What kind of tires does the Mazda MX-5 Miata need?
When referring people to a specific product like a tire, the answer is almost ways “it depends.” The Mazda Miata is not your average vehicle. Most car enthusiast decide on the Miata for a combination of beautiful styling and the Miata’s renowned cornering ability. Sure, the Miata does accelerate quickly, though not as quickly as some muscle cars. Mazda Miata owners are a unique bunch and often have unique needs.
In some parts of the country, a Mazda Miata can be an everyday driver. Keeping in mind that the Miata is available only in rear-wheel drive, the vehicle is unlikely to be driven where snow and cold make front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, or four-wheel drive more useful for a few cold months in the year.
Miata owners tend to focus more on the spring and summer because that’s when the power of the engine really shows, and when the Miata will get the best traction with a good set of tires. Drivers of the Miata also say that the vehicle drives a bit like a powerful go-kart- literally meaning that it’s quite fun to drive, and the Miata’s near-perfect balance outweighs its lack of significant muscle. You can read more about why people like the Miata here.
How do we test which Miata tires are best?
Now that we are done gushing about what the Miata can do, let’s talk about what matters for a tire.
In the context of selecting the best tires for the Mazda Miata, we most heavily weigh the wet and dry performance. We also consider how long the tire is supposed to last in addition to the comfort of the ride in the tire. People don’t buy sports cars for a bumpy ride, so comfort is also important for Miata owners.
Best Summer Performance Tire for the Mazda MX-5 Miata:
Michelin Pilot Super Sport
Price: $207 per tire
Dry Performance: 9.5/10
Wet Performance: 9/10
The Super Sport is designed for track racing and endurance. Michelin gave the Pilot Super Sport their Variable Contact Patch 2.0 and a Twaron belt to help the tire last longer under the stress of high speed cornering and movement. Paired with Michelin’s use of multiple compounds, that deliver great braking on dry surfaces and rubbers that work best in wet conditions near the center of the tread, the Michelin Pilot Super Sports dominates the Performance Tire category for the Miata.
Users and test with the Pilot Super Sport rated the dry steering and traction at 9.5 out of 10, which is the highest in the category. The same tire is particularly well balanced with a 9 while driving on wet surfaces, so you’ll feel more comfortable driving your Miata when the conditions get a bit rainy.
The only category in which the Pilot Super Sport didn’t outshine all competitors is with tread wear. At 8.1 out of 10, treadwear is about in the middle of the category.
For many Miata drivers, comfort is also important. The Super Sport leads again with a very solid 8.8/10 for comfort.
The Super Sport earns our #1 overall pick because the tire manages to balance wet and dry performance with decent tread life. Drivers rave about the Super Sports' ability to make the most of the Miata’s cornering abilities, so it’s definitely a tire that enhances the vehicle itself.
There are a couple of downsides with the Pilot Super Sport is the price. At $207 per tire depending on the size, it’s the most expensive tire available on TireRack for the category, but it also leads the pack in nearly all categories. TireRack tests also say that even with a high comfort level, the Super Sport makes you feel bigger bumps a bit more than we would like.
Speaking of the Pirelli P Zero.
Best Value Max Performance Summer Tire:
Pirelli P Zero Nero GT
Dry Performance: 9.2
We added a value tire here because you should know about this tire. Hiding in the shadow of the rather high performance Michelin Pilot Super Sport another great tire that offers serious performance for your dollar when driving in a dry climate with occasional rain. The oddly rhymed Pirelli P Zero Nero is a great choice if you want to save about $50 per tire over the Super Sport and get just a little less performance while having those tires last a bit longer.
Seriously, the Pirelli P Zero Nero has better treadwear than the Michelin Pilot Super Sport while the dry and wet performance lags just a little, but still remains a nice high of 9.2 and 8.7 respectively.
What’s the difference in treadwear? Pirelli’s use of a silica compound molded wide and asymmetrically to balance the best possible handling while causing the least wear under road stress. Additional durability comes from the installation of twin steel belts and nylon that distributes pressure across the tire and leads to slower, more even wear.
