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Engine Epic - Mazda Engines

We look at the most desirable modern engines from Mazda...

By Michael Knowling

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Mazda has been a long-time engine innovator. The company has breathed life into the rotary and Miller-cycle engine and has proved itself able to build very finely tuned turbo engines.

Here’s how to decipher the engine codes used by Mazda...

Engine Code

Engine Configuration/ Capacity


Twin-rotor Wankel rotary/573cc x 2


Twin-rotor Wankel rotary/654cc x 2


Triple-rotor Wankel rotary/654cc x 3


V6 piston engine/3.0 litre


V6 piston engine/2.5 litre


V6 piston engine/2.0 litre


V6 piston engine (Miller cycle)/2.2 litre


V6 piston engine/2.5 litre


V6 piston engine/1.8 litre


Four cylinder piston engine/1.6 litre


Four cylinder piston engine/1.8 litre


Four cylinder piston engine/2.0 litre


Four cylinder piston engine/2.2 litre (turbo only)


Four cylinder piston engine/1.8 litre

Mazda Rotary Engines...

Put into mass production in the late ‘60s, killed and then reborn in 2003, the Mazda rotary engine has a rich history of motor racing behind it. There’s simply no overstating the amount of grunt achievable with these very compact, lightweight engines.

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The reborn rotary engine fitted to the new RX-8 is based on the faithful 13B twin-rotor design but it has been dramatically reengineered (primarily to achieve improved fuel economy and emissions). The exhaust ports have been relocated to the side housings of the rotor chambers, a variable induction system has been added, there’s new-generation injectors and electronic throttle control. Known as the RENESIS rotary, the RX-8 engine uses 10.0:1 compression and – without the aid of forced induction – spits out 177kW at 8200 rpm and 211Nm at 5500 rpm in the Australian-spec manual gearbox version. Australian automatic models trail by 23kW but generate more torque.

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The Series 8 Mazda RX-7 was the last of the previous line-up. The Series 8 RX-7 (see Last of the Line RX-7 for our full coverage of this beast) used the long-proven 13B twin-rotor engine hung with sequential turbochargers, an air-to-air intercooler and a 9.0:1 static compression ratio. In Series 8 Type R and RS guise, the twin-turbo 13B REW cranks out 206kW at 6500 rpm and 314Nm at 5000 rpm.

Note that the twin-turbo 13B fitted to the Series 6/7 RX-7 is rated at ‘only’ 187 - 195kW, while the Eunos Cosmo’s 13B TT made just 172kW.

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But for monster power – torque, at least – you’ve gotta be talking about the top-line Cosmo’s triple-rotor 20B. Essentially a 13B design with another rotor hung off the end, the 20B was only ever produced in sequential twin-turbo form – there was never an atmo version. Displacing a total of 2.0-litres, the 20B generates the Japanese regulation 206kW (and a bit!) at 6500 rpm along with 402Nm at 3500 rpm. The extra torque of the 20B made it the logical choice to fit to the top-line versions of the Japanese market Cosmo.

But don’t think twin-turbochargers are essential for real rotary performance...

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The 13B rotary in single turbo form can muster up to 151kW in Series 5 RX-7 guise. Series 4 13B turbo engines – with a more restrictive intercooler, different rotors and turbocharger – make 15kW less.

Back in the early ‘80s – before the days of turbocharged 13Bs – Mazda relied on a turbocharged version of the smaller 12A rotary. The 12A turbo (Mazda's first rotary turbo) came non-intercooled, but managed to produce a maximum of 121kW at 6000 rpm in the first-generation RX-7.

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The only naturally aspirated rotary that makes any real power (aside from the new RX-8 RENESIS engine) is the 13B EFI. Depending on model, this engine makes up to 121kW at 6500 revs.

Mazda Sixes...

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The most creative and desirable Mazda six is the KJ-ZEM Miller-cycle supercharged engine. Displacing just 2.3-litres, this DOHC, 24-valve V6 boasts a screw-type supercharger and twin air-to-air intercoolers. And what about the Miller-cycle principle? Well, this system keeps the intake valves open for the first 20 percent of the compression stroke. The timing of the intake valves is from 2 degrees before TDC until 70 degrees after BDC, with exhaust valve duration from 47 degrees BBDC to 5 degrees ATDC. All of this reduces pumping losses and improves efficiency when teamed with the supercharger.

The maximum output for the Japanese-market KL-ZEM is up to 162kW at 5500 rpm with 294Nm at 3500 rpm. This is a very smooth engine – not surprising given its use in the top-line Eunos saloon.

