One of the oft-heard criticisms of Mazda’s fabulous Miata is that it lacks power. That’s a valid viewpoint, sure, but Mazda has slowly been addressing it, with the latest version putting out 151 ponies. Not bad for something that tips the scales at 2,300 lbs.
It could get even better though, and it has gotten better. Much better as a matter of fact.
The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata comes with a thoroughly tweaked powertrain with 17 percent more power and even greater fuel efficiency.
Yeah, yeah, I know, “The Miata is fun and all that, but the engine is weak.” I agree, but show me a gearhead that doesn’t want more power. Shoot, I’ve known vintage racers with 427 Cobras that complain about needing more top end.
Be all that as it may, Mazda, in their infinite wisdom, have not only boosted the current gen Miata’s power output, they have seriously gone through the engine itself, shaving weight, trimming reciprocating mass, paring down everything for greater efficiency and, like I said, more power.
Mazda took the current SKYACTIV-G 2.0-liter four-banger and upped it to 181 horsepower at 7,000 rpm and 151 lb-ft. of torque at 4,000 rpm, giving the little guy a nice, broad usable range of Three-Grand between those peaks. Sharp-eyed readers will note the new redline sits at 7,500 rpm, up from the previous 6,800 rpm. That’s a 17 percent gain on the outgoing model and, with 181 ponies on tap in a 2,300 lbs. car, this is going to be fun.
It also means the SCCA is going to have to re-jigger their performance charts, because this new Miata should be an outright terror on the AutoX circuit.
Like I said, a little extra power never hurts and on top of that, the Hiroshima company also improved response, performance, feel, and efficiency across the board. The Mazda boffins were able to increase performance via several cunning, yet basically old school, hot-rodder tricks.
For starters, they reduced the internal mass and friction. Each piston has dropped 27g in mass by the minimized skirt areas. The con-rods are 41g lighter than before, which is a lot actually. The exhaust has been seriously tweaked with the upgraded engine carrying increased valve opening angles and valve lift heights. The exhaust manifold has a larger inner diameter that results in a 30 percent reduction in pumping losses.
The combustion process has been improved via reconfigured intake ports with new high-diffusion, high-pressure injectors. This refined the tumble and swirl of fuel to better-atomize it in the cylinder to boost efficiency and torque at all revs. As an added bonus, the new exhaust system sounds richer.
There is now a dual-mass flywheel that replaces the older, single-mass flywheel with a low-inertia unit to improve smoothness and responsiveness. The final drive ratio is also tweaked, being increased from 3.454 to 3.583 in order to improve linear response. Gear ratios are otherwise unchanged from previous versions.
These are all tried and true engine builder tricks from the beginning of the automobile: cut down on the reciprocating mass, lower internal friction, modify the valves, lower the internal friction some more, get the bad air moving out the exhaust system faster, you know, all the greatest hits.
Cup Holders? Cause ‘Murica!
Besides the engine sharpening, the 2019 MX-5 introduces an available brown canvas soft top (why?), new black metallic 17-inch wheels, a new telescoping steering wheel with 42mm of travel (which is actually a big deal for drivers of a certain build), easier-to-open doors, and revised seat levers.
Hold on to your hats America, because Mazda has also revised the cup holders!
The safety gizmos have also gotten in on the act, as the new Miata comes with a standard rearview camera, Traffic Sign Recognition, and Smart City Brake Support. Throughout all of this, the beloved little lightweight sports car has gained just seven lbs. for 2019.
Whatever poundage the extra stuff added, Mazda was able to offset with clever ideas like an aluminum steering shaft replacing the previous steel unit. Mazda calls this the “Gram Strategy.”
Pricing & Availability
The 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata is available now. The MX-5 Sport starts at $25,730 with a manual transmission; $27,080 with an automatic. The Sport is only available as a soft top, however. The MX-5 Grand Touring, at the top of the range, starts at $31,855 for the soft top; $34,410 for the RF or “retractable fastback.”
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz