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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I got a good deal on a 2007 2.3L 5spd hatch fully loaded with 120k, 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 this mod shifted the powerband slightly, trading some low end power for more peak power. There is slightly less power from a stop and slightly more power after 3.5k. This comes with a good amount of induction noise as well- it took some getting used to around town, but I did love it on my mountain road trip. Overall not worth the money or time. I may 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 around town 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 and don't accelerate heavily when going through bad puddles), 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.

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
One of my biggest complaints with the Mazda3 is the drivers seat. The lack of thigh support (long legs) made it feel like I was sitting on a bar stool. To address this, first I replaced the old, hard leather with a cloth seat bottom from a Mazdaspeed3 for about $70 off eBay. This keeps me planted far back in the seat, rather than sliding forward and exasperating the problem. Next, I purchased washers to raise the front of the seat, so the cushion no longer feels like it is falling away from under my thighs, rather than supporting them. I replaced the front bolts with longer ones to account for washers and had to grind away some metal on the driver seat frame toward the rear, where it attaches near the center console.

It may not rival the 10th gen Civic Type R, Si, BRZ or Recaro's in the ND Miata, but I stay planted in the seat during spirited driving and I am much more comfortable during the daily commute. I am sitting 100% of the time I am in the car, so this may be one of the best mods I have done yet and cost under $80.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
I did the work to my seat in preparation for road trip along some of the best driving roads in the East. I took Skyline Drive to the Blue Ridge Parkway, to the Tail of the Dragon and then to the Cherohala Skyway. It was an amazing trip and the 3 handled it wonderfully. I think my 1.6L Miata would have felt underpowered climbing up some of the passes, but the 3 was a perfect match and all the mods really came together.

I may have slayed the dragon, along with countless mountain twists, but I found they had their revenge when I discovered my passenger motor mount to be leaking oil, a check engine light for an O2 sensor and then my review mirror melted off in the Southern heat! The Bank 1, Sensor 2 downstream O2 sensor was easily replaced with part# NTK 24446 and I used a rear view mirror adhesive kit (who knew these existed?). I researched different passenger motor mounts, but all they after market ones seemed to increase NVH beyond what I thought would be acceptable for a daily driver, so I went OEM Mazda and hope it holds up.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
In researching motor mounts I came across threads where people had used the rear motor mount from a Focus ST/ E-Focus as an upgrade to their Mazda 3. It is a harder rubber, so it doesn't have the same negative NVH as poly-mounts and keeps the transaxle from moving as much, allowing for more positive shift engagements. I chose to upgrade mine with a new OEM Ford mount and required bolt costing me $80. It was a very easy job (as was the passenger motor mount), shifts are much more positive and then only downside is a slight vibration in the cabin at idle.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Latest Mod: Hawk HPS 5.0 front pads, Hawk HPS rear pads & DOT 4 Fluid. The driver side front caliper got stuck and ruined the pads & rotor, so the fronts had to be changed. The last set of Power Stop rear pads from Rockauto never fit properly (pad rattled in caliper housing- customer service was great- they sent me a new brake kit, however same issue), so I changed them to Hawk brand to match. I should have went with Hawk from the beginning. More money than Rockauto, but better quality. Slightly more brake dust and just the smallest of squeals at low speed. Very happy with them. Huge shout out to Greg at Amco Motors in Philly who took care of the fronts for me after I limped the car there with a stuck caliper.
 

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Thank you for all the information, explanations and pictures. I am not a mechanic and can not do all of this but it is very helpful and informative information. Is the Hypertech Max Energy Sport Compact - Part #62003 , something I could use and install myself on my 2006 Mazda3 2.0L 5 speed sedan? Would it make my car a little more fun to drive? I have owned since new and still enjoy driving it as it is stock. I did just add a BLOX 1 lb shift knob last week and I really like the feel and looks. It may be a placebo effect, but I think it shifts better with the heavy weight knob.
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Nice! I just looked it up and the Hypertech tuner is only for 2.3L models and the Mazdaspeed. I noticed a difference with the small bump in weight of my heavier shift knob, so I'm sure with an even heavier knob comes greater leverage. Have you looked into swapping out your shifter bushings with aluminum ones? Much easier job than installing a short throw shifter and would really give you a more positive/less rubbery shift feel. Here is a link to one product, but I'm sure multiple companies make them and some people just buy washers from hardware store.
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Nice! I just looked it up and the Hypertech tuner is only for 2.3L models and the Mazdaspeed. I noticed a difference with the small bump in weight of my heavier shift knob, so I'm sure with an even heavier knob comes greater leverage. Have you looked into swapping out your shifter bushings with aluminum ones? Much easier job than installing a short throw shifter and would really give you a more positive/less rubbery shift feel. Here is a link to one product, but I'm sure multiple companies make them and some people just buy washers from hardware store.
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... Thank you. I will consider changing the shifter bushings out later. I was wanting to replace it this year for my retirement gift to myself but with the car market the way it is, I may be driving it another couple of years. I have certainly got my money's worth out of my Mazda3 and it has been very reliable.
 
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