Mazda on a roll.
Mazda is the Japanese brand that is riding the crest of a wave with excellent product at present.
Having found its Mojo with outstanding product releases in the last two or three years with the CX-5, Mazda6 and Mazda3, each of which have won numerous global awards and the Mazda3 being the current AA/New Zealand Motoring Writers’ Guild Car Of The Year title-holder, we approached the Mazda2 with some trepidation. Were they going to be able to condense all that fabulousness of the bigger vehicles into a little one?
The 2015 Mazda2 overachieves
To say they’ve achieved it is an understatement. Being fully aware that buyers now demand just as much from a small car as they once did from a larger, luxury model, Mazda have produced a little car that feels, drives, handles and performs like a big one. And what’s more, it’s as refined and quiet as many cars with two or three times the price tag.
The chassis is taut, providing accurate, predictable turn-in, with nicely weighted electric steering offering a high degree of driver confidence, even at high speed and under conditions where smaller cars can be found wanting. The ride quality is firm but comfortable and the cabin feels remarkably roomy for a car in this segment.
Practical improvements over the previous model include increases in driver’s seat adjustments, now giving a 260mm fore-aft adjustment, 40mm seat height adjustment and adding telescopic adjustment of 50mm to the steering column, which already had a 50mm tilt range. Consequently, drivers of any size should have no problem finding a comfortable driving position.
Geared towards the driver
One traditional criticism of small cars has been that due to space constraints, the footwell has been cramped, meaning that the pedals have often been too close together and poorly offset to the driver’s seating position. But thanks to the an 80mm increase in wheelbase allowing for the front wheels to be moved further forward, the shape and size of the footwell has allowed the brake and accelerator pedals to be relocated 20mm towards the outside of the driver’s centre axis.
At 4,060mm, overall length is increased by 160mm and the height is up by 20mm to 1,495mm. The width remains the same at 1,695mm, but with increased space between the front seats, there’s more shoulder room than before.
Available in New Zealand with one engine offering, a choice of two transmissions and in keeping with other Mazda product, three trim levels – GLX, GSX and Limited, the Mazda2 gets an 81kW/141Nm 1.5 litre petrol engine and transmission options are a six speed automatic or six speed manual.
The SKYACTIV-G powerplant adopts fuel-saving technologies including low friction light-weight components, i-stop (start stop system) and numerous other fuel-saving design features. The SKYACTIV body structure uses materials and structures that not only add strength and rigidity but also result in weight reduction.
The SKYACTIV-DRIVE on automatic models improves fuel economy due to reductions in transmission weight plus enhances the driving experience by having a more direct drive and expanded lock-up range. For enthusiastic drivers, it’s the transmission characteristics that give Mazda the edge over almost all the competitors, most of whom have opted for CVT transmissions in recent times.
Of course, the main aim of the SKYACTIV features is to save fuel and lower emissions. Returning frugal fuel economy of 4.9l/100km for the automatic and 5.2l/100km for the manual, running on 91 octane juice, you could say that’s mission accomplished.
For our market, even at entry-level GLX spec, Mazda New Zealand have ticked a lot of boxes. Keyless push-button start, colour coded door handles, one touch up and down driver’s window, cruise control, steering wheel mounted audio controls, a good quality user-friendly Bluetooth phone and audio system and a raft of safety systems including ISOFIX child seat anchor points and Hill Launch Assist (HLA) all form part of the extensive equipment package.
GSX buyers upgrade the 15 inch alloys to 16s, add chrome exhaust extensions, front fog lights, automatic headlights, black/red seat trim material, climate air-conditioning, leather clad steering wheel, gearshift knob and handbrake lever, a 7 inch colour touch screen display and multi-function commander control, satellite-navigation, internet radio integration, keyless entry and Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM).
The top of the range Limited gets all the whistles and bells such as LED headlamps, daytime running lights, improved instrumentation and driver displays and some great safety features including Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), Secondary Collision Reduction (SCR) and Smart City Brake Support (SCBS) which applies the brakes in the event of a pending collision if the driver fails to.
Camera an optional extra
It would have been nice to have seen the crisp and clear optional reversing camera standard - at least on the Limited, but that’s about the only gripe in an otherwise pretty full package.
The 2015 Mazda2 price tag starts $1,500 lower than the old one, at $21,745 for the GLX Manual, and tops out at $28,595 for the Limited Automatic. With claims of 28% fuel saving, 30% lower emissions, 7% more power, 4% more torque, a manual ‘box with one more gear and an auto with an extra two ratios, even before you sit in the driver’s seat and enjoy the vastly improved driving experience, it’s not hard to see that even on paper the new Mazda2 has taken a giant leap ahead of the old one.
Yes, there are a great many very good small cars on the market today, but Mazda has really taken the others on with the new 2, with a little 5 door hatch that (for the time being) is hard to beat in almost every department.