The NA Miata isn’t necessarily known for its speed producing only 114hp-133hp. However, at just over 2,100lbs. it is known for its agile quickness and track-worthy handling. While bolt-on performance mods aren’t ever going to make the Miata “fast” in a straight-line, focusing on suspension and handling mods can certainly make the NA Miata fast around a track or fun on the streets.
One of the best performance mods for the NA Miata is suspension, and furthermore, coilovers. Not only do coilovers add some appearance appeal by offering adjustable height drops, they also improve handling and cornering by lowering the cars center of gravity and stiffening the suspension. This guide is going to focus on the benefits of NA Miata coilover upgrades, springs rates and choosing the right set of coilovers, and provide some of our favorite coilover setups for various goals.
NA Miata Coilover Basics: Coilovers vs. Springs vs. Struts
Suspension upgrades can get a bit confusing when you see 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 we differentiate between all of the different suspension upgrade options.
The two main components are shocks and coil springs. Shocks, or shock absorbers, are hydraulic components that dampen impacts on the suspension and help the suspension rebound movements. Coil springs hold the weight of the car and affect body roll when cornering.
Struts are also shocks, but the difference between shocks and struts is that struts actually have the coil spring seated onto the shock absorber. NA Miata’s stock suspension uses a traditional coil spring on shock setup, called struts. Some cars use a different setup where the shock absorber and the coil spring are actually separate.
Coilovers are the same as struts except they offer adjustable ride heights. The coil spring’s location on the shock can be moved up and down to control NA Miata ride height. While the stock NA Miata struts are technically the same design as coilovers, they do not offer the ride height adjustability which is why they are called struts and not coilovers.
NA Miata Coilovers vs. Lowering Springs
If you’re simply looking for a bit of a drop and a bit stiffer suspension then lowering springs might be on your mind. Lowering springs are simply coil springs that replace the stock coil springs and can be used with the stock shocks or aftermarket shocks and provide a slight drop. The difference between lowering springs and coilovers is that lowering springs aren’t ride-height adjustable and they don’t offer any dampening adjustability either.
We generally recommend a full coilover setup as it offers better handling performance and control and provides adjustability in case you need to adjust wheel setups or want to change the ride height. One of the most important factors with coilovers and lowering springs is spring rates, which we will touch on later.
If you want to “build” your own coilovers you can simply get an aftermarket set of shocks and lowering springs and combine them. For example, Spec Miata racing suspension is simply race-spec shocks with Eibach race spec lowering springs.
Benefits of NA Miata Coilovers
Coilover sets run from a few hundred bucks to a few thousand. While coilovers all have the same benefits, some offer 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.
Benefits of Miata coilovers include:
- Lower ride height and ride height adjustability
- Better handling and cornering performance
- Smoother ride
- Great replacement to old or worn stock suspension
If you want stance, coilovers can provide drops ranging from 1″ to 4″+. The height adjustability is great for fine tuning your stance with different wheel setups, rolled or pulled fenders, etc. Simply dropping on springs limits your wheel setup options.
If you’re looking for better handling and track-level performance, coilovers are the best upgrade option. When considering brands for this we need to take into consideration spring rates, dampening, adjustability, etc. which we will cover on down below.
Coilovers don’t necessarily result in a worse or stiffer ride quality. If you are searching for maximum performance then yes this is the case. However, a proper coilover setup can actually make for a more comfortable ride. This is especially true if you are running on old shocks and springs. With the price point of coilover kits for the NA Miata we always recommend upgrading to aftermarket coilovers rather than replacing with OEM components.
Miata Coilover Spring Rates
Spring rates are important since the springs hold the weight of the car. They are measured in the amount of pounds (lbs) required to compress the spring by 1 inch. For example, a spring rate of 400lbs/in means it requires 400lbs of force to compress the spring 1″.
The higher the spring rate the stiffer the spring is. Stiffer doesn’t necessarily mean better handling, especially when driving on rough or bumpy roads. However, for track purposes it is generally the case. This is why Spec Miata spring rates are about 700lbs/in in the front. However, spring rates this aggressive would be brutal on city streets which is why you should only run spec miata suspension on a spec or dedicated track car.
The lower you drop your ride the stiffer or higher spring rate you need. Going with too soft of a spring rate with an aggressive drop can cause the car to bottom out as the softer springs will cause more body bounce.
Overall, the lower you want to go the higher the spring rate you should get. You don’t need aggressive 700lbs/in rates unless you are building a track-only car as it will otherwise be brutal on the streets.
Best NA Miata Coilover Upgrades
Choosing the right coilover really depends on your goals. Are you looking for stance, street, or track performance? Is your budget $500 or $2,000?
In our opinion, unless you are building a spec miata or a dedicated track miata then there isn’t much reason to be spending above the $500 mark. NA Miata’s are inexpensive cars and even the entry level coilovers offer enough performance benefits over the stock suspension for you to not need anything more. If you do race, spend the $2k on a spec miata setup but otherwise save the money.
These are our favorite coilover setups at various price points and “tiers”.
1) NA Miata Raceland Coilovers
Raceland’s coilovers offer the best bang-for-the-buck for the NA Miata when considering price, performance, and lowering capabilities. These aren’t going to weapons on the track but they are a fantastic budget street setup and also the best option for stance. Raceland offers these at a great price and their customer service is next level which makes them our favorite manufacturer of entry level coilovers for the NA.
Raceland offers two options, the Classic’s which offer a 1-3″ inch drop or the Ultimo which have a 2-4″ drop. The Ultimo’s have stiffer spring rates to accommodate for the lower ride height which does make them slightly less comfortable for daily driving. However, if you plan on dropping any lower than 2″ we recommend the Ultimo’s as you’ll need the extra stiffness to prevent any scraping.
If you’re looking for daily driving performance and comfort, we recommend the Classic’s. If you are looking for drop and stance, get the Ultimo’s. You shouldn’t need to drop more than 2″ unless you are going for stance anyways. Also, we recommend upgrading your strut mounts as well if they are older than 50,000 miles.
2) Tein Flex Z / BC Racing / Skunk2 / KW V1
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) Ohlins / Spec Miata Suspension
Tier: Dedicated track
Lowering: approx. 0-2″
The last tier to discuss is dedicated track setups. First of all, if you are racing Spec then you need to get the NA Spec Miata suspension which is Eibach race spec springs and Penske or Bilstein spec shocks. These kits also include some upgraded sway bars. Spec miata suspension isn’t technically the same as coilovers as they do not offer adjustable lowering or adjustable dampening.
If you aren’t racing spec miata but you do race in other classes or autocross, then Ohlins is our preferred brands. They both offer more dampening adjustability and height control allowing you to fine tune your suspension for various racing needs. We’re going to keep this short since these coilovers are for the true track enthusiasts and not going to be suitable for most of our readers.
NA Miata Coilovers Summary
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. Additionally, they are required for stanced setups as lowering springs won’t do the job.
The lower you go the higher the spring rates you need. If you plan on doing a combination of street and track racing then we recommend a setup in the mid-tier price range that allows for adjustable dampening. Ohlins and Spec suspension should be reserved for track-only NA’s. For 98% of readers here the best option for you is going to be the Raceland coilovers as it offers the best bang-for-the-buck and the most flexibility in drop rates.