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 are 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.

Sadly the smaller 1.4-1.6 engines do not have a lot to give without spending a great deal of money on them.

Mazda 3 Tuning

(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.

Typical stage 1 mods often include: Remaps/piggy back ECU, Sports exhaust manifold, Intake headers, Fast road camshaft, Drilled & smoothed airbox, Panel air filters.

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

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

Mazda3 Handling/Suspension upgrades

The Mazda3's handling characteristics are at the top of most people's wish lists. We recommend that you buy some polyurethane bushes (bushings) and install slightly stronger suspension components like coilovers.

Fully adjustable suspension allows you to fine-tune the handling of your Mazda3, typically improving your driving experience.

We recommend installing sports suspension and lowering the car by 23mm - 40mm. Larger drops necessitate arch mods, especially on models that already have upgraded suspension due to the risk of rubbing.

Adjustable shocks let you to play around with the settings until you find the perfect fit. In any event, TorqueCars recommends a 35mm drop all around for optimal handling.

Tuning tips and articles

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.

Getting the engine head gas flowed and ported will also allow bigger power gains. 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.

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.

The engine timing and fuel pump and injectors 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.

Mapping will help fully realize the full potential of all the upgrades you've done to your Mazda3.

It will usually give around 30% more power on turbocharged vehicles and you can expect to see around 15% on NASP engines, but power output will depend much on the upgrades you've done and the condition of your engine.

It is vital to any performance tuning task to get fuel and air into the Mazda3 engine

Intake manifold flow the air from the air filter and allow it to be pulled into the engine and mixed with fuel.

The size of bore and shape and flow rate of the Intake can make a big change to fuel mixing and power on the Mazda3.

On popular production engines headers are needing motorsport parts, although some makers provide decently flowing headers.

Increasing the Mazda3 valve size, doing a bit of Mazda3 port enlargement and head flowing will also increase torque, and importantly will give you a greater torque increase on other tuning mods.

Turbo upgrades

NASP 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 Mazda3

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

If a car has a turbocharger upgrades are more reliable and we find turbo engines are built using many forged and stronger components.

However engines will have power limits

Discover these restrictions and install better quality components to cope with the power.

We've seen people spending a lot of money on turbocharger upgrades on the Mazda3 only to have the Mazda3 catastrophically fail soon after it's used in anger.

Larger upgraded turbo chargers tend to experience low end lag, and small turbo chargers spool up more quickly but don't have the high rpm power band gains.

Thanks to progress the range of turbo units is always evolving and we commonly find variable vane turbo units, allowing the vane angle is altered according to speed to lower lag and increase top end torque.

Twin scroll turbo units divert the exhaust flow into two channels and push these at differently profiled vanes in the turbo. They also improve the scavenging effect of the engine.

It is not unusual that there is a limit in the air flow sensor (AFM/MAF/MAP) on the Mazda3 when considerably more air is being fed into the engine.

Going up you'll find 4 bar air sensors coping with quite large power gains, whereas the OEM air sensor limited performance at a much lower level.

Adding a supercharger or additional turbo will make large torque gains, although more difficult to configure. We have this feature on twinchargers if you want to read more.

Mazda 3 Fuelling

You will need to ensure that the engine is not starved of fuel so need to ramp up the fuelling when you start extending past 20% of a torque increase.It makes sense to be generous with your flow rate on the injectors.

As a rule of thumb add 20% capacity when specifying an injector, this accounts for injector deterioration and allows you some spare capacity should the engine need 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.

All the following flywheel power targets will assume an injector duty cycle of 80% and a base of 58psi of fuel pressure at idle.

4 Cylinder turbocharged engines

  • 58 PSI 340cc/min 200hp
  • 58 PSI 511cc/min 300hp
  • 58 PSI 682cc/min 400hp

4 Cylinder NASP engines

  • 58 PSI 285cc/min 200hp
  • 58 PSI 426cc/min 300hp
  • 58 PSI 568cc/min 400hp

Exhaust mods for the Mazda3

You only need to to boost your exhaust if the existing exhaust is actually causing a restriction.

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

Do not go with the biggest exhaust you can source you'll slow up the exhaust flow rate - the best for power gains are usually between 1.5 to 2.5 inches. It is the shape and material more than the bore size.

Typically exhaust restrictions can be traced to the catalyst installed, so adding a higher flowing high performance alternative will help avoid this restriction.

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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