Review: BBR GTi Mazda MX-5 1.5 2018

Review: BBR GTi Mazda MX-5 1.5 2018

Graham Scott Autocar February 15, 2018

BBR has been tuning cars for a long time, but it’s also been tuning the Mazda MX-5 ever since the first car came out. In that time the company, based right by the Mercedes F1 HQ in Brackley, has become the go-to people for MX-5 tweakery, to the extent that they now sell about 100 turbo kits a year.

About half the kits go to America but BBR is helping the balance of payments further by exporting all over, recently to Taiwan and Bahrain. You know this is a kit with pedigree then. Although if you discounted the rather bold body graphics, there is virtually nothing to tell you this isn’t a stock car.

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Well, until you got going in it anyway. At that point you’d become very quickly aware that the standard 129bhp from the 1.5-litre four-pot has been somewhat augmented. The Stage 1 kit on our car instantly shoves that 129bhp up to 210bhp with a thumping jump in torque too, to 197lb ft.

BBR GTi Mazda MX-5 1.5 Stage 1 Turbocharged

Price: £4995 (kit, fitted)
Engine: 4cyls, 1496cc, petrol, turbo
Power: 210bhp at 7000rpm
Torque: 197lb ft at 4150rpm
Gearbox: 6-spd manual
Kerb weight: 1056kg
Top speed: 145mph (est)
0-60mph: 6.0sec (est)
Fuel economy: n/a CO2 n/a

he kit adds only about 6kg so the power-to-weight ratio just went pluperfect as Murray Walker wouldn’t have said. The neat thing is how civilised it all is. BBR only went the turbo route because they discovered that Mazda had done such a comprehensive job on the engine there simply wasn’t a lot else to be gained without looking at the induction. Something of a compliment to Mazda there.

BBR has done such a good job that there’s a gorgeously linear power delivery which still peaks at the same 7000rpm as the standard engine. This is still an engine that rewards being revved out, something of a joy in a small, light sports car.

The rest of the package seems similarly discrete and that is largely to be welcomed. However, without the 2.0-litre version’s limited slip diff and Bilstein dampers, even the uprated BBR suspension here struggled a bit on rough, cold, wet roads, such as the UK is blessed with for many months of the year. Traction could suffer as a result, limiting the amount of play you could indulge in to a small degree. 

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You’re going to pay £4995 for this Stage 1 kit and it comes with a three-year warranty from BBR. While that’s good, it might not persuade some new buyers more worried about their manufacturer’s warranty, but we’d certainly take this package, at £18,795, over the more expensive Abarth 124 Spider which is also based on the MX-5. For someone with a newish version of the MX-5 it’s hard to think of any other way you could so instantly improve your car so much and so professionally for under £5000.

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