10 September 2020

Used Car Review: Mazda Demio (2012)

There were an impressive 5,323 sales of the Mazda Demio in 2019, making it the second most popular used passenger import vehicle of the year.

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Mazda Demio (2012)

The only car more popular with New Zealand buyers was the larger Mazda Axela, proof that Kiwis tend to resonate well with the Japanese manufacturer.  

Our test Demio was from the popular third generation, featuring a frugal 1.3L Skyactiv engine with Mazda’s signature i-stop technology for enhanced fuel savings.

The third generation (or ‘DE platform’) is also used on the Ford Fiesta, and receives four great engine choices. The majority of the engine configurations we receive tend to be either 1.3L or 1.5L.

Transmissions on offer are an older four-speed electronic auto, as well as a CVT. There’s also a five-speed manual option, although as these vehicles are sourced from Japan these will be harder to find.

Cute Car

The exterior styling is very similar in look to the Mazda Axela, except with a more bubbly appearance, inspired by (of all things) an Italian paper knife.

The Demio’s flowing body gives this little Mazda a character that will certainly appeal to younger buyers. There’s a low design line that runs along the lower portion of the front doors, and the model we tested had some quite smart alloy wheels to complete the look.

The front of the car is typical of Mazdas of this era, featuring a wide low-latticed grill, finished off with faux vents on either side. There’s more grill on show than you’d find at a Korean BBQ, and with such prominence on that aspect, there’s little room for this car’s painted bumper which is left rather trim. There are slim teardrop headlights which are swept well back into the front quarter guards. The combination of the bold grill and headlights, it’s quite an alluring front end.

The back of the Demio is very tidy with the rear light clusters continuing the theme of the headlights, sweeping up to the upper haunches of the rear quarter guards. The bumper is rather plain with the exception of a recess in the middle, which is presumably a space for your fingers to grip onto when you open the rear hatch. The rear of the car is finished off with a small spoiler that stands apart from what is otherwise a rather curvaceous back end.

The overall dimensions of this hatchback are just 3900mm long and a width of 1695mm wide, which is one of the reasons younger buyers are interested in the Mazda Demio. With a compact wheel base of just 2490mm maneuvering, this wee car easily navigated around the tight multi-level 90s carpark we have here at AA Head Office.

Interior Design

The cockpit is a fairly minimalistic affair. The gear stick is the center of attention, standing rather proudly from the dashboard with a large circular matt silver bezel underneath.

The climate control system is basic, possessing the standard three-knob arrangement. There’s a bit more razzle-dazzle in front of the driver, with the stereo controls neatly displayed on the steering wheel and a small LCD i-Master system display to display fuel usage.

The glove box on the passenger side isn’t lockable, and there’s a bizarre mail slot arrangement to quickly slot items into it. Between the driver and passenger seat you get one cup holder, an old school cigarette lighter socket and a conventional handbrake.

The seats were reasonably comfortable and were covered in a two-tone hardwearing fabric, everything seemed well put together and nothing seemed to be rattle around.

Unsurprisingly, the rear seats of the Mazda Demio seem better suited for kids, which is unsurprising considering the dimensions the car possesses. There are no cup holders or seat back pockets, but the inclusion of ISOFIX latching points will come in very handy for young families.

With the seats up, storage comes in at 250L, which isn’t the biggest, however, with the rear seats collapsed this increases to 787L if you need to carry larger items.


The 1.3L Skyactiv direct injection engine is rather tame, producing just 67Kw at 6000RPM – perfect for novices.

Around town seems to be the Demio’s happy place, and without the nuisance of an overly cumbersome frame, driving it feels rather natural. We loved the feeling of the traditional four-speed automatic transmission. At motorway speeds, the acceleration is not great, but that’s to be expected with an engine of this capacity.

Economy wise we averaged about 5.8L/100 km during our testing, with the official economy rating being slightly less at 5.3L/100km. The i-stop system mechanism aids in reduce emissions by shutting the engine down instead of arbitrarily idling when the car’s stationary.

The drive of the Demio is a perfect representation of a city car of that era, it feels light and zippy around town and the suspension is finely-tuned to improve handling, stability and comfort when compared to previous generations. On open road it’s fine, but it really is more at home as a city commuter.


If you are looking for a simple fun city car but, then Demio is a worthy alternative to the larger Mazda Axela or the similarly-sized Suzuki Swift - it is fuel efficient and a pleasure to nip about in. It would make an excellent addition to the family’s driveway and would make a great choice as a frugal second car.

At a glance

Model and year

Mazda Demio (2012)



Date Tested



$10,480 (+ORC)


1.3L petrol


Four-speed auto

Fuel economy


Towing capacity




Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

250L (all seats up)

Safety features include:

  • Anti-lock Braking System (ABS)
  • Airbags
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)
  • i-Stop system
  • ISOFIX/LATCH Points for child safety

For more information on safety ratings visit rightcar.govt.nz

Choosing you next used car?

A good start is to find a vehicle that is stocked by an appraised dealer. AA Appraised used cars have received a 43-point mechanical check by the AA which focuses on the mechanical and safety aspects of the car and gives an overall evaluation of the vehicle.

Click here to find an AA Appraised Used Vehicle dealer.

Get total peace of mind with an AA Pre Purchase Inspection

When you buy a car, you may have a number of questions about its condition and safety. Assume nothing. An AA Pre Purchase Vehicle Inspection will give you complete peace of mind a comprehensive 100+ point vehicle check by an experienced mechanic.

Click here for more information on AA Pre Purchase Inspections.

What do the AA windscreen stickers mean?

Did you know that the AA can check a car up to four times before it has a new owner? Click here for more information.

Thank you to GVI for supplying us with the 2012 Mazda Demio for review.


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