The Mazda2 has always been a good car, one of the manufacturers best-sellers,albeit one that was often overlooked in SA for some reason. Maybe it was because the powers that be focussed on the other brand under their control and so never quite put in the effort it deserved. Still, back before the local COTY chaps started taking flack for choosing uber-expensive luxury cars, they nominated some cracking little cars to win, and the Mazda2 took top honours in 2008. I bet you never knew that. Heck, most people I know, true petrol heads included, had no idea. I think that's set to change and the Mazda2 will now be on the radar for new car buyers.
The latest incarnation is an all-new affair and Mazda's vision for the car is for it "to shatter all notions of the subcompact class". With the hotly contested title of Japan's 2015 Car of the Year under it's belt already, I'm guessing success is the only path the all-new Mazda2 will be following. An excerpt from UK's Auto Express on the Japanese COTY title reads: "The judges were impressed by the car's attractive new design, as well as the new SKYACTIV engine technology that is available across the range. This includes a new 1.5-litre, 103bhp diesel which manages CO2 emissions of just 85g/km. They were pleased to see that this diesel was available in Japan for under two million Yen. New 1.5-litre petrols also offer very competitive fuel economy and emission figures in the three outputs offered. They also praised the ergonomic interior – which features a head-up display as a first in the supermini class – and for offering excellent passenger space and multimedia connectivity for the price." and I agree on all fronts.
On the looks side, the Mazda2 is a lot more grown up, the models before looked more fun, younger even. This 2015 model has lines and features usually reserved for cars in the segments above. While it's the smallest car in the lineup, it's a decent size inside and out and will happily transport four adults with access being easier than on previous models. The angular nose puts the car in line with the rest of the range. You can easily see it's new Mazda DNA , or as Mazda call it - KODO - Soul of Motion. The Mazda2 comes in a choice of nine colours that should cater for most tastes, choices include Black, Snowflake White, Metropolitan Grey, Gunmetal Blue, Aluminium Metallic, Soul Red, Titanium Flash along with two new colours; Smoky Rose and Dynamic Blue. The test car looked good, but I'd prefer one with a bolder colour, Soul Red is just right.
The version I had was the 1.5 Individual Auto and it comes with some cool visual features like a chrome exhaust tip extension and a body-coloured front upper grille add-on. The wheels, while a cool new style, are a let down in just 16-inches. The dimensions of the car would be better suited to 17-inch wheels as standard. The wheels are a little too tucked in instead of sitting flush with the arches. This is probably just my personal opinion coming from my background of aftermarket wheels and accessories, but I'm willing to bet that I'll be seeing these cars driving around with non-standard wheels. Also the fact that 16-inch tyres are becoming pricey and are found less often, a swap to 17s makes sense.
Inside the Mazda2 things get really, really good. I mean really good. When you climb inside and have a look around you'd swear you just climbed into a more expensive sports car. The first thing I noticed was the leather strip with red stitching spanning the length of the dashboard. Then there's the clocks, a huge tacho takes centre stage with an integrated digital speedo. There's chrome bezels and digital displays on either side reading out trip information and gear selection with driving modes, among other things. The steering wheel is a nice and fat leather-bound piece with carbon-style inserts and steering controls on the left. Leather, pronounced stitching and the carbon-style as well as a brushed aluminium finish can also be found on the door cards and throughout the centre console. Besides the great looks, the build quality is top-notch too. Everything is solid and looks set to stand up to years of use or abuse. There are hot hatches out there without this kind of sporty feel. Space is good, 4 adults will easily fit in the car, the boot is a little on the small side if you're travelling far or doing all the monthly shopping, but I didn't do that so I had no problem there. It fits a camera bag and some gear, well, that is if you don't get your camera bag stolen (hence the lack of my own pics) when you turn your back to move the car into a different position during the shoot... Dammit!
Then there's the infotainment system - MDZ Connect. An upright display top-centre of the dash is a main attraction and it offers up lots of features. It's a touchscreen setup but as driver there's no need to reach across to it, you simply drop your left hand in between the seats and if you have normal length arms, the control dial with a few buttons will be at your fingertips. It's a really good system, on my first drive I was busy getting my seating position sorted out and by the time I was happy with the seat and mirrors and steering, my wife had already managed to connect her smartphone to the system, I knew this because it read out one of her e-mails. It's intuitive, at no point did either of us need to refer to a user manual. Besides the e-mail trick, it can check your Facebook and Twitter and a bunch of other things. I liked the screen for the fuel consumption - which incidentally stayed on 7.6l/100km no matter how I drove the car. After a reset on the gauges a trip to Pretoria and back gave me readings of 5.7l/100km but as soon as I hit the backroads it went back to 7.6. There was a reading of 7.7, but that was after a bit of an aggressive session. Back to the sound system - it's also good, especially for a car in this segment, it banged out some old school speed garage and even some Slipknot just right through the 6-speaker setup.
Manufacturers like to give their engine designs cool names, and I love Mazda's name for their new range - Skyactiv. It sounds like something Schwarzenegger will return from the future to kill before it takes over the world. When I saw the specs of the Mazda2 having a normally aspirated 1500cc 4-pot I was a little skeptical about how well it would run, especially at our altitude and also coupled to an automatic transmission, something that usually saps power. I was pleasantly surprised. It's typically Japanese, it loves revs, and it uses them well. It makes 82Kw with 145Nm but it feels better than the numbers suggest, well it did for me anyway. The transmission was also a surprise, it's Mazda's Skyactiv-Drive 6-speed automatic. The gearbox works right, when you're puttering around it selects the gears accordingly and when you mash the pedal the step-down to lower gears is smooth and it knows which gear it wants - I didn't find it hunting for gears. Sport Mode was a blast, it lets the little Skyactiv powerplant rev a little higher and it doesn't simply change gears when the revs are high, it will hold the revs in gear which makes punching the Mazda2 out of a corner much better. Also, when slowing down in Sport Mode it blips the throttle before dropping a gear. I think it would be fun for a track day, I'd love to be able to chuck this around Zwartkops.
The Mazda2 really was a surprising drive, the motor and gearbox is a great combination and the chassis is nice and stiff. Actually, I'm wondering if there's not possibly an MPS version on the way at some point. The car has everything needed to be a rad little hot hatch, except for the power. It has great looks, and awesome interior and great handling and it well worth a look if you're looking to buy in this segment. Also, if this Mazda2, which isn't marketed as a sports car, is this good then I can only imagine what the new MX-5 will be like. I cannot wait to see it!
Mazda2 Active Manual 1.5L - R188,000 (Incl VAT)
Mazda2 Dynamic Manual 1.5L - R199, 900 (Incl VAT)
Mazda2 Dynamic Auto 1.5L - R211, 300 (Incl VAT)
Mazda2 Individual Manual 1.5L - R211, 400 (Incl VAT)
Mazda2 Individual Auto 1.5L - R222, 800 (Incl VAT) - Model reviewed
Mazda2 Hazumi Auto 1.5L DE - R259, 900 (Incl VAT)
All models are backed by a 3-year unlimited kilometre factory warranty, 3-year roadside assistance, a 3-year service plan and a 5-year Corrosion Warranty. For more information, click on over to www.mazda.co.za