What is it?
In 2012 Jota, whose work includes preparing MX-5 race cars, revealed its Mazda MX-5 GT concept.
It was designed to be a high-performance MX-5 that retained the car’s core virtues of affordability and capable handling. With Mazda’s approval,
it’s now available to customers
and sold independently as the Jota Mazda MX-5 GT, with a warranty and dealer support.
It’s based on the MX-5 Roadster Coupé 2.0i Sport Tech, so it features a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine and a six-speed manual gearbox that drives the rear wheels through a limited-slip differential. The primary changes that Jota carries out include uprating the suspension, remapping the engine and fitting a sports exhaust system.
Jota claims that its modifications to the Mazda's engine boosts its output to 203bhp and 160lb ft,
a gain of 45bhp and 21lb ft over the standard MX-5. This is reputed to bring the 0-60mph time down by more than a second, compared to the standard car, to 6.4sec.
What's it like?
As with many tuned naturally aspirated engines, the vast majority of that power feels to be available in only the upper echelons of the rev range. Drive the Jota in a standard way and, barring the extra noise, you’d be hard pushed to notice a vast difference.
If you pin the throttle open past 4000rpm in the lower gears, though, the Jota wakes up and pulls more aggressively than the standard car. It feels quicker, too, thanks to the slightly firmer ride and louder exhaust. Fortunately the MX-5's delightfully short and precise gear shift action is retained, so dropping a few gears to bring the engine speed up when necessary is a quick and easy task.
Downsides to the additional performance are few, barring its relative inaccessibility in general driving. The Mazda's average 36.2mpg economy remains reputedly unchanged, and the rest of the powertrain is more than up to dealing with the additional output.
The only real criticism would be that of the exhaust. It admittedly gives the MX-5 with some much-needed aural zest, but if you've the roof up it resonates uncomfortably in the cabin at idle.
Jota's uprated suspension is admirable, for it manages that tricky act of improving handling without crippling the ride quality. Truth be told, the Jota rides better than a conventional MX-5 but benefits from reduced roll in corners and a less skittish feel over rough roads.
Otherwise, the Mazda drives much the same - precise and responsive steering, decent brakes, adequate refinement and a necessity to get it over 60mph before it starts feeling interesting.
Inside, the real difference is the addition of heavily bolstered leather Recaro seats, which offer much greater lateral support than the regular items. Besides being more comfortable, they also lend you a more confident and reassured feel in corners. Standard kit is unchanged and includes air-con, heated seats, Bluetooth and cruise control.
Jota's exterior modifications also do a lot to lift the MX-5's visual appeal. Standard Jotas include a carbonfibre rear diffuser (which is claimed to improve aerodynamic performance, although to a probably negligible extent on the road), a centre-exit exhaust, anthracite alloy wheels and a contrasting black roof; the net result makes the MX-5 look a lot more purposeful and interesting.
For an additional cost, customers can also add a carbonfibre rear boot lip spoiler and a carbonfibre front splitter.
Should I buy one?
The real problem with the Jota is its price. At £29,995 it costs thousands more than a Toyota GT86, a Nissan 370Z or an entry-level BMW Z4.
Potential buyers could also consider more evocative and charismatic used alternatives like the Porsche Boxster, a clean 2010 example of which could be bought for around £25k.
Jota's MX-5 is also not different enough to justify its premium. Many would be just as satisfied with the £23k car on which it is based, or a cheaper aftermarket solution.
Those wanting a more individual, capable, interesting and warranted new MX-5 may find a lot to like here, however.
Jota Mazda MX-5 GT
Price £29,995; 0-60mph 6.4sec; Top speed 140mph; Economy 36.2mpg (combined); CO2 181g/km; Kerb weight 1248kg; Engine 4 cyls, 1999cc, petrol; Power 203bhp at 7000rpm; Torque 160lb ft at 5200rpm; Gearbox 6-speed manual