims, the Miata Grand Touring costs $1800 more than the Abarth, and that’s without the rebate on the Fiat.

      The biggest problem with the Fiat is that dealers only seem to be ordering automatics. There are only 3 manuals within 100 miles of DC, per Autotrader.

    • 0 avatar
      kvndoom

      I just did a quick Cargurus search, and there are some manual 124’s being sold around $4000 below sticker. Take it from Mulder- the deals are out there!

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      The Flyin Miata kit actually does that – It’s just Wilwood calipers. I’d prefer a larger pad though for more heat capacity. ‘m fighting the brake heat fight on track with my S2000 now, and the conclusion as much as I don’t want it to be is I need a BBK if I don’t want to be changing pads every weekend.

      Thankfully, the community found out a half measure with custom rotors and the Accord V6 caliper which means you don’t have to buy new wheels too.

  • avatar

    Based on the way that the packages are laid out, I think the most sensible option is to get the Sport model and then separately add options that you might want:

    The LSD is around $1200 from Mazda or you can get a Cusco for about $1500

    The major part of the Brembo/BBS package is the cost of the wheels so the calipers and pads can be purchased separately for about $1100

    Adding the OEM LSD and Brembos would put the total cost at $27,215 so you still have another $2,785 for wheels and tires before you hit the $30,000 mark.

    The folks that build the MX-5 Cup car had similar ideas and decided to offer many of these individual upgrades for street cars: http://www.longroadracing.com/ultimatemx5.html

    • 0 avatar
      brett_murphy

      Bozi,

      For track days or just driving enjoyment, I agree with you regarding building up a base model.

      However, if you want to run in certain autocross class, you can’t add the aftermarket bits. The LSD option in the club is worth it to people looking to race in those classes.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    FWIW, labor on the diff swap is around 4 hrs, and requires a subframe drop. LRR said they had it down to almost an hour.
    I wasn’t aware that they were selling the Brembos separately. It’s unknown if they fit under the OE 16 or 17″ wheels, but you’ll be changing those, right? Wilwood 4 pots fit under OE 16 and 17’s with spacers.

    A perk for some, bother for others: the Sport leaves out the huge dash infotainment screen and big shuttle knob that spoil the Club and GT, and of course the driving nannies that inexplicably adorn the GT. The Sport also does without the silly ‘sound enhancer’.

    The USA’s Clubs should have come with the Recaros to be worth the price bump. It’s not terribly easy to find a Club w/o the Brembo/BBS package, either.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    Hell I just wish I could fit in one. This was suppose to be my 55th birthday gift to myself (10 year old Miata) so that I can teach myself to drive a stick again.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    We owned a 2007 MX5 sport for a bit over two years, 2010-12. We sold it to a neighbor who used it for a daily driver and he loved it.

    We liked it too, but with my commute changing in August 2012, that car was murder on the highway. 3,500 rpms at 65 mph with only a 5-speed. It needed a sixth gear, and wish I had known more about the MX5s, because I would have gone up a trim model.

    On my almost 100-mile-a-day commute, it drove me crazy, so we made the decision to sell it. That reason and another was that although she drove a manual very well, she wore things only vaguely called “shoes” in the warmer months, and didn’t feel safe working the clutch, and apparently wearing different shoes to drive in never entered her mind or mine to suggest that.

    Currently, we’re toying with the idea of selling my Impala, since I’m retired and don’t need a highway runner to drive around town, and possible buying another convertible. The MX5 is near the top of the list, so time – and my eyes – will tell!

    • 0 avatar
      Driver8

      The NC 6 speed has closer ratios, but top gear is the same. IIRC the slushbox revved a few hundred lower in top.

      • 0 avatar
        Waterview

        Yep, Driver8 has it correct. I have a 2006 GT (w/six speed)and absolutely love the driving experience with the exception of highway speeds. Revving at 3,500 rpms at 65mph becomes a bit harsh, so we generally limit ourselves to country roads. Still love the driving experience and would encourage anyone who’s not driven one to give it a go.

