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Discussion Starter #1
I picked up a 2007 2.3L 5spd hatch fully loaded with 120k for under 3k, so I had some mod money to play around with. I tried to do everything on a budget and all the work was simple enough for a DIY mechanic to tackle. Here are my recommendations for those out there with new-to-them 3s in order of best to worst.

1. Mazdaspeed Performance Accessory Sport Shifter GRMS-8M-L11 $200. Vast improvement over stock shifter feel. Kept factory shifter height, shortened throws with a slight cant toward driver and has much more positive engagement/shifter feel. Install required some patience. There are knock offs on ebay for much cheaper that I can't vouch for. I tried to stay with factory Mazda parts. I paired this with redline MT-90 manual trans fluid (4quarts~$70) to get rid of any notchiness.

2. Hypertech Max Energy Sport Compact - Part #62003 $200 ebay (I've seen it as low as $300 new on Tire Rack).
Super easy to install and completely reversible. The biggest difference is in how it completely transforms throttle response. Makes rev matching down shifts so pleasing. The engine now sings to a boil and the added power is noticeable, though not what I was chasing. MPG increased a negligible amount- no loss with added performance is great.

3. Mazdaspeed 3 Rear Sway Bar- $50 shipped on ebay. Easy to install if you have access to lift and breaker bar/ air tools for 10year old end links. I paired it with new Mazdaspeed3 Febest end links for ~$20. RSB is about twice as stiff as stock 2.3L and gets rid of any understeer in normal daily driving duty. Those looking to track may want to get something even stronger, but this suits my needs and the price was right.

4. Mazdaspeed Aluminum Sport Pedals- $40 off part out. Clutch engagement point is difficult to feel in this car, nowhere comparable to Miata. The aluminum pedals get rid of the spongy rubbber ones from factory and add a little more feel. Added bling is nice.

5. Mazdaspeed Performance Accessory Cold Air Intake GRMS-8M-L30 - $150 Craigslist. This was my most disappointing mod and I didn't expect much from it. AEM manufactures it, yet doesn't list dyno gains for their 2004-09 2.3L CAI on web or provide figures over the phone (not confidence inspiring). Install was easy enough if you have room to work underneath car. I feel there is less power from a stop and slightly more power after 3.5k along with a lot more engine noise which is annoyingly disproportionate to the actual vehicle speed. Not worth the money or time. Eventually I will return it to stock with drop in K&N filter. Those looking to track may appreciate the gains higher in the RPM band, but for the most part I am either driving stop-and-go through the city or have cruise set on the highway. No drop in MPG, no issues with water and I've driven through awful downpours (I have factory underbelly tray installed), no CEL.

Overall, for the $750 spent, I feel the car is a good amount more responsive and fun to shift/drive daily. I test drove a 2018 hoping to fall in love, but it lacked the zoom-zoom nature I was searching for so I settled on buying used and haven't been let down. The only future mod I have planned is Konis when I catch them on sale. Happy motoring!
 

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Discussion Starter #4 (Edited)
Latest Improvements

I never liked the stock shift knob on my 5 speed 2007 2.3l Mazda 3. The hard touch plastic always looked and felt cheap. I purchased an OEM 5spd. NC2 Miata knob for its soft touch and textured feel off eBay for just under $50. When it arrived, I noticed it had a substantial heft to it, so I had the post office weigh both shift knobs. The original shift knob weighed in at 7.9oz and the one from a 2011 Miata weighed 10.5oz or ~ 33%(1/3rd) more. The weight combined with the texture make it a nice upgrade offering a smoother, robust and positive engagement shift feel!

Pics show Miata knob on left which is the same shape, but maybe 1/8" taller.
 

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This is great stuff. I really want an electric or alternate fuel vehicle for a daily driver (NOT a Tesla though); however, the speeds at which offerings are coming to market are not to my liking. I've been tempted to pick up another Gen II MZ3 to play with.

Did the upgraded sway bars make a difference? I love throwing mine into off-ramps and flyover ramps when the pavement is dry to see what it'll do. I wonder if a fatter sway bar and perhaps the addition of front & rear strut bars would have.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Sway bar

A rear sway bar definitely helps to eliminate understeer in a FWD car. The Mazdaspeed one I have is good for daily driving, but if you lived by a lot of winding backroads, mountains or hit the track I would go for a Racing Beat RSB. I had put a beefy Stillen RSB on my wife's 2007 Altima (stock one broke due to common manufacturing defect) and that car went from an understeering pig to singing its rear tires on highway ramps. My current one isn't that aggressive. A front sway bar wouldn't help balance the handling characteristics of most FWD cars. I average around 31mpg with my mods and a lot of highway driving with cruise set. I think the 2.3L is a nice compromise between MPG and power.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Strut Bars

I don't think strut bars would have too much of an effect on the Mazda 3. Owning a first gen Miata just prior to the 3, I was impressed with the structural rigidity from the factory. That was a pretty low bar to clear though, they have a good amount of chassis flex!
 

