Mazda MX-5 With Honda F20C Motor Is a Legit S2000 Rival Now

More power, more better—or something like that.

byLewin Day|
Builds photo
YouTube/Lgr Prototipi Per Passione

The Mazda MX-5, nee Miata, has always been beloved for its exquisite handling and poise. It's never been particularly celebrated for its engines, which have mostly been regarded as "good enough." One enterprising owner decided to rectify this with a heart transplant from a mighty Honda instead.

The build comes to us from Engine Swap Depot. The creation of Ludovico Gonella does away with the NC MX-5's underwhelming engine and replaces it with a 2.0-liter F20C, the high-output engine made famous in the Honda S2000. Even better, it's been upgraded with a valve kit, better injectors, and a stainless steel exhaust. Output was 234 horsepower from the factory, but Gonella's upgrades have likely added a few extra ponies to the total.

Supporting mods for the swap include a larger radiator and a custom driveshaft to marry the S2000's six-speed transmission with the Mazda rear end. The car also scored Tein coilovers and a set of 17-inch Skoda WRC wheels. With all that extra power on tap, Gonella wanted a brake upgrade too, which came in the form of Brembo four-piston calipers and stout rotors at all four corners. It's also kitted out for track work with Sparco seats, five-point harnesses, an eight-point roll cage, and a massive wing on the back.

The Honda F20C was celebrated at launch for its incredible power density, putting out 123 horsepower per liter in JDM trim. It's also adored for its high-revving character, though sometimes noted for a lack of low-down torque.

Despite this, it's actually a relatively rare swap candidate. The newer Honda K20 and K24 engines are more readily available and can make similar power with less hassle than the F20. Plus, they love boost, with reports of motors on stock internals making around 600 horsepower with the right mods.

Barring the latest MX-5s and some rare turbo models, the MX-5 has always been lacking in the power department. It's always great to see the brilliant chassis get a boost from forced induction or an all-out engine swap. It's a surefire way to turn the fun dial up to eleven.

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