Mazda 3 tuning

"The Amazing Mazda 3"

The Mazda 3 replaced the old 323 and was aimed very much as a small family car. The range of engines and options on the first generation were limited but the larger engined models give a good basis for tuning.

We would recommend the 2.0 or better still if you can source a 2.3 litre model you have a better basis for your tuning project, but all models have plenty of potential and a growing number of tuning parts available.

Successive generations built on the previous ones with each offering an improvement, and we now have a wide range of really good engines and a fantastic chassis. The Mazda 3 makes an ideal Sleeper car, and will catch out many drivers who try to challenge you.

The 3 chassis is great to work on and the sporty models show just how far you can go with tuning the Mazda 3. We favor the turbo engines, as these are relatively cheap to add substantial power gains to..

(The European/Canadian and American market models 2.3 had a  turbocharger, and put out around 260bhp as standard which is pretty good for a car of this size. If you can source a 2.3 turbo engine then this would be the ultimate straight engine swap.)

The Mazda 3 is a stunning package, pretty powerful and agile from the factory. With some tuning mods you can make it even better.

Engine Tuning.

Mk1 Engine options (Petrol)

There was one diesel model

  • 1.6 L MZ-CD I4

Then in  2008 the models were revised, and were generally more powerful and more receptive to tuning.

And 3 diesel options were provided.

  • 1.6 L MZ-CD I4
  • 2.0 L MZR RF I4
  • 2.2 L MZR R2 I4

Third generation came around running from 2013 -2018

With 2 diesel engines

We now have a fourth generation revision from 2019

One diesel engine with a couple of revisions.

This list of the stages and parts are usually fitted by our members, decide how far you want to go before you begin.

Getting the correct grade of sports mods for your planned usage of the car is essential. Stage 3 (competition) mods just won't work well on the road and will make the car un-drivable.

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Alloy wheels, Suspension upgrade (drop 26-36mm), Lighter flywheel, Remap, Panel air filter, Sports exhaust.

Typical stage 2 mods often include: high flow fuel injector, fuel pump upgrades, Fast road cam, Ported and polished head, Power/Sport clutch.

Typical stage 3 mods often include: Competition cam, Engine balancing, Adding or upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Internal engine upgrades (pistons/head/valves), Sports gearbox.

Peak power is nice in motorsport but for a drivable and fun car you need a long torque band and perhaps extending the rev range.

In this article we shall give a limited introduction to the best mods for your car, but we'd encourage you to spend some time on the site looking into the details of each type of performance modification.One of the biggest mechanical upgrades you can do on your NASP engine is to fit a fast road cam .

Engine tuning Transmission tuning Care care Intake & exhaust mods Improve handling Forums

Handling/Suspension upgrades

Handling modifications are high on most peoples lists for the 3.

If you set the toe out to 1 to 2 degrees on the front, and add a small amount of negative camber then cornering will often be enhanced.

Fully adjustable suspension allows you to fine tune the handling of you 3 often improving your drive.

We would go to a maximum drop of 26mm - 36 mm on most models. You risk handling compromises if you go lower than this.

Tuning tips and articles

Intake and Exhaust Tuning.

The next area for modification is the intake and exhaust. Contrary to popular belief there is often very little if any power gain obtained by fitting an induction kit, they only work well and are recommended after you boost the engines power to the point where the standard air intake box cannot cope!

TorqueCars suggest you use a panel air filter as these are easy to clean and maintain and generally perform better than paper ones.

Turning our attention to the engine you really want to get the 2.3 litre engine performing at its peak efficiency.

Adding a Mazda 3 induction kit with a cold air feed pipe will do a lot to improve the breathing. Match this with a sports exhaust and sport catalyst and you have a much better breathing engine.

Getting more advanced you would be looking to start some internal engine mods. If you can source a set of fast road cams for your Mazda 3 these will add another 10-15bhp. Many cam specialists can offer you a regrind and improve the profile of your standard cams.

Head work including a polish and port and 3 or 5 angle valve job will really help to release the potential of the engine. Your clutch can lose you loads of power if it starts to complain and the standard clutches are only ever good for power gains of up to 45%.

However a chipped ECU on a NASP engine will help unleash the potential if you have done a lot of mods.The addition of larger valves with the other head work will add a further 5-10bhp to your engine.

If you want the maximum power gains then you need to look at the addition of forced induction. A supercharger on a modest boost level would give a good power gain.

Lowering the engines compression ratio will allow you to increase the boost further and you can push the NASP 2.3 engine to around 230 bhp. The turbo 2.3 can hit around 290bhp with some careful tuning.

Fit a sports clutch to avoid power losses through the transmission. The best mods in our experience for your 3 are remaps, sports camshafts and induction improvements

Remaps offer massive power gains on all turbo charged cars. On NASP engines the benefits are doubtful.

For larger power gains you will need to uprate the fuelling so get a good fuel pump and larger injectors to suite your tuning load.

Finally getting a remap done is the best way to tie all of the mods you have done together and will enable you to get the maximum return from it.

An aftermarket ECU can be fitted which takes over your ECU if you find that a remap is not possible on your engine. We do not however recommend tuning boxes or piggy back devices on the Mazda 3.

Alloy wheel upgrades.

Alloy wheels will help the brake cooling and are usually less heavy than steel ones. Pay attention to your choice of tyres (tires) for your car, a good soft compound tire can really enhance your cars handling.

The downside to large alloy wheels on your 3 is that you're altering your final drive ratio and this will have a negative effect on performance and acceleration.

With this in mind we would advise sticking to a maximum wheel size of 16 inches, although we know some of our members have with bigger wheels with no problems. Newer models are more tolerant of 17 inch wheels but we still wouldn't look to fit 18's due to the harsher ride, and tram lining you'll get.

If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your car please join us in our friendly forum where you can discuss 3 options in more detail with our 3 owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Mazda tuning articles to get a full grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of each modification.

There are few bodykits and spoilers around for the Mazda 3 so we don't get to see many stylish 3's but join our forum and meet our other Mazda 3 owners and swap tuning and styling tips with them.

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Your Constructive comments on this article

6 Responses to “Tuning the Mazda 3”

  1. Kevin Pagan says:

    I have 2010 Mazda 3 I just how have to get horsepower in this car!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Andrew says:

    ive owned my mazda 3 hatchback for almost a year now and ive benn dooing alot of research on modifications for it, any brands i should look for, for suspension parts and camshafts?????

  3. Melvin luthuli says:

    I have a 1.6 focus , which uses the same engine.z6 …I put a cone filter .which really helps with the throttle response . I put bosche spark plugs which let the engine run faster at higher speeds .and reduce the fuel consumption. I also skimmed the head a few mms. its got the grunt you need . but I’m considering putting higher compression pistons. But considering the costs of kitting up the aluminum block, I might end up getting a duratec 2.0…but if you don’t have a wad of cash laying around you can try the mods I did, consider it as a stage 1mod…The car used to top out at 210 now it goes pass 230km/h I haven’t tried pushing it any further. Please note that I didn’t do anything to ecu.

  4. Suzy says:

    The primary benefit of Cold Air Intakes is to the bank account of the kit manufacturer, the secondary benefit is your car making a nicer noise, if you like the sound of an aftermarket intake. You really think car manufacturers will throw away 3bhp for the sake of a couple of quids worth of foam?

  5. Jose Padilla says:

    For my Mazda3 2006 2.0L?

  6. Scott Johnson says:

    Intrested in seeing benefits of changing the exhaust from stock to 2.25in an 2.5in muffler upgrades an the use of headers…also if adding bigger roller rockers is a benefit

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