Modding the Daily Driver, Part I: Intro and Wheels


Tribulations abound when you have a race car that’s starting to be a pain in the tush.  Engine parts for this vehicle is seemingly impossible to find, however long and far you trawl at the automotive parts locales near you.

The Holy Qur’an verse in chapter 94 verse 5 is translated as “…verily, with every difficulty, there is relief.” For Project Elantra, we are hopeful that its situation is close to that point. In the meantime, your not very humble writer has realized something. You can spend oodles of effort and moolah on your scrappy old race car, but even when it does run, you’ll barely drive the thing.

While you may drive the race car maybe a few weekends a year at most, you drive your daily driver, well, everyday! I spend a good chunk of my day – and I mean hours – behind the wheel of our 2011 Kia Carens. And it is all thanks to the thing called Metro Manila traffic.

So I thought, if there is a jalopy worth sprucing up a tad, it’s the daily.

Kia Carens concept sketch. Please let us know who is this attributable to. Thanks
Kia Carens concept sketch. Please let us know who is this attributable to. Thanks

The Daily Driver

The car is a 2011 Kia Carens. Known as the Rondo in other markets, this multi-purpose vehicle is an example of the second generation released worldwide.

We acquired the car only because at the time, it was the only car under a million pesos that had a six-speed manual gearbox and a CRDi engine. I thought then that I would be driving something sportier like a Chevrolet Cruze or a Ford Focus, but I ended up with a family mobile. Three years on though, I’m glad we got the Carens.

This Korean Innova is more car-like than what it seems. Drive it in the cratered surface of C6 and its suspension soaks them up like a chamois to a spill. Its multi-link rear suspension is more akin to those found in executive sedans, and quite unlike the live axles you see behind those typical people-carrying conveyances.

It’s spacious inside. It seats seven in three rows rather comfortably. The best seats in the house are those on the second row in five-seater mode. The legroom rivals those of stretched luxury saloons. It has air-con vents dedicated to the passengers seated herein. The ride is comfortable and serene. With this in mind, who needs an S-class?

It’s plenty quick in public roads, gets 9km/l in city driving, sips cheap diesel fuel, carries a lot of cargo, has an airbag and ABS. And it was so affordable when we bought it. Could you ask for anything more from a daily driver?



Well yeah. We want to snazzy up the car’s looks department a little bit, and improve the driving experience somewhat while in traffic. Performance mods are last in priority. We don’t intend to race the car. (But of course, we did sashay it around in a slalom race once.)

First off, wheels. Truth be told, we acquired this set of Vesta Eins Kahn 5’s for our Project Elantra. Since that thing is sans engine right now, we thought of trying it on the Daily.

The Vestas are 17×8 on the fronts and 17×9 for the rears, all with offset +43. The wheels will theoretically bolt onto both the Elantra and the Carens as they have a 4×114/5×114 PCD pattern.

We gummed in a set of GT Radial SX2 tires with 215/45R17 at the front and a meaty 245/40R17 on the rears. The SX2’s are intermediate racing tires that are known for having a long tread life despite being sticky. Torture tested in local endurance races, most recently at the 8 na Oras ng Pilipinas, the SX2 impressed the racers by its longevity. Only one set was needed to last the eight hours on track. It also maintains grip on wet condtions, something that cannot be said for other gumball tires in the market.

Our major niggle with the tires is that they emit a bit more road noise as compared to the Federal Formoza FD2 tires on the stock 15″ rims. While comparing the two is more like comparing apples-to-oranges, it makes us realize that the SX2 is better suited to an application that does not require much civility. Plus, the 215/45’s are not as tall as the stock 205/65R15 sizing, thus there became an ugly fender gap that we wanted to correct very badly.

The Carens has a generous wheel well area, and so accomodated the wheels quite well. The 17×9 pairs for the rear required a 5mm spacer to clear the shock absorbers. We found the fronts to be quite inboard in relation to the edge of the upper fender. A 5mm wheel spacer did not push the wheels as far out as what we wanted.

While we love the faux three-piece look of our Vestas and the high grip levels of the SX2s, both the wheels and tires will see more duty on Project Elantra. We have another set of wheels that have the perfect offset for the Daily. We sure hope to make a way for them to bolt on.  And, we have also evaluated a few models of tires that are both available in the sizes we want for it. When we have money for new rubber, we’ll write about it, so stay tuned.

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