The second most powerful Mazda six is also fitted to a luxury saloon – the vehicle recognised in Australia as the mid ‘90s 929. The JE-ZE is a 3.0-litre, DOHC, 24-valve V6 with a 9.5:1 compression ratio. In Japanese spec it’s rated at 151kW at 6000 rpm and 272Nm at 3500 rpm. This engine is essentially a DOHC version of the JE 3.0-litre V6 released in the early-mid ‘80s.

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Another good Mazda V6 is the KL-ZE 2.5-litre DOHC, 24-valve V6. The highest output version of this engines uses 10.0:1 compression and makes 149kW at 6500 rpm and 224Nm. This engine comes fitted to vehicles such as the Japanese market Millenia 25M.

Although intended for a people mover role, the Mazda AJ-DE 3.0-litre DOHC 24-valve V6 is another worthy mention. With its 10.0:1 compression ratio, this engine generates 149kW at 6000 rpm and 265Nm at 4700 rpm in current Japanese-market Mazda Tribute form. Oddly enough, Australian delivered versions of this engine appear to generate slightly more power – the local Mazda MPV and Tribute V6 both manage to crank out 152kW and 276Nm.

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Also in the Australian market, the J5-DE 2.5-litre, DOHC, 24-valve V6 (from the last MX-6) might also be of interest. This engine uses 9.0:1 compression and makes 119kW and 211Nm. Note that the local Eunos 500 uses a KF-ZE 2.0-litre V6 for 119kW/180Nm and the little 30X sportscar uses a K8-ZE 1.8-litre V6 for 108kW/157Nm. A sweet little thing.

Mazda Fours...

Without question, the most desirable Mazda four-cylinder engines are turbocharged.

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Gruntiest of the lot is the BP-series turbo engine from the Japanese-market Familia (323) GTR. The BP turbo engine is a 1.8-litre four with DOHC, 16-valve breathing and – in GTR-spec – it uses a relatively large turbo, an upgrade air-to-air intercooler and various other  mechanical changes. Max output is an impressive for a 1.8-litre - 154kW at 6000 rpm and 250Nm at 4500 rpm. Note that the Familia GTR was produced in only limited numbers.

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The run-of-the-mill BP-series intercooled turbo engine can be found in the Australian Ford KF – KH Laser TX3 AWDs and the Japanese-market Familia GTX. Thanks largely to the high-octane Japanese fuel, the Familia GTX engine is listed with the most power of this trio – it makes 134kW at 6000 rpm and 237Nm at 3000 rpm. Interestingly, the static compression ratio for both the Familia GTX and GTR engines is 8.2:1.

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Next most powerful is the 1.6-litre DOHC, 16-valve, intercooled turbo B6 engine as fitted to the Australian Ford KE Laser turbo, Capri and the Japanese-market Familia AWD and FWD turbo. As predecessor to the BP-series 1.8, the B6 shares a similar engine design and a low 7.8:1 static compression ratio to achieve up to 110kW. Australian versions are listed with 103kW (and 186Nm) when running premium-unleaded fuel.

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Mazda also released a comparatively large 2.2-litre turbo engine in the late ‘80s. The F2 2.2 SOHC, 12-valve, four used an intercooler and single turbocharger to produce a maximum of 108kW at just 4300 rpm (quoted from Australian spec F2 engines running premium unleaded fuel). These engines were optional in the local 626/Telstar TX5 and MX-6.

Interestingly, the Japanese market version of the MX-6 (aka Capella) also saw the FE 2.0-litre DOHC, 16-valve engine that could generate 104kW at 6000 rpm without forced induction – almost as much as the turbocharged F2 2.2-litre! Torque, however, was down at 186Nm at 4000 rpm compared to the Australian-spec F2’s 258Nm at 3500 rpm.

In the early/mid ‘80s, a SOHC, 8-valve turbocharged 2.0-litre four – the FE-series – was introduced to the Australian 626 and Ford Telstar TX5. Using simple throttle-body type fuel injection this engine was listed at 87kW, but the Japanese version – in particular the ‘Magnum’ – are reputedly much more powerful. These early FE SOHC turbo engines were also used in the larger Mazda 929 range.

About the same time, Mazda released the E6 and E5 SOHC turbo engines that used similar technology. Power outputs were in the vicinity of 75 to 85kW.

And what about Mazda’s naturally aspirated four-cylinders, you ask?

