Car reviews - Mazda - Mazda2 - Genki
Fun and semi-premium cabin, standard equipment, lovely manual gearbox, keen engine and dynamics
Room for improvement
Lacks suspension and road refinement, cramped rear quarters, engine can struggle on hills
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16 Feb 2017
Price and equipment
THE Mazda2 is offered in $14,990 Neo (which absorbs 60 per cent of sales), $16,990 Maxx and $19,990 Genki (as tested here) with a standard six-speed manual transmission. Each of the higher grades takes 20 per cent of sales, while a six-speed automatic adds $2000 to the above pricetags.
Carrying over from the Maxx are a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearshifter, cruise control, rear parking sensors with rearview camera and a 7.0-inch colour touchscreen with Pandora/Aha internet radio connectivity and six speakers, while the Genki adds satellite navigation to the mix.
It also switches to 16-inch alloy wheels (up from 15s on the hubcap-clad Neo or alloy-rim Maxx), and further includes foglights, auto on/off wipers and LED headlights, keyless auto-entry with push-button start and single-zone climate control air-conditioning.
Although the Genki includes a generous amount of standard equipment for the price, low-speed autonomous emergency braking (AEB) – dubbed Smart City Brake Support by Mazda – remains a $400 extra. Few models in this segment offer this feature, but the Skoda Fabia has it standard.
Beyond its extra standard equipment, the Mazda2 Genki also adds various interior flourishes to the basic look of the Neo and Maxx.
Main changes include a stitched-leather-look, padded dashboard panel and console side flanks, and a digital speedometer with sports bike-style vertical tachometer needle and titanium-look fascia. Along with the high-resolution touchscreen with bright colours and impeccable ergonomics – the BMW iDrive-like rotary controller with shortcut buttons works a treat on the move – and the slick knurled-silver climate controls, the holistic changes result in a classier ambience than the Maxx.
Given the Mazda2 almost entirely shares its dashboard design and trim finishes with the company’s $26,990 CX-3 sTouring small SUV, it especially looks like an impressive interior for the price.
With hard plastics and no centre console armrest, however, the Genki also cannot quite match the similarly priced Volkswagen Polo 81TSI for an overall perception of quality and expense. Worse still, a tiny 250-litre boot is among the least voluminous in the class.
While the front seats are firm but supportive, the back bench is flat and also positioned too low to the floor it forces rear riders into a ‘knees up’ position, while the issue is compounded by only ordinary headroom and legroom.
Engine and transmission
With the exception of the company’s CX-9 large SUV, Mazda is steadfastly committed to engine technology without turbocharging, which has become the default decision for many manufacturers in a quest to reduce fuel consumption and emissions.
Employed here is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine with a decent 81kW at 6000rpm and 141Nm at 4000rpm. These days it is the latter torque figure that can raise eyebrows after sampling a turbo rival the Fabia/Polo share a 1.2-litre that match the Mazda’s power but with 175Nm at 1400rpm.
Engines without a turbo are, however, at their best in lightweight applications and with a kerb weight of just 1046kg, the Mazda2 Genki is very light. Teamed with a nicely fluid and creamy manual gearshift, the 1.5-litre is a delight to engage with, especially given how rorty it sounds.
Drivers will have to especially engage with this drivetrain on longer trips, though, given the inability of the engine to hold higher speeds in sixth gear when even slight hills rise. Equally, though, at lower speeds the engine is more tractable at fewer revs than expected. It never feels hollow or strained around town, although thanks to some tougher touring the official combined cycle fuel consumption figure of 5.2 litres per 100 kilometres soared by 50 per cent to 7.9L/100km.
Ride and handling
Few manufacturers manage to trap certain traits in a glass jar and sprinkle them over the entire model range, but in terms of steering, ride and handling characteristics, a Mazda feels like a Mazda.
The previous-generation Mazda2, which was on-sale between 2007 and 2014, was ultra-firm with aggressively sporty handling and super-sharp steering – just like the last Mazda3 and Mazda6 were. This new Genki is a far more rounded drive – just like the new Mazda3 and Mazda6 are.
The steering has relinquished its on-centre sharpness, but thankfully a wonderful fluidity and tightness otherwise remains once lock is wound on through corners. An underlay of firmness remains in the suspension, but the Mazda2 now filters out a greater variety of small road imperfections while tackling rougher roads with greater aplomb.
With a short wheelbase and Mazda engineering nous on its side, the Genki remains wonderfully agile and keen, with deliciously adjustable balance that segues between slight understeer and neutral poise via a quick lift of the throttle. Only the Dunlop Ecopia tyres disappoint, while excessive road noise continues to be a trait shared across all new models from the brand bar the new CX-9 – and we are told that unwanted trait will be wiped from future models.
Safety and servicing
The Genki comes with six airbags (including dual front, front-side and full-length curtain protection), ABS and switchable electronic stability control (ESC), rear parking sensors and rearview camera.
ANCAP has tested the Mazda2 and it scored five stars with 36.35 out of 37 points.
Mazda’s servicing package includes annual/10,000km checks at a class-average cost of $284 for the first dealership visit, $376 for the second and $284 for the third.
Some buyers could simply find the Mazda2 cabin too tiny and walk away. There is a vast difference in size between this light car and a small car, Mazda3 included. Meanwhile some light cars such as the Fabia, Polo and the Honda Jazz, all fill the gap between each segment more successfully.
On the upside, however, size is on this Genki’s side in terms of parking prowess, lightness, cabin equipment and general fun and agility – all aspects at which this five-door hatchback excels. Unless decent luggage volume and rear legroom are non-negotiable virtues, chances are a buyer will enjoy the Mazda nameplate followed by a duo of digits rather than a trio.
Against its competitor set, the Jazz is big but basic and bland to drive, while the Fabia and Polo remain the great all-rounders and deliver extra room and driving finesse.
That said, the Mazda2 Genki is probably the pick of the range as both a fun and fully furnished light car proposition, and would still closely vie for class honours overall.
Skoda Fabia 81TSI from $19,490 plus on-road costs
Superb 1.2-litre turbo engine, peppy dynamics and fun personality.
Volkswagen Polo 81TSI from $20,990 plus on-road costs
As above, but less fun teamed with greater refinement.
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