I’ve wanted new wheels for my Mazda3 since I bought it nearly a year and a half ago, but other concerns had higher priority than dropping several hundred dollars on a mostly-cosmetic upgrade. Now it’s time to replace both my summer and winter tires and I’m hoping to demote the stock wheels to winter duty and finally upgrade to something else for summer duty.
Why I Want New Wheels
- Design: There are much more offensive wheels out there, but I have no love for the look of the stock wheels.
- Color: Silver car, silver wheels. No bueno. Plus, they’re not even the same silver! The silver paint on the wheels is marginally warmer than the silver paint on the body and the mismatch bugs me.
- Condition: The finish on the stock wheels is shot. There’s flaking around center cap, fading on the sides of the spokes, and nasty stains inside the wheels. They need to be stripped and re-coated or replaced.
- Weight: Depending on the source, the stock, 17x6.5" wheels weigh 19-22 lbs each. Given the aftermarket options out there, that’s not terrible, but I wouldn’t mind dropping to 15-18 lbs per wheel.
What I Want In New Wheels
- 17" diameter: The stock wheel size seems to be the best ride/handling compromise for this car. The difference in ride comfort between the 17" stock alloys and the 16" winter steelies is substantial enough that I have no interest in anything larger. The 16" wheels muddle the handling so much that I’m switching to 17" winters.
- 7-7.5" wide: The car doesn’t really lack lateral grip and I’m only putting down 160 hp / 150 lb-ft, so I don’t feel the need to stuff fatter tires under it. In fact, I’d like to stick with the stock tire size (205/50R17) to keep my speedometer/odometer accurate.
- Around +50 offset: I’d like to stay as close to stock offset (+52.5) as possible to preserve the stock clearances and scrub radius.
- Black, gunmetal, or dark grey gloss: The color needs to provide a contrast with the silver paint. However, I don’t want crazy colors (I’m looking at you, Sparco), satin or matte finishes, or multi-color wheels.
- 5-spoke-based design: The lug pattern is 5x114.3 and I want a matching number of spokes. 5, 10, 15, and 20 are good. 7, 9, 14, and 18 could be acceptable on the right wheel. 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 12, and 16 are my last choice.
- 15-18 lbs: Like I said before, I wouldn’t mind dropping a little weight.
The New Wheels I’m Considering
These are the options I’m currently weighing.
Enkei EKM3 Gunmetal 17x7 +45 (20 lbs)
Pros: Good fitment, beautiful design, best color.
Cons: Heavy, probably difficult to clean, BMW wannabes.
Kosei K5R Light Grey 17x7 +48 (15.4 lbs)
Pros: Great fitment, very light.
Cons: Kind of ugly, not dark enough, questionable durability.
Sparco Assetto Gara Black 17x7 +45 (17.5 lbs)
Pros: Better looking than the K5Rs, lighter than the EKM3s, good color.
Cons: Not as pretty as the EKM3s.
I really want the EKM3s, but I’m not sure I want to give up the weight savings for a prettier wheel. Then again, the difference between those and the Sparcos (the Koseis are just a little too homely to make the final cut) is only 10 lbs total, which is negligible. Maybe I should just lose 10 lbs and buy the Enkeis.
What would you do, fellow Opponaughts?