The Mk2 MX-5 seems to have grown a stigma of being the unloved sibling of the Miata family. It has become the awkward middle child that no one really cares about. The problem seems to be that people conclude the NB wasn’t enough of an evolutionary step from the original Mk1, with the changes only seemingly being cosmetic. Having owned an NB for nearly a year now, I’ve decided that this myth has to be put to rest, with sound reasons as to why the Mk2 MX-5 is actually the one to buy.
MX5s have finally started to acquire classic car status, especially in Mk1 form. This brings with it the gradual appreciation in value that comes with cars of a certain vintage. Taking a look in the classifieds, you’ll see that Mk1s are now much more sought after than Mk2s, resulting in the former often being twice the price of the younger car.
I got my NB (seen above) for £900, simply because NAs were all upwards of £1500 and insurance was pricier seeing as it’s becoming a collectable. So bringing up the argument that the Mk1 and Mk2 are basically the same car, surely it makes sense to buy the cheaper of the two.
With the Mk2.5 facelift model, came variable valve timing in the 1.8-litre cars resulting in a healthy power output of 152bhp. This led to the NB achieving a relatively brisk 0-60mph time of 7.8 seconds (compared to 8.3 seconds in the NA) and a top speed of 130mph.
Modifications to the inlet manifold were also implemented along with a stronger camshaft and anti-lock brakes (as an option). So there were some genuine jumps in engineering between the NA and NB, all of which have helped make the Mazda MX-5 the spritely roadster it is today.
CT Head of Video Alex has gone to the effort of heavily modifying his Mk1 - the star of the show being the turbocharger. As you may know, the modification process however has made his car (Phil) rather worse for wear. What he should have done was buy an official factory-built turbocharged MX-5 like the Mazdaspeed NB MX-5 produced between 2004 and 2005. Manufactured by Mazda’s in-house performance division, this extreme NB was capable of 178bhp and featured Bilstein dampers along with wider tyres.
These turbocharged beasties could get from 0-60mph in just 6.2 seconds but unfortunately only 5000 cars made it out of Japan. They were built for the US and Canadian markets, with a few more sold in slightly detuned form to the Australians. Mazda should really have turbocharged the MX-5 from the beginning, but the Mk2 Mazdaspeed MX-5 showed the automotive community a morsel of the little roadster’s capabilities.
It’s well-documented that the Mk2 gained a few pounds from its predecessor, but in my opinion it was weight well-gained. The 1.6-litre NB came in at 1000kg compared to the NA’s 980kg, but with the additional mass came more power and a sleeker, more aerodynamic design.
Taking styling cues from the ND RX-7, the NB brought a curvier shape to the table that reduced the drag coefficient from 0.38 to 0.36. Weight gains came through the slight widening of the car’s track and the aforementioned stronger camshaft and manifold layout. But these modifications allowed power to rise to 140bhp in the pre-facelift 1.8 Mk2, roughly 10 more than the NA equivalent.
Although the MX-5 was very much built to mimic the British roadsters of the 1960s, when inserted into the modern infrastructure of motorways and dual-carriageways, they do start to struggle. Especially in five-speed form, sitting at 70mph in an MX-5 isn’t the most relaxing of experiences.
Thankfully, the NB trumped the NA in this aspect by introducing another gear to the transmission, smoothing the rasping twin-cam engine for distance driving. And seeing as the MX-5 sports one of the most rewarding gear shifts the automotive world has ever seen, who wouldn’t want one more shift at their disposal?
Younger metal will hypothetically mean there should be less rust in a Mk2, although both cars are plagued by rotting sills caused by blocked roof drainage passages. Studying online forums does show more rusty-silled Mk1s however, with Mk2s only needing a bit of patching up rather than full sill and arch replacements. Considering that rust repairs can cost many pennies if you can’t do it yourself, the money you save buying a Mk2 will only be further compounded by the less-corroded bodywork.
A younger car should also contain fewer roof leaks which are common in the older generations. This can lead to internal rotting within the cabin and a horrible smell of a damp interior. And considering the Mk1 was launched in 1989, certain NAs will have had plenty time to conjure up these costly repair jobs.
Are you convinced that the Mk2 may in fact be the better choice? Or has Phil cemented the Mk1 MX-5 in your heart? Comment below with your thoughts on these two epic little convertibles.