Now if you’re familiar with Mazda’s popular front-wheel drive hot hatch, then you probably had a bit of a chuckle at the title. Don’t worry, this article isn’t going to cover how exactly you get to that popular term for blowing your motor, just cover some of the information if you plan to get your hands on one and build it.
So back in 2007 Mazda decided to create a performance version of the Mazda3, a staple in it’s lineup even to the current model year. The goal was to create a vehicle that could compete with the likes of the Volkswagen GTI, and the Subaru WRX. For those of you who are already stretching your keyboard warrior hands calm down, we know the WRX is an all-wheel drive car, but believe it or not the companies believe the cars are still close competitors.
The Mazdaspeed3 is equipped with a direct injected 2.3 litre MZR motor, mated to the small but popular K04 turbo. It comes standard with a Limited-Slip differential, and a 6-speed manual transmission. It makes 263 horsepower and 280 pound-feet of torque. I will say that that much torque in a front-wheel drive car is a little scary at first if you’re not used to it, I myself had a mini heart attack the first time I floored it in first gear and the wheel took an immediate right turn due to massive torque steer.
In 2010 the model got a face-lift as Mazda was pushing that whole smiley face gimmick on the front ends of its cars. Love it or hate it is basically how it was received. My take on it is that I will always love that dopey smile, as the Mazdaspeed3 I personally owned was a second generation, but first gen owners usually feel pretty differently.
So let’s talk build right? That’s why you’re here. Honestly of several cars I have owned throughout the years, the Speed was one of the easiest ones for me to work on. So let’s start with the basics:
In most cars, building is referred to in stages, but with the Mazdaspeed3 there really aren’t cut and dry stages like with other cars such as the Lancer Evolution or the Subaru WRX, but it’s not to say the build guide is almost the same.
We start with your basic intake and exhaust setup. Who you go with in this section is really up to you as most companies offer the same type of setup. What I will say is to make sure you get both the Intake and the Turbo Inlet hose at the same time, it will save you trouble in the long run.
Cobb Tuning makes a pretty decent intake, as they are well-known throughout the tuning world, but they make parts for a lot of vehicles and there are companies out there such as Corksport and James Barone Racing that make parts specifically for Mazdas, so I’m going to give them a little more spotlight.
After getting the intake out of the way, you’re going to want to do exhaust. A turbo-back exhaust setup is the best way to do it, but if you are short on cash then I recommend grabbing Corksport’s Downpipe and Test Pipe for the vehicle and leaving the rest out until later as the Speed’s biggest restriction comes from the catalytic converters up front.
Now most people would head right for the tune, but there is a very important aspect of building one of these cars that most people don’t think about right away, motor mounts. Now you don’t need to drop several hundred and grab all the mounts up front, but the one you absolutely need to get your hands on is the Rear Motor Mount. Changing this is going to reduce wheel hop and help get a nice chunk of that extra power you are going to be making to the ground. We recommend heading over to Damond Motorsports for your mounts, they make high quality stuff and also are a family owned business.
Another aspect people don’t know about is the fuel pump. So the stock fuel pump internals on the Mazdaspeed3 are not the most reliable, and once you free up that intake and exhaust it’s going to have trouble keeping up. This is the part where you take the 350$ hit and pick up either Autotech or Corksport’s Fuel Pump Internals. The install is a bit of a pain but if you take your time you will get through it in a few hours. With that out of the way you’re open to do whatever else you want and not have to worry about the Fuel Pump for a long while.
Another stock downfall of the Mazdaspeed3 is the stock inter-cooler. It works fine, but since it is top-mounted it is prone to massive heatsoak which of course reduces power. The whole point is to cool the air down as much as possible because cooler air is denser and denser air makes more power, that is the simplest way I can put it. So you’re gonna want to pretty much ignore any performance top-mount setups if you want to make the most of your bolt-ons. The standard thing we see people do is actually not to go with brand name parts like Cobb or Corksport, but to grab the kit from a company called CX Racing, who make parts for a lot of cars outside this one. The kit however, is a 400$ one which is a nice chunk cheaper than the competitors. Sure, the piping setup isn’t 100% perfect but you save a few bills that you can put towards your upgraded bypass valve and your tune. If you want, you can take that extra few hundred and spring for a Treadstone TR8 inter-cooler core, which is bigger and more efficient than the CX one, as that is a popular choice with owners.
