Upon landing in Portland for a summer vacation, I was welcomed with a Mazda MX-5 ND equipped with every goody CorkSport offers — lowering springs, sway bars, intake, exhaust, and a short shifter to top it off.
Whenever I’ve driven a modified car in the past, I generally regretted driving it on the street due to the harsh nature of the car. This was not the case with the tastily modified ND. After driving it for about a week on the streets of Vancouver and highways in Portland, I got a feel for how each piece affected the car’s ride and overall driving experience.
First impression: holy torque! I hadn’t driven the Mazda MX-5 ND in a while and forgot how zippy it feels around town. This is purely the stock nature of the car, as the tune is stock while the intake and exhaust offer minimal gains down low. I do love the sound the exhaust gives; it’s throaty and doesn’t drone, except for a small window of rpm, but not for a constant period of time.
By far the most noticeable part was the short shifter. From the factory, shifting almost felt artificial with how light and numb the shift knob was during shifts. The short shifter connects the knob to the transmission and provides not only shorter throws, but also better mechanical feel. In my opinion, the shift feel on the ND was the best of the bunch due to its ability to make quick and accurate shifts. This now surpasses that with ease. Each shift gives you an engaging feeling so you know you are in the correct gear.
The addition of lowering springs on the stock struts combined with the sway bar made the car more nimble without adding any harshness. The original non-club edition suspension felt a bit spongey and lazy to respond. While it provided great ride quality, you are looking to put your hands on the road in a Miata to feel each pebble and peace of asphalt. The added springs and sway bars gave the car amazing feel and responsiveness, and firmed up the ride without making it anywhere near bone-jarring. With the original strut valving, the increased spring rate gave the car support while maintaining forgiving damping. This is how the non-club edition should come from the factory.
The only thing I didn’t like about CorkSport’s modifications was the slight drone of the exhaust. To be fair, they do list the cat-back exhaust on their webpage as follows: “The exhaust is loud. If you think you are unsure that this might be too loud, then this is not the exhaust for you.” However, the sound it produced by far surpassed the downfall of the drone, which isn’t bad to begin with. Most impressive was the shifter. It sounds funny, but it gave me the connection to the car that was lacking with the stock one. That said, the first things I would buy are the lowering springs and sways bars, with the short shifter soon after.
Kenton Koch is a young racing professional from Glendora, CA with a 72% win record and a focus on Mazda models.