Five-Point Inspection: 2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

In 2004 Mazda did something truly special. It took the already highly praised MX-5 Miata roadster and improved upon it in nearly every possible way.

Known as the Mazdaspeed MX-5, the two-year run was a short send-off to the second generation Miata known to fans by its chassis code: the NB.

In reality though, it was more of a send-off to the initial Miata concept and platform that had been in production since 1990. With the 2006 model year, things would change dramatically for Mazda’s two-seat sports car when it would gain size, weight and comfort.

SEE ALSO: Ten Lessons From Driving An MX-5 Across America

But, for two short years before this new model arrived, Mazda may well have created the ultimate MX-5 Miata. A vehicle that may never be topped no matter how long the MX-5’s run lasts.

As an unashamed Miata super fan, I was ecstatic to get the chance to drive this legendary Mazda at the recent unveiling of the upcoming 2016 MX-5. But I must admit, I did have a bit of trepidation as well. They say never drive your heroes because it only leads to disappointment. Would the Mazdaspeed MX-5 be a letdown? Or would it prove to truly be the ultimate Miata?

At the heart of the Mazdaspeed conversion is a turbocharged 1.8-liter four-cylinder engine. Making 178 hp and 166 lb-ft. of torque, power was up 36 hp and 41 lb-ft. over regular MX-5s of the same year. Like the naturally aspirated engine found in those cars, power delivery is top-end heavy. There isn’t much oomph at low RPM, but turbo boost comes to life and propels the Mazdaspeed forward with urgency once the revs pass 3,000 RPM.

The larger engine in the NC (2006-2015) MX-5 feels torqueier down low than the Mazdaspeed, but cannot match it on top-end power. Use the close ratio six-speed manual properly to keep the turbo 1.8-liter in its power band and the car really comes alive. Plus, the spooling turbocharger soundtrack is a nice addition.

Steering in the Mazdaspeed MX-5 is sensational. Not only is it direct and precise, but weighted nicely as well. It’s not too heavy, not too soft, just the perfect blend of effort and feedback. Response is instantaneous. A mere flick of the wheel is all it takes and the MX-5 changing directions without drama.

Handling has received a similar upgrade. Thanks to Bilstein shocks, beefier springs, wider tires and thicker anti-roll bars, no stock car I have driven communicates to me better than the Mazdaspeed MX-5. Top down, low to the ground and feeling completely in control of the car at all times, the Mazdaspeed feels like an overgrown go kart or watered-down race car. The joy behind the wheel is endless

The second generation “NB” MX-5 Miata had a stiffer body structure than the first generation “NA” MX-5 Miata. But with a stiffer suspension like what you find in the Mazdaspeed, chassis shutter, shake and flex are more prevalent. Mazda added a strut tower brace up front to compensate the negative side effects as well as other measures.

SEE ALSO: 2016 Mazda MX-5 Revealed With Dramatic New Look

It all adds up to make the Mazdaspeed feel as solid as regular MX-5s of the same era. It’s not quite as strong as the third-generation “NC” MX-5, but it’s still less prone to flex than earlier cars.

Besides being arguably the best performing, most fun to drive MX-5 in history, the Mazdaspeed edition is also one of the best looking. With a subtle skirt package, low profile rear spoiler, polished exhaust tips and five-spoke 17-inch rims, the Mazdaspeed MX-5 looks aggressive while remaining tasteful. True MX-5 fans can spot one of these rare roadsters from a mile away.

In 2005, the Mazdaspeed MX-5 commanded a small premium of less than $1,000 over a similarly equipped non-turbo MX-5. A value then, the car is less so now compared to other MX-5s as low production numbers combined with high demand from Miata enthusiasts has kept resale value high for the Mazdaspeed.

For a 10-year-old car, it still feels as good as anything sold today in the budget sports car segment. Update the interior and it could hold its own in the under $30,000 performance car shootout we just performed. To me, it makes all other Miatas feel inadequate and less impressive; yes, even the legendary 1990 NA MX-5.

Discuss this story on our Mazdaspeed MX-5 forum

GALLERY: 2005 Mazdaspeed MX-5

Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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