The Guide to Mazda Miata NA Coilovers. The NA Miata isn’t exactly known for its speed, with only 114hp-133hp. At slightly more than 2,100 pounds, it is known for its agile quickness and track-worthy handling. While bolt-on performance mods will never make the Miata “fast” in a straight line, focusing on suspension and handling mods can make the NA Miata fast around a track or fun to drive on the street.
Suspension and coilovers are two of the best performance mods for the NA Miata. Coilovers not only add some visual appeal by providing adjustable height drops, but they also improve handling and cornering by lowering the center of gravity and stiffening the suspension. This guide will cover the advantages of NA Miata coilover upgrades, spring rates, and selecting the right set of coilovers, as well as some of our favorite coilover setups for various goals.
Basics of NA Miata Coilovers: Coilovers vs. Springs vs. Struts
Suspension upgrades can be perplexing, with options ranging from shocks to struts to lowering springs to coilovers. Before we tell you to upgrade to coilovers on your NA Miata, it’s important to understand the various suspension upgrade options.
Shocks and coil springs are the two primary components. Shocks, also known as shock absorbers, are hydraulic components that dampen impacts on the suspension and aid in suspension rebound movements. Coil springs support the weight of the car and influence body roll when cornering.
Struts are similar to shocks, but the coil spring in struts is actually seated on the shock absorber. The NA Miata’s stock suspension is a traditional coil spring on shock setup known as struts. Some vehicles employ a unique design in which the shock absorber and coil spring are separate components.
Coilovers are similar to struts in that they have adjustable ride heights. The position of the coil spring on the shock can be adjusted to control the ride height of the NA Miata. While the stock NA Miata struts are technically the same design as coilovers, they do not offer ride height adjustment, which is why they are called struts rather than coilovers.
NA Miata Coilovers vs. Lowering Springs
Lowering springs are a good option if you just want a little more drop and stiffer suspension. Lowering springs are simply coil springs that replace the stock coil springs and can be used with stock or aftermarket shocks to provide a slight drop. Lowering springs differ from coilovers in that they do not adjust ride height or dampening.
We generally recommend a full coilover setup because it provides better handling performance and control, as well as adjustability in case you need to change wheel setups or ride height. Spring rates, which we will discuss later, are one of the most important aspects of coilovers and lowering springs.
If you want to “build” your own coilovers, simply combine an aftermarket set of shocks and lowering springs. Spec Miata racing suspension, for example, is simply race-spec shocks with Eibach race-spec lowering springs.
The Advantages of NA Miata Coilovers
Coilover sets range in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. While all coilovers have the same advantages, some have more adjustability than others. Picking the right set of coilovers is about finding the right match between budget, desired ride height, handling goals, and overall use of your Miata.
The following are some of the advantages of Miata coilovers:
- Adjustable ride height and lower ride height
- Improved cornering and handling performance
- A more comfortable ride
- Excellent replacement for worn or old stock suspension.
Coilovers can provide drops ranging from 1′′ to 4′′+ if you want stance. The adjustable height is ideal for fine-tuning your stance with different wheel setups, rolled or pulled fenders, and so on. Simply installing springs limits your wheel configuration options.
Coilovers are the best upgrade option for better handling and track-level performance. When considering brands for this, we must consider spring rates, dampening, adjustability, and other factors, which we will discuss further below.
Coilovers do not always result in a worse or stiffer ride. Yes, if you are looking for maximum performance, this is the case. A proper coilover setup, on the other hand, can actually make for a more comfortable ride. This is especially true if your shocks and springs are old. Because coilover kits for the NA Miata are so inexpensive, we always recommend upgrading to aftermarket coilovers rather than replacing with OEM components.
Rates for Miata Coilover Springs
Spring rates are important because the springs support the weight of the vehicle. They are measured in the amount of pounds (lbs) required to compress the spring by 1 inch. A spring rate of 400lbs/in, for example, means that it takes 400lbs of force to compress the spring 1′′.
The stiffer the spring, the higher the spring rate. Stiffer does not always imply better handling, particularly when driving on rough or bumpy roads. However, for racing purposes, this is usually the case. This is why Spec Miata spring rates in the front are around 700lbs/in. However, spring rates this aggressive would be brutal on city streets, which is why spec miata suspension should only be used on a spec or dedicated track car.
