Ahhh my first car. So much to say about this great vehicle that really should not be said. As I look back at my much younger self I finally realize why 16 year old kids should not be given cars, even relatively slow ones.
Well I ended up going with a 2006 Touring Mazda 3 vs. the Mazdaspeed (bad decision, but also definitely a safer decision) and vs. a few other options of the time. Ultimately I think it was a good overall choice and served me well though. I'd recommend it to anyone, especially new drivers who want some fun on the cheap.
I bought this car used with about 23k miles on the odometer and everything was in great shape. It was the touring edition so it had all the nice electronics and features. Seat heaters were a bit of a waste in Houston, but still the leather was a nice option to have. Within about a year of owning it though, at 30k miles, I managed to burn out the clutch.
Now, my father will tell you that it was probably because I was speed racing the poor thing through Houston all day and night. I, to this day, adamantly deny this and point to the many forum posts about their 2006-07 Mazda 3s loosing their clutches at right around the same time. For me, thats enough to rid me of any culpability.
Welp, when the clutch totally burnt to a crisp, I was thankfully back at home in the driveway. So we thought it'd be a cool idea to add a racing one at home! Why not? Turns out front wheel drive is why not. It ended up taking us 3 full days working non stop to get the change made and car put back together. While I wouldn't necessarily want to do it again now, it was a great experience.
Keeping things fun with aesthetic mods
According to a SEMA report in 2019, "more than 7.9 million young people customize, modifiy or upgrade their vehicles each year". That's just within the group of 16 to 24 year olds, and combines to a $7.2 billion market every year. Those are some big numbers for an age group that is often still in school or only recently joining the workforce.
Point is, kids love to mod their cars, and I was no different. I figured it would be a fun way to make my car more unique and at the same time get some solid experience.
Being 16 and opinionated, I decided to add some multicolor led strips under the seats and in the rear hatch. Thankfully restrained myself from adding them under the car, otherwise I likely would have gotten a few more speeding tickets than I did. They were pretty cool to my adolescent taste and could follow the music bumping way too loud from my dual 10" kickers in the back.
I spent a few days learning about sub enclosures and then decided to build my own to nicely fit in the back of the Mazda 3 hatch up against the rear seats. It worked out quite well and other than sliding around occasionally, never had an issue.
The wheels were one of the first upgrades and we just basic 17" blacked out rims but I thought they looked a lot better with the rest of the car than the original chromes.