Mazda SkyActiv-D Tuning

"All you need to know about tuning the Mazda SkyActiv-D engine!"

The Mazda SkyActiv-D make a good tuning project and with the right motorsport modifications like a remap, turbo improvements and camshafts you will positively enhance your driving opportunities.

Our aim here is to review SkyActiv-D tuning and provide tips on the greatest modifications.

History, Power & Specs of the SkyActiv-D Engine

This diesel engine has many new innovations to help Mazda meet ever more stringent emissions regulations. The injectors had a variable pattern spray which assisted with cold starts, and ceramic glow plugs,

Skyactiv-D 1.5 S5-DPTS/S5-DPTR

  • 105bhp 77kW 199lbft 270Nm

2013–2017 Mazda Demio/Mazda2
2013–2018 Mazda Axela/Mazda3
2015–2018 Mazda CX-3

Skyactiv-D 1.8 S8-DPTS/S8-DPTR

  • 114bhp 270Nm 199lbft

2018–present Mazda CX-3
2019–present Mazda3
2019–present Mazda CX-30

Skyactiv-D 2.2 SH-VPTS/SH-VPTR

Tuning the Mazda SkyActiv-D and best SkyActiv-D

  •  129 kW (173 hp) and 420 Nm (310 lbft) performance parts.
  • 140 kW (190 hp) @ 4,500 rpm Torque: 450 Nm (330 lbft) @ 2,000 rpm
  • 168 hp @ 4,000 rpm 290 lbft @ 2,000 rpm

2013–present Mazda3
2013–present Mazda CX-30

Best SkyActiv-D parts

When talking about the greatest modifications for your SkyActiv-D engine, we are going to focus on the tuning parts that give the best value for money.

Altering your SkyActiv-D cam will make a dramatic difference to the engine bhp. Choosing a higher performance cam profile raises the bhp accordingly.

Fast road cams normally increase the bhp through the rev band, you may sacrifice a little low down bhp but your higher rpm power will be better.

Motorsport and race cams, increase the higher rpm power band but as a result the car will not idle smoothly and low end power nearly always suffers.

For a daily driver should ideally to match your power band to your usage of the car.

You will never have found a SkyActiv-D Competition camshaft is a pleasure to live with when driving in heavy traffic. The low end idle will be very lumpy and irregular, so something you would notice on a track when you drive in the upper third of the rpm band, but on roads this is a serious issue and we've heard from lots of drivers lamenting their decision to add an extreme competition cam profile to their engine.

Different SkyActiv-D engines respond better to extreme cam durations so view each engine as unique.

The ECU mapping and fuelling also have a large bearing on the bhp gains you'll hit.

A longer valve duration can alter the bhp band and on most engines the exhaust and intake durations do not need to match, although most cams and tuners use matched pairs there are some advantages to extending the intake or exhaust durations.

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Best Engine Mods for your car

  1. Mapping - remapping provides the most advantage in terms of cost savings,  aftermarket ECUs, and piggyback ECUs are all alternatives.
  2. Fast road cams are one of the most significant mechanical changes, but they must be installed by someone who knows what they're doing and they are not always easy to source but you might find a local firm to regrind a stock camshaft.
  3. Intake and Exhaust - Note that on their own these mods will NOT ADD POWER in most cases, but they can help enhance power after other mods by removing the restriction.
  4. Upgrades to turbochargers and superchargers - forced induction is the most efficient approach to increase air supply, allowing you to burn more fuel and make more power. It is one of the most costly upgrades but provides the best gains.
  5. Head work - The goals of porting and flowing the head are to get air flowing into the engine while removing flow restrictions and turbulence.
  6. Typical stage 1 mods often include:
    drilled & smoothed airbox, Fast road camshaft, Intake manifolds, Remaps/piggy back ECU, Sports exhaust header/manifold, Panel air filters.

    Typical stage 2 mods often include:
    high flow fuel injectors, Ported and polished head, induction kit, Fast road cam, Sports catalyst & performance exhaust, fuel pump upgrades.

    Typical stage 3 mods often include:
    Competition cam, Engine balancing & blueprinting, Twin charging conversions, Adding or Upgrading forced induction (turbo/supercharger), Internal engine upgrades (head flowing porting/bigger valves), Crank and Piston upgrades to alter compression.

    The SkyActiv-D engine blocks make great tuning projects and we're pleased to see that there is an increase of upgrades and performance parts out there.

    Mapping helps fully realize the full potential of all the upgrades you've done to your SkyActiv-D.

    (In some cases, as the factory ECU is locked flashing is not an option, so an aftermarket ECU is the route to take, and many of these will outperform factory ECU's but make sure it has knock protection and that you get it setup properly.)

