The last time we drove an MX-5, there were only two things we’d have changed to the brilliant roadster: faster steering and a bit more oomph. Now, Kent-based motorsport outfit Jota is offering a stiffened up, more potent version for what could be the best MX-5 yet.
Who is Jota?
Jota is a British motorsport outfit that’s been campaigning in sports car and GT racing for more than a decade. The company has competed with Nissans, Porsches and run Zyteks in the US and Europe; it won the GT4 category at the 2010 Spa 24 hours, and last year came third in the European Le Mans Series. It also campaigned the giant-killing Mazda MX-5 GT4 in 2012, which inspired a wicked up, turbocharged GT prototype for the road. That screamer has brought us to this car: The Jota Mazda MX-5 GT.
What has Jota done to it?
Based on the MX-5 Roadster Coupe 2.0 Sport Tech, Jota has given the regular version the shot in the arm it needs. Outside, you can see the sinister black treatment – the 17in alloys, black headlamps and carbon add-ons, such as that massive rear diffuser – is tastefully done and the roadster looks a treat on the lowered Ohlins suspension.
The steering’s also been recalibrated, and the standard car’s naturally aspirated 158bhp 2.0-litre upgraded to 203bhp even if this road version doesn’t get a turbocharged engine, unlike the GT concept of 2012 that inspired it.
What’s it like to drive, then?
Brilliant. Slide into the Recaro leather seats, which are part of the package, and you might miss the Jota plaque stationed between them and completely ignore the Jota-logo floors mats. What really matters is the driving experience: turn the 2.0-litre four-cylinder over, and there’s a delicious burble rumbling through the twin exhausts that poke out of the middle of the MX-5’s carbon diffuser. It’s a strong, confident timbre and is the first sign that this car is a little special, because otherwise, the interior is standard-issue stock MX-5. There’s nothing wrong with that, though: the snug, low driving position (which could still be improved with more steering adjustment), standard three-spoke steering wheel, stubby gear lever and drilled pedals.
Slot the gear lever into first, pop the clutch and mash the throttle, and the Jota unleashes its punch backed by that superb exhaust note. It’s not missing anything by ditching the GT concept’s turbo: you can feel the extra power instantly, which helps the Jota reach 60mph in 6.4sec – 1.5sec ahead of the standard MX-5 – yet still have exquisite balance and poise.
And that’s the clincher: the changes that Jota’s made haven’t ruined the MX-5 recipe. Instead, the power delivery is smooth, strong yet not neck-snapping or brutal, perfectly in tune with the steering, which is much meatier and communicative. The ride, too, is firm, but not spine-crushing either. You’ll feel every nuance through the chassis, then, which calls for a little more steering input than usual, but it’s an excellent balance between sports car composure and cabin comfort.
The Jota MX-5 is a superb car: it’s not an instant winner when you look at what else is on offer though. Factors against it are the MX-5’s age, as well as rear-wheel driven rivals for similar (and less) money such as the BMW M135i and Toyota GT-86.
Yet it offers open-top motoring like no other, and does address the main areas where the standard Mazda version could be sharper: throttle response and even more precise steering. For this, it’s brilliant.