What is it?
For a subset of car lovers, BBR GTi will be a familiar name. Performance-chasing owners of the R53 Mini and fans of celebrated Ford rockets such as the Sierra Cosworth will likely know of the place, which now sits in the literal shadow of Mercedes’ Brackley-based Formula 1 HQ. This is an outfit best known, however, for turbocharging a car normally praised for its free-spirited naturally aspirated engine: Mazda’s purer-than-pure MX-5.
BBR sells around 100 MX-5 turbo kits a year, almost half of which end up in America though there have also been recent dispatches to customers in places as far afield as Bahrain and Taiwan. The firm’s dealings with the big-selling Japanese roadster go back to the first-generation car, and the 1.5-litre model tested here represents its latest and arguably most finessed effort yet.
Despite figures that suggest this kit comprehensively remedies the somewhat lacklustre 129bhp shove of the standard car, aside from the natty decals you’d never know it was anything other than a garden-spec 1.5-litre MX-5. We like that. Even if you stood next to it at idle, you’d still be none the wiser.
In fact, it would only be when you attempted to keep this car’s backside in sight along a twisting B-road that the game would be up, because under the bonnet is a neatly installed Stage 1 turbocharger upgrade that yields 210bhp and 197lb ft. With a negligible six-kilogram weight penalty on top of the factory model’s 1050kg, the resulting power-to-weight ratio is roughly what you’d find in an Audi TTS Roadster.