Grab yourself a new bypass valve next. Note I said bypass not blowoff. The Mazdaspeed’s setup recirculates a fraction of air back into the turbo during let off, but the stock one starts to leak with higher psi of boost. I recommend Forge Motorsports Version 2 one, as it is relatively cheap and unlike the Forge V1 it doesn’t have that metallic sword clash sound of metal on metal when you shift.
Now that you’ve gotten your bolt-ons, you will definitely need a reliable tune. Chances are you’ve already picked up a Cobb Accessport v3, as it almost goes without saying, but running those Off-The-Shelf tunes is a big no no with this car. For tuning, since we are local to the North East US, we recommend getting in touch with the guys over at Purple Drank Tuning. They are local to Maryland, but widely regarded when it comes to tuning Mazdas. The owner, Will Dawson, is a personal acquaintance of mine, and is known for making safe, reliable tunes that still make really good power gains.
Now, all things considered with basic bolt-ons this will probably push you just about to the 300whp mark. Remember, the car has some drive-train loss so that factory 263 is more like 225-230 once it hits the ground. So 70-80hp gain is pretty nice, but you may want more. At that point, you can go a few different routes. Some people port their intake manifold and get rid of these butterfly valves inside the stock one. I did this, and on paper it would’ve made some more power if I had not broken a bolt inside the cylinder head, so if you do this be a little more careful than usual just in case my accident wasn’t just some wonder of nature.
You can also go the Meth Injection or E85 route. Personally with these cars I recommend E85 as it is easier than tapping your manifold like you need to do with Methanol. And then, it’s time to go BIG TURBO!
Most people grab something small, some of the more popular ones are the BNR S3 and now the new S4 turbo, or the ever popular GT3071 or GT3076. Some people go even bigger than that and head straight for a Precision 6262. If you’re thinking smaller, stick with the BNR or even Corksport makes a turbo upgrade now that competes well with BNR setups.\
You can build your motor at this point if you wish, and we highly recommend heading up to New Jersey and seeing the boys at SpeedPerformance. If you read our Tuner Tuesdays on the Ecoboost Mustang, we already covered the kind of engine work they do up there. Of course you will need to supplement with some bigger parts like a 4 inch intake setup and a better intake and exhaust manifold, as well as likely a larger inter-cooler setup, but the options are there to make that a reality. There is one Mazdaspeed3 that has broken into the 10’s at the track with a full build, so the possibility is definitely there.
All in all, the Mazdaspeed3 is a pretty nice car to build, and while some people will hate on it because it is front-wheel drive just remember that it doesn’t matter. If you build the car correctly, and drive better than the other guys, you won’t have any trouble or shortage of fun with this car. My own personal tangent real quick before I let you leave:
The Mazdaspeed3 was basically my intro into the car world. I met some of my closest friends because I bought that car and started building it and coming out to local meets. That car also saved my life. One night I was headed up the road with my girlfriend to meet up with some friends and a tree had fallen across the road near their house. We came around a corner and since this tree was so large we couldn’t see it until we were already on top of it and it was too late. I turned to the right hoping to at least minimize damage to the passenger side of the car to protect her, knowing I couldn’t make it out of the way or completely stop in time.
We slammed into that tree pretty hard. The car was of course totaled, but we were both okay aside from some scrapes and bruises. The real kicker was I had just gotten the car back from having the cylinder head replaced and put back together. Thank god we were in the Mazda though, because if we had been driving the Civic I owned as a daily driver we probably would’ve been much, much worse off. For reference, I will show some pictures below of the accident and the tree so you can see just how big this thing was. I owe a lot to the ole Wumbosmurf, and I will never forget that car. Maybe, one day, I will get myself another one and build it in her image, except make it a lot faster this time around.