      • 0 avatar
        carlisimo

        I’m surprised top gear is the same. In the NB there was a slight difference – I think the second-highest gears were the same in the 5- and 6-speed transmissions. I had a 6-speed so I got to enjoy the sound of 3800 rpm at 80 mph instead of the 5-speed’s 4200.

        Not that it mattered. Wind noise was the issue, top up or top down.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      The Sport now comes with a 6-speed standard.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      Shoes are overrated. In a Miata??? I’m no hardened he-man redneck, and I still prefer to barefoot manual Cummins Rams. Wearing shoes inside, is just not proper etiquette. Particularly on carpeted floors.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      That’s why I don’t commute in my S2000 but once a week when it’s nice, and I always take the back roads home when I do so I get to have some fun with it. It’s not worth the mileage on the car or the aggravation of riding the clutch down the entirety 295.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Love the Miata and I am certainly the guy who would buy a base model and save up for the upgrades I wanted.

    FYI it is amazing to think of 15 lbs of paint on a sub 3,000 lb car. I wonder what the paint weighs for a truly large vehicle with a complex paint process?

  • avatar
    LeMansteve

    “Mazda is one of the few automakers that continues to refine and develop a rear-drive chassis for deployment on a single model. Nothing else in Mazda’s catalog shares it.”

    Lucky they found a second outlet for the car – the Fiat 124. It is essentially a Miata with different badges. The gauges, steering wheel, switches and infotainment are all directly from Mazda. If you didn’t look at the Fiat badges inside the car, you wouldn’t know the difference.

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    I would be on the side that argues the base Miata is the most fun of all for use on public roads at legal or moderately extra-legal speeds. That includes sticking with standard brakes, no TSD and base, skinny tires.

    It’s much the same with motorcycles. Riding a Triumph Bonneville under the same conditions is a lot more fun than riding a full-on sport bike.

    Of course, with Miatas and motorcycles, if you’re going to track or autocross your mount, the higher-spec Miata and sport bike might be the better choice. As always, it’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.

    Those who clamor for more power in cars like the Miata or the Subaru BRZ are missing the point.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      LSDs can be “fun” even in underpowered cars.

      For all season driving OTOH, particularly in a light car, the slight improvement in slippery road straight line acceleration over contemporary brake based TC, is more than negated by the increased risk of a spin on snow, and the need to disengage the driveline much more often going downhill to let stability control have freer reign. It’s fun, but less generally safe and versatile.

  • avatar
    legacygt

    I was at the NY Auto Show last weekend. The Mazda display was right next to Porsche and diagonally across from a bunch of exotics. The Miata (granted it was the stunning RF) was essentially face-to-face with a Bugatti and a Lotus and it completely held its own. In fact it was getting more attention. The current design is striking and the RF may just look as good as anything on the road. And then there’s the drive. I’d agree with the base model. You can make the argument about spending the money saved on performance parts. But even if you don’t, there are cars that are more charming, the closer they are to base. The Miata is one of them. The Wrangler may be another. You can add a lot of stuff to these cars (some of it very good) as you move up to higher trim levels, but you can also have a blast with the base model.

    • 0 avatar
      LeMansteve

      At car shows, the ultra exotic cars like Bugatti are usually 100% off limits. Personally, I’m less likely to spend time looking at a car if it’s behind ropes. People want to make an emotional connection to the car, to touch it and sit in it.

  • avatar
    olddavid

    Way back in the last century, I came across the phenomenon of the racing Miata. Fifty hard-topped screaming racers, some with an extra weight in the passenger footwell, would tear around Portland International. This was when Paul Newman was coming with the team and Danica mania was in its infancy. The Miata racing was the most fun thing I watched on that weekend. They epitomized grassroots racing at its best. Is it still a good show?

  • avatar
    evader22

    I looked at one of these a few months ago; base model, manual and wanted to do a 3 year lease with nothing down. Mazda quoted me ~$600/month which was totally outrageous. The rationale they gave me for such a high lease was ‘it’s a special car with limited functionality’ aka not a CX-5.