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A rear sway bar definitely helps to eliminate understeer in a FWD car. The Mazdaspeed one I have is good for daily driving, but if you lived by a lot of winding backroads, mountains or hit the track I would go for a Racing Beat RSB. I had put a beefy Stillen RSB on my wife's 2007 Altima (stock one broke due to common manufacturing defect) and that car went from an understeering pig to singing its rear tires on highway ramps. My current one isn't that aggressive. A front sway bar wouldn't help balance the handling characteristics of most FWD cars. I average around 31mpg with my mods and a lot of highway driving with cruise set. I think the 2.3L is a nice compromise between MPG and power.
As my vehicle racks up the miles, the mpg has been dropping slightly. I agree with your assessment that it strikes a good balance between mpg and power; however, a lot of (First Gen) people have upgraded from a blown 2.3L to a 2.5L with fantastic gains in power and a minor loss of mpg. My daily driving doesn't entail traversing back roads; however, were I more inclined to road trip a few times a year I can think of some places where the larger rear sway bar would make a difference.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Moog Stabilizer Bar Front End Links K80235

Last time I was under my car, I noticed a badly worn front end link with a torn boot. Shortly after, I was read an old article on GRM about a project car they were building and one of the first things they did was upgrade the front end links to increase steering response. So this upgrade was done with both normal wear/tear upkeep and performance in mind.

The top nuts zipped right off the old OE part with air gun. The bottom nuts were near impossible after 130k driven in all weather conditions. End links are always a challenge, these were much more so.

From the pictures you can see the Moog replacement parts are about 1/3rd thicker. A very premium product it seems and with a lube fitting too. Time will tell, but so far the steering response has improved along with my peace of mind!
 

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Hi,

I have a 2005 Mazda SP23. just did the VCTS removal and added an oil catch can. Throwing a rich idle code now and hesitation on acceleration.

This got 22 mpg before. How in the name of all that is holy are you getting 31 mpg?

Please share

Thanks,

Paul
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Hi Paul,

I don't think 31mpg is that unheard of on the highway judging from posts I have came across. It's about what the EPA estimate is too. Granted that was in the summer and fall months, 60 mph cruise control set on a highway commute with limited stoplights.In the winter it fell closer to 28. If your commute is mostly city and you have a heavy foot, I guess 22 could be a possibility. If I saw that in my car I would be concerned about my engine's health or losing my license?
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
I was due for an oil change, so I took the day to install new complete KYB front struts (SR4083 & SR4084) and their Gas-A-Just rear monotube shocks, considered to be a performance upgrade (KYB 551105) . I tied together the front struts with a new Whiteline strut tower brace, (part # SB633) that I got a great deal on. I figured might as well give it a shot. I also rotated and had the wheels balanced too! One disappointment was one of my axle boots tore open while I was moving the knuckle around to fit the new strut in, so I will have to take care of that.

Driving impressions after an hour in the car after maintenance: I think the front strut brace gives the car marginally better turn in response and pairs nicely with the front end links. With new shocks & struts, the car definitely feels more composed over bumps and has more hustle taking on-ramps. This was my first time buying complete struts over messing with spring compressors and it was worth it! I did think about going the Koni route (FSD or sport adjustable), but I have a Miata for that and knew I would never get my money back out of it, if I sell the 3 in the future.
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Discussion Starter #13
Approaching 140k, I thought it was time for new spark plugs, as the engine had started to run just a little rough at idle.The first spark plug out didn't look too bad. The two center ones were covered in oil.

In retrospect, I should have first cleaned them off, checked the torque of the valve cover gasket in the specified order, and check the plugs for oil again after a long drive (because the gasket I eventually removed didn't seem too old). However, I just jumped right in to replace the valve cover gasket with one I picked up from a nearby Mazda dealership. The job was a bit more of a pain than the couple I have done on Miatas, but nothing too difficult.

I followed the relearn idle procedure after connecting the battery. The engine pulls and idles great! I must be spending too much time driving the 1.6L Miata, because this car felt like a torque monster on my back-road shakedown.

Laser Iridium.JPG old v new spark plug.JPG Oil on spark plug.JPG IMG_8928.JPG Valve cover removed.JPG
 
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