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The best is the L3-VE engine as fitted to the Japanese market Atenza. The L3-VE displaces 2.3-litres and, in Japanese guise, features a 10.0:1 compression ratio, DOHC, 16-valve breathing and variable inlet cam timing. Its output is 131kW at 6500 rpm and 215Nm at 4000 rpm. Note that the L3-series four is also used in the Australian Mazda6 and Mazda3, but outputs are only 122kW/207Nm and 115kW/203Nm respectively.

The 2003 Japanese Familia rates second with a 121kW output from its optional high-output 2.0-litre engine. The FS-ZE 2.0-litre DOHC, a 16-valve engine uses a high 10.4:1 compression ratio.

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Next comes the 1.8-litre DOHC atmo BP-series engine in the Mazda MX-5 (aka Roaster and Miata). In its latest Japanese guise (BP-VE), this engine uses 10.5:1 compression, variable inlet cam timing and produces 118kW at 7000 rpm and 170Nm at 5500 rpm. Earlier 1.8 versions made closer to 100kW. Note that the Australian-spec engines are also invariably slightly down on the outputs of the Japanese examples.

The first 1.6-litre version of the MX-5 used an atmo B6 engine delivering only around 82kW. In Japan, however, the entry-level MX-5 still uses the B6 now rated at 92kW.

The Australian Developed MX-5 SP Turbo Engine

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The hottest factory-backed Mazda MX-5 in the world is the Australian-market SP (Special Performance) Turbo.

Using the latest variable cam timed 1.8-litre as the base (retaining its standard compression ratio), the SP Turbo has been fitted with a nickel-alloy cast iron exhaust manifold with a ball-bearing Garrett turbocharger blowing through a front-mount air-to-air intercooler. There’s also a carbon-fibre airbox, Bosch blow-off valve, large diameter exhaust, bigger injectors, different spark plugs and an upgraded coolant radiator to round out the mechanical mods. The factory ECU has also been re-mapped to suit.

Output? An impressive 150kW at 6800 rpm and 280Nm at 4600 rpm with just 0.5 Bar of boost!

A free-spinning F8 1.8-litre DOHC four was also used in various Japanese-market vehicles - it generates 86kW at a very high 8000 rpm. But more impressive is the current model FP-DE 1.8-litre DOHC, 16-valver in the Japanese-market Premacy. It’s rated at 96kW and 161Nm – and note that the same engine (but making 92kW) is available in the late ‘90s Australian-delivered 323. The 2003 Demio can also be bought with a ZY-VE 1.5-litre DOHC, 16-valve engine making 83kW and 140Nm. Note that the Australian-delivered Mazda2 also employs the same engine making virtually the same output.

Mazda Threes...

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If you’re interested in three-cylinder performance, the current Mazda K6A 660cc DOHC, 12-valve turbo engine should be on your shopping list. With an 8.4:1 static compression ratio, variable valve timing and air-to-air intercooler this baby engine puts out 47kW at 6500 rpm and 106Nm at 3500 rpm.

A naturally aspirated version with variable valve timing and 10.5:1 compression generates 40kW and 63Nm. Both engines come fitted to the Japanese market Mazda AZ Wagon Kei classer.

Mazda Performance Motors at a Glance...


20B Triple Rotor Twin Turbo


13B Twin Rotor Twin Turbo – S8 RX7 Type R and RS


13B Twin Rotor Twin Turbo – S6-onward RX-7

187 – 195kW

13B Twin Rotor Twin Turbo - Cosmo


13B Twin Rotor Turbo – S5 RX7


13B Twin Rotor Turbo – S4 RX7


12A Twin Rotor Turbo


13B Twin Rotor EFI


13B RENESIS (Australian spec)



KJ-ZEM 2.3 litre V6 Miller Cycle Supercharged


JE-ZE 3.0 litre V6 DOHC


AJ-DE 3.0-litre V6 DOHC


KL-ZE 2.5 litre V6 DOHC


J5-DE 2.5 DOHC




K8-ZE 1.8 DOHC


BP 1.8 DOHC turbo (Familia GT-R)


BP-VE 1.8 DOHC SP turbo (Australian spec)


BP 1.8 DOHC turbo


L3-VE 2.3 DOHC






B6 1.6 DOHC turbo


F2 2.2 SOHC turbo




FP-DE 1.8-litre DOHC


B6 1.6 DOHC

82 – 92kW

FE SOHC turbo


F8 1.8 litre DOHC


ZY-VE 1.5-litre DOHC


E5 1.5 SOHC turbo/E6 1.6 SOHC turbo

75 – 85kW



K6A 660cc DOHC Turbo


K6A 660cc DOHC VVT



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