The stiffer or higher the spring rate required depends on how low you drop your ride. Using a spring rate that is too soft with an aggressive drop can cause the car to bottom out because the softer springs cause more body bounce.
Overall, the lower you want to go, the higher the spring rate. You don’t need aggressive 700lbs/in rates unless you’re building a track-only car that will be brutal on the streets otherwise.
Coilover Upgrades for NA Miatas
Choosing the right coilover is entirely dependent on your objectives. Do you want stance, street, or track performance? Is your spending limit $500 or $2,000?
There isn’t much reason to spend more than $500 unless you’re building a spec miata or a dedicated track miata, in our opinion. NA Miatas are inexpensive vehicles, and even the entry-level coilovers provide enough performance benefits over the stock suspension to eliminate the need for anything else. If you intend to race, spend the $2k on a spec miata setup but save the rest.
These are our favorite coilover setups at various price points and “tiers”.
1) Raceland NA Miata Coilovers
Tier: Basic street performance or stance
Lowering: 1-3″ for Classic, and 2-4″ for Ultimo
When it comes to price, performance, and lowering capabilities, Raceland’s coilovers provide the best bang for the buck for the NA Miata. These aren’t going to be track weapons, but they’re a great budget street setup and the best option for stance. Raceland has a great price on these and excellent customer service, making them our favorite manufacturer of entry level coilovers for the NA.
Raceland offers two models: the Classic, which has a 1-3′′ drop, and the Ultimo, which has a 2-4′′ drop. To compensate for the lower ride height, the Ultimos have stiffer spring rates, making them slightly less comfortable for daily driving. However, if you intend to drop lower than 2 inches, we recommend the Ultimo’s because you’ll need the extra stiffness to avoid scraping.
We recommend the Classics for everyday driving performance and comfort. Get the Ultimos if you want a drop and stance. Unless you’re going for stance, you shouldn’t need to drop more than 2 inches. We also recommend replacing your strut mounts if they are older than 50,000 miles.
Finally, if you track your car, these are worthwhile. The added adjustability is fantastic, but it comes at a price that is roughly twice as high, so we wouldn’t recommend them unless you require the extra features.
2) Tien Flex Z, BC Racing, Skunk 2, & KW Coilovers
Tier: High-end street or occasional track
Lowering: approx. 1-3″
Once you break into the thousand dollar mark you unlock some additional adjustability. The Raceland coilovers above come with pre-set shock dampening that is set to best match the spring rates and provide a balance between comfort and performance. All of these options offer adjustable dampening which means you can soften or stiffen the dampening rates on the shocks. This makes these ideal for people who occasionally track their car but also drive it on the streets as the stiffness of the suspension can be adjusted for each occasion.
Most of these brands also give you the ability to choose your springs and spring rates so that you can customize your setup based on the type of tracking you do, the frequency, etc. However, these coilovers don’t tend to go as low as the Raceland Ultimo’s since most track cars aren’t looking for drops in excess of an inch and maybe some change.
Ultimately, these are worth it if you ever track your car. The added adjustability is great but comes at a price point that is about 2x higher which is why we wouldn’t recommend them unless you need the added features.
3) Suspension Ohlins / Spec Miata
Dedicated track, Tier
lowering: approximately 0-2′′
The final tier to go over is dedicated track setups. First and foremost, if you’re racing Spec, you’ll need the NA Spec Miata suspension, which includes Eibach race spec springs and Penske or Bilstein spec shocks. These packages also include upgraded sway bars. Spec miata suspension is not the same as coilovers because it does not have adjustable lowering or dampening.
Ohlins is our preferred brand if you don’t race spec miata but do race in other classes or autocross. They both provide more dampening adjustability and height control, allowing you to fine-tune your suspension for different racing situations. We’ll keep this brief because these coilovers are intended for true track enthusiasts and will not be suitable for the majority of our readers.
Summary of NA Miata Coilovers
Overall, coilovers are one of the best suspension upgrades you can make on your NA Miata. They will provide better handling, control, cornering, and overall performance without sacrificing too much driveability.
The lower you go, the higher your spring rates will be. If you intend to do both street and track racing, we recommend a setup in the mid-tier price range with adjustable dampening. The Raceland coilovers are the best option for 98% of our readers because they provide the most bang for your buck and the most flexibility in drop rates.