Drivers with the Pirelli Zero Nero GT compliment the long lasting treads in addition to their relatively low amount of noise for the price, which shows up with a good rating in the comfort category. Who wants to have to turn the radio up or have a loud conversation because the tires are too busy humming? Not us. You get the right kind of acoustic performance with both the Pilot Super Sport and Pirelli.
Best Ultra High Performance All Season Tire:
Continental ExtremeContact DWS 06
Dry Performance: 9.3
Wet Performance: 9.3
The category has changed a bit here to include tires that work in all weather instead of just the relatively warm and dry days of summer. Your expectations should change a little regarding an all season tire, though the Continental ExtremeContact DWS 06 lives up to them.
Continental earns a very solid 9.3 in wet performance thanks in part to the +Silance tread compounds, which helps the Continental’s tire rubbers grip corners in the rain. Their SportsPlus technology widens the tire's shoulders for enhanced response in poor conditions while X-sipes move water and slush aside to provide a confident grip in light snow. You’ll feel SportsPlus working well when taking tight, confident corners without risk of clipping the curb or that squeal that tells others the car is pushing the tires too hard.
Better yet, the Continental achieves a best in class treadwear and comfort rating, giving these ExtremeContacts great value - you won’t have to worry about wearing them out too quickly, and they are quiet and comfortable.
We do have to admit that the Pilot Sport All Season 4 gets slightly higher marks in dry performance, but the value lies in the wet performance for a rear wheel drive sports car. The Pilot Sport All Season also adds a few extra dollars without upping snow performance.
While not every Miata driver is going to encounter snow, the Continential ExtremeContact is a great pick if you won’t frequently see the white stuff, or you really want to drive your convertible year round.
Best Ultra High Performance All Season Value:
Sumitomo HTR A/S P03
Dry Performance: 9.3
Wet Performance: 8.9
It’s easy to get lost in the same category as the Continental ExtremeContact. People invested in a Miata also tend to go for the best price, in part by price, to get the most out of their vehicle. The Sumitomo HTR A/S gets close to rivaling the ExtremeContact for about $40 less per tire. With slightly less wet performance and comfort, the Sumitomo still provides a cushy ride and admirable winter and wet handling for an all season.
The Sumitomo provides good cornering ability with their asymmetric tread pattern that maintains shape and integrity under pressure, which means you’ll have a nice, predictable, smooth feel whether you are pulling into a parking spot or driving through the mountains.
Wet performance shines with what Sumitomo calls “Miura-Oro” sipes that flow water to the outer ribs of the tire to improve braking and handling in wet conditions.
With Sumitomo, you don’t get much less for the price. A Miata owner who would rather spend their money elsewhere while still getting that “Zoom Zoom” feeling from their Mazda should take a closer look.
Best Summer Only Extreme Performance Tire:
Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08R
Dry Performance: 9.0
Wet Performance: 7.9
We actually had a hard time choosing here between Yokohama ADVAN and a close competitor, Dunlop Dizerra ZIII. The tires have similar ratings, but the Yokohama edges out the Dunlop in a couple important areas: Dunlop gets a 7.2 on wet surfaces and is a little more comfy. Dunlop outdoes Yokohama on dry surfaces, but costs about $50 per tire.
Yokohama’s better wet performance comes from the use of carbon and silica in their compounds. They even use the remnants of orange oil instead of petro oil used in many tires, both for it’s ability to grip wet, but its environmental impact is smaller. For a tire designed for extreme performance on a hot day, Yokohama seems to know that sometimes rain or wet are unpredictable, and added HydroArc channels to their shoulders to more efficiently push water away.
Pretty simple, Yokohama provides the best in class balance of actual dry performance with thoughtful designs that help drivers after an unexpected rain or as the last of the snow is melting. The treadwear adds more value as Yokohama readily leads the class in treadwear, which certainly helps you keep your mind off when you’ll need to buy new tires again to keep your Miata attached to the road like it was designed to.
Best Grand Touring All Season:
General AltiMAX RT43
Dry Performance: 8.8
Wet Performance: 8.5
We were also deciding between this General AltiMax and a rival tire in the Kumho Majesty 9 Solus TA91. The big difference is that the AltiMax offers a significant upgrade in snow and winter handling. These are indeed all season tires, so the buyer might expect to handle potentially inclement weather once in a while - and might want to make the Miata their every day driver.
