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Car reviews - Mazda - Mazda2 - Maxx sedan

Our Opinion

We like
Cavernous boot, comfy seats, safety features, fuel economy
Room for improvement
Engine refinement, transmission sophistication, interior presentation

19 Aug 2010

NEVER been a fan of getting old. It seems like the antithesis of all that the glossy media promotes as what is good in life. So here we are, sitting in traffic in a grey Mazda2 sedan auto and wondering if Mazda offers a senior's discount on this car.

That and other matters, such as where I’ll take the family with the just-purchased caravan and whether I should put a rinse through the encroaching grey in my hair.

Okay, so there is nothing wrong with being old, but I’m not sure I feel the same about the automatic sedan version of the Mazda2.

The manual hatch we drove a week before was a keen, edgy drive with the spirit and style of youth. Slipping into the auto sedan felt like a Zimmer frame hobble into conservative blandness. It wasn’t just the colour.

Although many sedans based on hatchbacks tend to look exactly that – that is, an afterthought – the Mazda2 sedan looks like it was designed with its own fresh piece of paper – even though the designers clearly photocopied much of the front work from the hatch’s design team.

As the sedan is available only in mid-spec Maxx trim, it has a dowdy and cheap-looking interior not shared by its cousin, the more recently renewed Ford Fiesta.

It is surprising how quickly the light car market has moved on with interior presentation, and the Mazda2 highlights that. The moulding line in the steering wheel and smooth grain is the most obvious sign of that, and while it does not appear poorly put together, it just isn’t as classy as some competitors.

With buyers now expecting to see more bins in a car than in the street on garbage night, it comes as a surprise that the Mazda2 doesn’t have a lidded centre bin and that the tray fitted there instead is rather shallow. Door pockets are as deep as you might hope.

At least the boot is gi-normous – at 450 litres it offers one of the more ample cargo capacities in its class. The rear seat split-folds, and the storage for long items is almost as good as a hatch as a result.

The boot would be even better, though, if the opening was not as shallow (this being dictated by the sweeping rear window) and if tie-down points were fitted. The spare wheel is a space-saver, too – which won’t bother those who stick to the city but in the country obviously it isn’t ideal

On the positive side, the sedan is easy to get in and out of, and provides good vision and easy-to-find controls. It is one of the simplest cars to just get in and drive.

The drive experience is a mixed one. Off the mark, the 1.5-litre engine feels as though it punches above its weight, but this good launch feel isn’t really followed though.

Climbing hills on the freeway requires a kick-down or two to maintain speed. The engine also gets harsh around 3500rpm. Just where the manual hatch feels as if it is beginning to sing sweetly, the auto sedan simply begins to sound off-key.

This is probably not helped by the old-school four-speed automatic that, aside from being restricted by its ratio gaps compared with a five- or six-speed autos, does not offer a manual shift mode or in fact anything more fancy than its ‘hold’ button for a specific gear such as when engine braking is required.

At least the shifts are smooth and the auto is clever enough to kick down when you need it.

Fuel consumption in mostly town driving with some freeway averaged 7.3L/100km, which is not bad for a 1.5-litre auto.

Although Mazda prides itself on making cars that are involving to drive, the Mazda2 sedan is more nimble than quick, and more agile than involving. In other words, it points, steers and grips well, but doesn’t imbue the driver with the sense that they are an integral part of what’s going on. It feels a bit remote.

It is hard to criticise a car that does its job well. The Mazda2 fulfils this requirement well, but there are others that are more contemporary in the class and arguably do the job better.

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