6 Hot Japanese Motors to Modify Under £5K

Whether you’re looking to mod your first car or your 30th, you’ll find no shortage of UK tuner cars for sale that you can customise to your liking.

But turning an old, beat up car into a super-powered driving machine isn’t exactly cheap - that’s why we’ve created this list of the best cars to modify under 5k.

The more you’re able to save on the initial cost of the car, the more you’ll be able to spend on performance modifications and cosmetic improvements – in other words, you’ll end up with a cooler, more personalised ride.

Why Mod Japanese Cars?

With enough knowledge, patience, and perhaps most importantly, money, you can modify any car. So why are Japanese cars such a popular choice in the modding community?

For starters, they’re affordable. At the same time, they’re not hunk-of-junk cheap - Japanese automakers have a reputation for manufacturing cars that combine high-quality with high-value. They’re also some of the most reliable cars on the market, meaning less money you’ll have to sink into repairs along the way.

So let’s get into our list of the 6 best cars to modify under 5k from Japanese manufacturers.

1. Mazda RX-8

Modded Japanese RX-8 used in a blog post by Autowrap Centre Liverpool about modding Japanese cars

If you want something sleek, well-equipped, and easy to drive fast, look no further than the Mazda RX-8. A cheap gem that has largely gone under the radar, the RX-8 provides a truly exhilarating experience.

When it comes to performance mods, a starter motor upgrade is a good place to begin. The original RX-8 that was introduced in 2003 came with a puny 1.2kw starter. If it hasn’t been upgraded already by the previous owner, switch to a 2kw first thing – you’ll feel the difference right away!

2. Honda Civic

Image of a modded 1990s Honda Civic used in a blog post about modding Japanese cars for under 5k by Autowrap Centre Liverpool

Honda Civics are commonly hailed as one of the best tuner cars for beginners, and it’s easy to see why.

For one thing, you can find them at prices as low as £1,000. If you’ve never tuned a car before, you’re probably going to feel a whole lot better about messing with something you only spent £1,000 on than a car you sunk £10,000 into. And because they’re easy to maintain and work with, you can focus on learning modding techniques without having to worry about much else.

Practical points aside, Civics are just nice looking cars - well, most of them are. The 7th generation was a bit of a misstep, exchanging the sleek curves of the 90’s models for a sort of dull roundness.

No matter what style you prefer, though, you can’t go wrong with this all-around car.

3. Mitsubishi Lancer

Image of a modded Mitsubishi Lancer used in a blog post by Autowrap Centre Liverpool about the best Japanese cars for under £5000 for tuning

Next on our list of the best cars to modify under 5k is the Mitsubishi Lancer. Like the Honda Civic, there’s no shortage of resources available for these cars, making them a great choice for any first-time tuner.

You’ll have to pay a bit more than 5k for a high-performance Evo VII model like the one driven by the late Paul Walker in 2 Fast 2 Furious, but there’s still plenty you can do with the more affordable models. For instance, you can improve your Lancer’s steering response by installing lowering springs, or you can give it a more aggressive look by tinting the headlights a bit.

4. Nissan 300ZX