Car reviews - Mazda - Mazda2 - range
Great new looks, high level of cabin refinement, excellent driving position, low engine and road noise
Room for improvement
Parking sensors and rear view camera are an option on all variants, no cruise control on the Neo, engines could do with more grunt
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12 Nov 2014
AS THE fourth vehicle from the Japanese car-maker to adopt the Kodo design language, the Mazda2’s new look boasts a longer nose with the grille and headlights positioned lower.
Sleeker tail-lights wrap around high shoulders on a rear end its designers say has been crafted to give the impression of “lifting strongly up and forward”.
The new appearance is the first outward indication a significant change has taken place. As Mazda puts it, the car is “new from the ground up” with a fresh platform, more powerful and fuel-efficient engines, the latest in-car tech and it is more refined than ever both cosmetically and in terms of noise, vibration and harshness (NVH).
Mazda has kept pricing sharp with the base Neo’s $14,990 undercutting the Yaris’s starting price of $15,690 and Hyundai’s $15,590 entry i20.
The Maxx kicks off at $16,990 for the manual and brings standard features such as 15-inch alloy wheels, cruise control and leather-clad steering wheel and gearshift knob, while you’ll pay $21,990 for the top-spec Genki with the auto and get more kit such as 16-inch alloy wheels, front fog-lights and the new MZD connectivity system and Commander Control unit, internet radio and satellite navigation.
None of the variants come standard with parking sensors and to option them costs $299 for the rear and $599 for the front. A reversing camera is optional too, and costs $420 in the Genki which displays the view through the touchscreen, while Neo and Maxx drivers can buy a rear-vision mirror display screen and camera for $778.
Mazda has done well to bring big car features into the Mazda2, but not making parking sensors standard - especially on the Genki - is disappointing.
Realistically, the buyer of this car is likely to spend most of their time in the city, parking frequently in small spaces and the sensors take the pain out of this daily chore.
Sensors are an option on Hyundai’s i20 costing $299.98 for the rear and $362.98. A reversing camera is standard from the base model up on the Yaris, while sensors still need to be optioned with the fronts costing $382 and $346 for the rear.
While the new Mazda2 hasn’t been crash tested yet, the previous generation car received a five-star ANCAP rating.
There is a raft of on-board safety equipment including ABS, stability and traction control, electronic brake-force distribution, emergency brake assist, hill hold and Isofix child seat anchor points. Optional across the range is Smart City Brake Support which brakes to avoid a collision at speed between 4km/h-30km/h.
Mazda refers to the next-generation Mazda2 as a full SkyActiv vehicle, which refers to the car-maker’s philosophy of building vehicles which are efficient and enjoyable to drive. This applies to the completely redesigned body, the fresh platform and chassis, the six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions and the new 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated petrol engine which powers the line-up.
Coming in two states of tune the powerplant makes 76kW and 135Nm in the Neo while a 79kW/139Nm version powers the Maxx and Genki.
The later two variants were available for us to drive at the local launch on the Gold Coast.
Starting with the manual Maxx we headed off on the 120km first leg of the route, immediately finding the driving position to be excellent, with the hips low and the pedals centred.
Mazda’s engineers concentrated on improving the set up, centreing the pedals which were to the left of the steering column so that they are more in line with the driver’s body.
Mazda says comfort and support over long distances was a high priority in designing the seats and this has been achieved. There is more legroom in the front thanks to the wheelbase being extended by 80mm, but rear legroom is down 4mm, which means this 190cm writer doesn’t fit behind his driving position despite the thin-backed seats. But this is a small car with a focus on the driver and their front passenger.
The steering wheel now comes with reach adjustment and being able to tailor-make your driving position adds to the comfort factor.
The six-speed manual is easy to use with its light clutch and quick shifts.
Steering is well weighted and the turning circle has been reduced by 40cm to 9.4m with 15-inch wheels making all the difference in tight city streets where the car will most likely spend a lot of its time.
The Maxx sits on 185/65R15 Dunlops and with a higher tyre wall than the previous Mazda2, combined with revised suspension (MacPherson struts up front and a light-weight torsion beam in the rear) make for a ride which proved effective even on the dipping and potholed roads to Byron Bay.
The Mazda2 handles well, with the car feeling balanced and planted.
Hills highlighted the lack of oomph from the engine, leaving the driver changing down to find higher revs and more power and torque – and this is the higher-output unit.
This lack of grunt is evident on the highway too, when a bit of overtaking power is a reassuring thing sometimes.
Still this is an enjoyable and comfortable car to drive.
Swapping into the range-topping Genki with the same engine and suspension, but larger 16-inch wheels and lower profile 185/60R16 tyres made the ride a little firmer and handling better.
The fuel efficiency of the Mazda2 has been vastly improved. Mazda claims the Neo’s standard-spec engine will return 5.4 litres per 100km for the manual and 5.5L/100km for the auto. The higher spec unit does even better with a claimed 5.2L/100km in the manual and 4.9L/100km in the auto.
This test pilot’s ‘spirited’ driving saw higher readings averaging 6.5L/100km in the manual Maxx and 6.1L/100km in the auto but those are still excellent figures.
The cabin refinement is impressive right across the range, but especially on the Genki with the red-stitched soft-touch dash, sporty seats, large touchscreen and high-quality feel surfaces. The instrument cluster has a large tacho and while the inset digital speedo is small, there is also a standard head-up speed display.
The high-mounted touchscreen for media is excellent and the rotating selector works well, while the navigation system is easy to use.
Road and engine noise has been reduced across all variants and the silence in the cosseted cabin was noticeable – a great achievement for a small, affordable car.
Mazda says a main goal was to bring big-car features into a small-car world – to “shatter the notions” of the class. They’ve done it.
The Mazda2’s high level of refinement and quality inside and out, along with its excellent ride and handling, and first-class features all at a small car price point raises the bar in this segment.
Can it be the best selling light car of 2015? Well, it’s done it before and this is the best Mazda2 yet.
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