    • 0 avatar
      ajla

      At that price you nearly could have just done a 36 month loan.

    • 0 avatar
      OldManPants

      “it’s a special car with limited functionality”

      Are they delivered on a special short car carrier?

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      What I’m reading on the Miata forums is that so far the ND’s depreciation has been abysmal. That could very well mean terrible residuals making for bad lease terms.

      The tuner guys are salivating over the fact that they can pick up 1-2 year-old models to modify at a significant discount. The biggest problem is that the weight-optimized transmission seems to have trouble swallowing double the stock horsepower like past models have been able to.

  • avatar
    stevelovescars

    I have no idea what Fiat is doing, the only dealer near me also seems to only get automatics, even in the 124 Abarths he has collecting dust on his lot.

    It’s almost as if they either a) WANT to fail or b) really still have no clue who their target customers are. Of any brands out there, I would have to imagine that the few people actually looking for a Fiat are also highly overlapping with the few people looking for manual transmissions. Or, perhaps my focus group of 1 is biased?

    When the Fiat 500s first came to the States a few years ago, FCA admitted that they miscalculated and overproduced automatics. Their early sales were something like 40% manuals and the automatics sat in inventory for a long time.

    With a $4k rebate, a base Fiat 124 looks awesome. Then again, the 1990 Miata I recently bought with 75k miles on it still looks and drives like new and has even fewer features than the new base model and it suits my needs just fine. Most importantly, even a base Miata (or an old Miata) will bring a smile to your face, LSD or not.

    • 0 avatar
      TMA1

      Like I mentioned above, there are only 3 manual-equipped 124’s within 100 miles of DC. Then I got curious and unchecked the manual box, and 2 pages worth of cars showed up. I really don’t know what those dealers are thinking with that kind of selection.

      • 0 avatar
        Steve Biro

        Here’s what they’re thinking, regardless of reality: “What, are you crazy? No one drives manuals. No one. You must be some kind if weirdo. Or Communist. Everyone wants an automatic. So just get with the program and buy what I have to sell.”

        • 0 avatar
          duffman13

          The probably data belies it if you look at manual take rates for other convertible sports/muscle cars like boxsters, mustangs, etc.

          The problem is the average Miata buyer probably doesn’t fit into a mold that can be predicted with data.

  • avatar

    If you’re competing in the SCCA you can’t run in Street class if you put aftermarket shocks and brakes on the car. You can run in Street class with the factory parts.

    • 0 avatar
      duffman13

      Some corrections:

      Street class allows for aftermarket shocks (seriously, some of the guys winning nationals have $10k Moton/Penkse/JRZ stuff) as long as you keep the stock springs.

      As for brakes, you can use any pad you want as long as it fits the stock caliper. The advantages of larger brakes are immaterial in autocross anyway – you’re not going fast or for long enough that heat capacity comes into play. it’s all about cold bite, which is a pad factor.

      The one thing that would be a factor on the sport is the lack of a limited slip differential though, as pointed out above.

  • avatar
    poor

    I bought one. white, stripped, thought i was going to do this and that to make it better.
    I haven’t done a darn thing to it. i drive the snot out of it as my daily driver.
    Why would I want to crap up a little convertible with options?
    Ace!

  • avatar
    Czilla9000

    I own a 2016 Mazda Miata Sport. It’s my only car and it’s great.

    Plus the Sport doesn’t have the stupid dorsal fin the other trims do (due to satellite radio)

  • avatar
    Higheriq

    As a previous owner of two Miatas, this article has a great deal of merit. I considered purchasing an ND, but the total cost of the upgrades which I would have wanted (wheels, suspension stiffening, upholstery, audio, and cloth rather than vinyl top) pushed the cost WAYYYY out of range of what I wanted to pay. There are PLENTY of low-mile NBs and NCs around which are better candidates for much less money.


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