The joy of driving the Mazda MX-5 Miata has never been derived from a surfeit of power but instead from the car’s tactile steering and communicative chassis. That nuance is lost on some, however, and even though the fourth-generation Miata is the quickest ever, inevitably there have been calls for more power. For 2019, Mazda is answering those calls by giving the MX-5’s 2.0-liter inline-four a thorough overhaul. There are also a few new standard and optional features available, along with some different color and trim options—although Mazda assures the Miata faithful that the 2019 upgrades add only seven pounds to the waifish car’s curb weight.
The Skyactiv-G 2.0-liter inline-four remains the sole engine choice but gains 26 horsepower and 3 lb-ft of torque, for new totals of 181 ponies and 151 lb-ft. These come thanks to several key changes. A significantly higher redline of 7500 rpm (up from 6800 rpm) is a key contributor to the extra power, given that the full 181 horses don’t come onboard until 7000 rpm. Peak torque arrives lower in the rev range than before, at 4000 rather than 4600 rpm. Mechanical changes allowing for the greater revs include lighter pistons and connecting rods, higher-pressure fuel injectors, redesigned intake ports to improve combustion, and an exhaust cam profile providing increased valve-opening duration and lift. A new dual-mass flywheel promises increased response, and a new exhaust is said to improve sound quality. Miatas equipped with the automatic transmission get a slightly shorter final-drive ratio. There’s no word yet on how the engine upgrades affect fuel economy.
How much will this newfound power and gearing affect acceleration? We’ve achieved as quick as a 5.8-second zero-to-60-mph time in the current, 155-hp MX-5 softtop; doing the math on the updated figures, we predict the 2019 model will be able to shave that 60-mph time down to 5.5 seconds and the quarter-mile by a similar amount, to 14.1 seconds.
Visually, the 2019 MX-5 Miata won’t look much different, other than the new choice of a brown soft top (complementing the currently available black and red color options) and a fresh 17-inch black wheel design. Inside, there are some welcome updates, including a Miata-first telescoping steering column and a standard backup camera (to comply with current federal requirements). There are new active-safety features, too, which may not jibe with your idea of the Miata as a purist’s sports car, but they’re optional. Mazda also said that the doors are easier to open and that the cupholders and seat controls have been revised.
When it goes on sale this fall, the 2019 Mazda MX-5 Miata likely won’t cost much more than the current car’s $26,190 base price, although some sort of uptick is to be expected given the extra power. Mazda hasn’t released details on the 2019 Miata RF yet, but we assume that model will get the same upgrades as the soft top.