It’s been a couple months since I wrote about my Mazda2. I’ve installed a new set of wheels, slightly lowered the car, and put quite a few miles on the car since then. I’m now over 6000mi (~9600km), and the car’s holding up pretty well. After over 3000 miles on stiffened suspension and two long-distance roadtrips, the interior is still clean and quiet. At a similar mileage, my last car, a 2009 Honda Civic Si sedan, had quite a few annoying rattles, and lots of permanent, ugly scuffs and scratches on the cheap plastic. I’m pleased with Mazda’s build quality so far. I’ve only had a few issues. There’s a slow leak in one of the tires or wheels, which means I have to top it off every week or so, and I really need to get it looked at. I also still haven’t managed to get the alignment perfectly straight, and the leaking tire doesn’t help. Hopefully once the leak is dealt with, I can straighten the alignment out.
I recently changed the car’s oil for the first time, and the difference was surprisingly noticeable. The engine is more responsive, and more importantly, more efficient. I’ve been averaging 30MPG in my usual daily driving, which mostly consists of short trips on roads with lots of traffic lights, and on a recent long freeway drive I calculated 37MPG, which is pretty great.
The wheels are a set of 15×7 C1Ms from TRMotorsport, Tire Rack’s house brand, and are actually intended for Spec Miata race cars. They have an agressive offset (for FWD) of +30, and it was a bit of a gamble whether they’d look good on the car or not. I’m pleased with the results, though. Any lower of an offset and they’d stick out, too much higher and they’d be “sunken”. I also considered 949 Racing’s 6UL wheels in the same size, but they’re more expensive and availability is very limited. They look great on the car, though, and have been featured on quite a few Mazda2 projects, including Mazda USA’s own demo car. The one downside of the lower offset is that it widens the car’s track, which makes the steering a tiny bit less responsive. Supposedly some alignment tweaks can improve that a lot, and I’m going to try setting the toe to 0 next time the car’s in the alignment shop.
With a set of springs from Racing Beat, the car finally looks “right”. From the factory, it looked like an off-road vehicle. Now it looks like a sporty hatchback should, not too high but not obviously lowered. The drop is less than an inch, and the springs are only 20% stiffer, so it’s not a huge change. It rides more like a factory performance car now, a bit stiffer but still totally livable as a daily driver. I was able to drive my car, with the springs, back-to-back with a friend’s stock Mazda2 on a mountain road, and the improvements are immediately obvious. There’s still a decent amount of body roll, but steering response is much sharper and there’s a general sense of vagueness in the stock car that’s gone with the springs. There’s also much more road feedback through the wheel and pedals.
I also installed a stainless steel shift knob from Garage Star, a locally-based shop that specializes in Miatas and AE86s. It’s not much of a performance upgrade, but makes the car feel a little bit more special to drive.
The top priority for the car is now tires. The stock ones were sort of fun with the stock suspension, but are totally overwhelmed by the stiffer springs. I’m torn between going all-out for performance with a set of Dunlop Star Specs, or saving some money and getting more life out of the tires with something like Yokohama S.Drives or Dunlop Direzzas. There’s still a body roll issue, so a front sway bar and a rear torsion stiffener are next. I’d like to wake up the performance a little, and get a bit more sound out of the car, so an intake and maybe an axleback exhaust would be nice as well. There’s finally some ECU tuning going on, as well, and one well-known autocrosser has raised his redline from 6250 all the way to 7200. I’ve felt like this engine is capable of performing at higher RPMs, so I’ll be keeping an eye on development. I’d like to tune my car the same way, if it proves to be reliable over time.