    It will usually give you around 30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and you can expect to see around 15% on NA (naturally aspirated) engines, but figures achieved usually rely on the upgrades you've applied and the condition of your engine.

    Pulling more air into the SkyActiv-D engine is the whole point to any engine tuning job.

    The intake plenum take the air from the air filter and allow it to be fed into the engine cylinders with fuel for the squish phase.

    Structure and rate of flow of the Intake can make a big improvement to fuel atomisation and engine efficiency on the SkyActiv-D.

    Many mass produced engine intake manifold are crying out for motorsport parts, although a few makers provide fairly well optimized intake manifold.

    Larger SkyActiv-D valves, doing a bit of SkyActiv-D port enlargement and head flowing will also increase performance, & more importantly will allow you to get a better performance increase on other modifications.

    SkyActiv-D Turbo upgrades

    NA (naturally aspirated) engines need quite a lot of work when you add a turbo, so we have a separate guide to help you take into account the pros and cons of going this route on your SkyActiv-D

    The more air you can get into an engine, the more fuel it can burn and uprating the induction with a turbocharger upgrade makes massive power gains.

    If your car is turbo charged mods are more reliable and you'll see that turbo engines will have stronger components.

    However every engines have weakspots.Research these limitations and install higher quality components to utilize the power.

    It's not unheard of tuners spending a fortune on turbo charger upgrades on the SkyActiv-D only to see the whole thing throw a rod on it's first outing after it's been completed.

    Large upgraded turbo chargers often experience a bottom end lag, and little turbo chargers spool up much more quickly but do not have the high rpm engines power gains.

    In the last 10 years the choice of turbo chargers is always moving on and we commonly find variable vane turbo chargers, where the vane profile is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end bhp.

    Twin scroll turbo chargers divert the exhaust flow into 2 channels and direct these at differently angled vanes in the turbo charger. They also improve the scavenging effect of the engine.

    You'll commonly see there is a restriction in the air flow sensor AFM/MAP on the SkyActiv-D when considerably more air is being sucked into the engine.

    We see 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor limited power at a much lower level.

    Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large performance gains, although harder to setup. We have this article covering twinchargers if you want to read more.


    You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so need to increase the fuelling when you start extending past 20% of a power increase.We strongly recommend you to over specify your flow rate on the injectors.

    The rule of thumb is to add 20% when buying an injector, which takes into account injector deterioration and gives some spare capacity should the engine require more fuel.

    We think this one is common sense, but you'll need to match your fuel injector to the type of fuel your car uses as well.

    SkyActiv-D Performance Exhausts

    Only look to improve your exhaust if the existing exhaust is actually causing a restriction in flow.

    On most factory exhausts you'll find your flow rate is ok even on modest power gains, but when you start pushing up the power levels you will need to get a better flowing exhaust.

    Sports exhausts generally help improve air flow through the engine but do not go too big or you could very well end up with a reduced flow rate. So generally speaking, keep to 1.5 to 2.5 inches as a rule of thumb.

    Common exhaust restrictions are traced to the catalyst installed, so adding a freer flowing sports alternative is the answer. This keeps the car road legal and will flow much better due to it's higher internal surface area and design, so has the added benefit of keeping your car road legal. The alternative decat should be considered an off road only mod, as removing a catalyst is illegal in most territories and regions for road registered cars..

    Weak spots, Issues & problem areas on the SkyActiv-D

    The SkyActiv-D engines are generally reliable and solid units, as long as you follow the manufacturers service schedules, and use a good quality oil to ensure longevity. Few problems should happen as long as they are regularly serviced and maintained.

    Carbon build up in the head, particularly around the valves which will sap power or create flat spots, this is a larger issue on direct injection engines but should be looked out for on all engines. We have tips on removing carbon build up.

    Some of our members have had issues with flat spots or glitches after applying mods and upgrades or tuning, this is not usually related to this engines design, so instead see our article on diagnosing flat spots and problems after tuning which should help you get the bottom of this issue.

    Carbon build up can be an issue on these engines - see carbon removal tips

    Turbo diversion valve would fail, requiring a replacement turbo unit.

    Early engines have had issues with oil levels, which has now been remedied with a software update, and revised dipstick design.

    Regular oil changes are vital on the SkyActiv-D, especially when tuned and will help extend the life and reliability of the engine.

    If you would like to know more, or just get some friendly advice on Tuning your SkyActiv-D engine please join us in our car forums where you can discuss SkyActiv-D tuning options in more detail with our SkyActiv-D owners. It would also be worth reading our unbiased Mazda tuning articles to get insights into each modification and how effective they will be for your car.

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