The Kumho actually outperforms the General in every category but snow and winter, making it a very strong alternative. The biggest physical improvement on the General’s tire is Anti-Slip Sipe design - a long word for having extra, and deep lines in their tread meant to bite through water and light snow and get the tires to pavement.
If you are in no danger or experiencing snow or winter weather, the Kumho offers slightly better dry performance and comfort. A person who wants to take their Miata traveling frequently and might exit their home climate might be better with the AltiMax’s performance.
For the particular category, you can split hairs between the AltiMax and Kumho. Think about how you drive and where you live, then decide.
Best Ultra High Performance Summer Tire:
Firestone Firehawk Indy 500
Price: $142 per tire
Dry Performance: 9.3
What is a ultra high performance summer tire? Well, based on the name Indy 500, you might guess that the tire handles well in wet and dry conditions, and makes the Miata feel as flexible as engineered. The lack of a snow performance rating should also tell you not try to drive in the snow - and not because your Miata is rear wheel drive, but because these tires are low profile and not meant to dig into snow and ice.
Precautions aside, these tires grip. The wide shoulder blocks enable spirited cornering while keeping your low roading Miata comfortable - even with a rating of 8.6, which is pretty good for a tire of this price. The Firehawk Indo 500 also stops well in wet conditions with aptly included Pulse Groove Technology that ejects water through dual channel pathways and let your rubber find the road instead of water.
Reviewers praised the grip on the Firestone Firehawks as able to handle all that the Miata can offer, which is saying alot about the tire. Better yet, the Firehawk has a good treadwear for a tire attached to a vehicle known for taking dreamy, fast corners. You won’t need to change them as frequently as an Indy pit crew.
Frequently Asked Questions about Mazda Miata Tires
Can I put larger sized tires on the back of my Miata?
You’ve seen some drivers put slightly larger - like one inch differences, tires on the rear wheels of vehicles. To be honest, this concept generally applies to drag race vehicles that need extra traction in the back to make the rear wheel drivetrain grip better under explosive acceleration. The shorter front tires have the potential to help steer the vehicle faster, when needed.
You could put two different sized tires on the Miata, but we wouldn’t suggest it. The Miata isn’t a drag race car, and is thankfully already quite well balance for the purpose of handling, so unless you are doing it for looks, or to raise the rear slightly, we would stick to one size.
Also, larger tire sizes cost more money, so there’s that.
Why does my Miata have different tire sizes based on trim?
This is a really good question, and probably what you were wondering when you clicked on a link above and were promptly asked for the year, make, model, and trim of your vehicle. Different tire sizes based on the trim occur for a couple of reasons:
- Engine differences. Some engines can output more power, and need a tire with more road contact to keep the vehicle as stable as possible. Note that this does not apply to recent Miatas, which have the same 2.0 liter 4-cylinder engine
- Appearance and height. An inch or two can make a difference in both how well the driver can see, and what the car looks like. Some people prefer a slightly taller car. In the case of the Miata, the vehicle is relatively short, even compared to other convertibles and some like the slightly higher look.
Do I need winter tires for my Miata?
While we reviewed some tires that are capable of driving in light snow, we can’t say we would suggest getting winter tires for the Miata, or trying to drive it in heavy snow. The Miata is renowned for its handling on wet and dry surfaces, but there aren’t many rear wheel drive convertibles we would trust in serious ice and snow.
What tires does the Mazda Miata come with?
Referring to the most recent generation of Miata starting in 2015, the Miata comes with Bridgestone Potenza S001 tires. The Bridgestone model is considered a Max Performance Summer tire.
You might be wondering why this tire didn’t make our list of top tires to pick from. The answer is that the treadwear and comfort performance isn’t all that competitive with the tires we tried and reviewed. The tire market is also very competitive, and we only chose a handful of tires to feature. The Bridgestone tires will still make your Miata perform like the small sports car the way Mazda engineered.
About The Author
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding