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Brand New Mazda 2

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Steane Klose | Aug 8, 2008

It’s probably not too often that a beefy Aussie bloke spends a week in a little three-door hatch and genuinely laments handing back the keys. Let’s be realistic here, most of the cars in this class are targeted to female buyers. They’re cute, cool and sometimes sassy but rarely a ripper drive. With small four-cylinder engines, they’re tuned for fuel-sipping in the shopping strips as opposed to sling-shotting away from the lights. Driving this type of car can be - in fact, is expected to be - a little ho-hum.

However, there are exceptions to every rule and the little 2 is one such exception.

mazda2_01

First impressions count for plenty in this world and that’s the first test the new 2 passes. It looks good, in fact I’d go so far as to say that it is the best looking car in its class, edging out the Suzuki Swift for top spot. Bearing no resemblance whatsoever to the ‘boxy’ previous generation 2, the new 2 shares plenty of styling cues with the current Mazda range. Exaggerated front wheel-arches and sharp, crisp lines are now de rigueur for Mazda and the 2 takes its place at the cute end of the handsome Mazda line-up.

While the 2 is built to a price, there is no evidence that Mazda has skimped on quality. It’s as well finished as the rest of Mazda’s fully imported range and that’s great news for buyers shopping for a sub-$20,000 light car. Standard features on the Mazda2 3-door Neo and Maxx variants include Anti-lock Brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD) and Emergency Brake Assist (EBA). There is also air-conditioning, remote locking, power windows and mirrors, driver’s seat height adjustment, a centre rear headrest and an auxiliary jack that enables any MP3 player to be played through the 2’s four speaker audio system.


mazda2_02

The 2 on test was the up-spec Maxx which adds steering wheel audio controls, a 6-CD stacker with MP3 compatibility, 15-inch alloy wheels and a rear roof spoiler all from $17,960. One highly recommended option is the ‘safety pack’, which for an additional $1100, adds side (front) and curtain (front and rear) airbags along with Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control.

On the inside, the good news continues. The 2 is one of those cars that fits like an old pair of jeans: you can jump in, and, with a few adjustments to the seat and steering wheel, feel immediately at home. The dashboard styling was admired by some and viewed with suspicion by others; but aesthetics aside it was well laid-out and easy to use. The manual gear shift is located under the centre section of the dash and falls nicely to hand, with the audio and air-conditioning controls being an easy ‘finger flex’ away. There is enough front seat adjustment to cater for 6ft-plus drivers with ease.

mazda2_031

With Mazda’s 1.5-litre 76kW/137Nm MZR four-cylinder petrol engine on the job, I wasn’t expecting the 2 to be a riveting drive, but yet another of my preconceived notions was quickly laid to rest. This particular four-cylinder has heart and character. Combined with an excellent five-speed manual, it is a bucket load of fun as well as being an absolute doddle to drive. The 1.5-litre begs to be given a good rev and rewards the driver with a mild ‘Alfa-esque’ exhaust note – yes, it surprised me as well. The 2’s chassis is well sorted for around town work, soaking up bumps without issue yet proving firm enough to tackle suburban round-a-bouts in a sure-footed and confident manner. The brakes are well modulated and confidence-inspiring. Mazda’s Zoom-Zoom philosophy is alive and well in the 2.


mazda2_05

During the week that the 2 was in my care, it was subjected to equal measures of peak-hour commuting and highway kilometres. Around town it was a nimble and nippy drive. My gripes were few and mainly concerned the 2’s steering, which initially felt vague on long sweeping corners and failed to self-centre as quickly as most drivers would expect. However, like the CX-9 I drove the week before, it’s something you get used to – more a Mazda quirk than an issue of note. On the subject of gripes, my only other issue was the tacky looking digital fuel gauge/odometer that was difficult to read and seemed at odds with the conventional speedo and tachometer.

A weekend trip down to Phillip Island revealed that the 2 is more at home within city limits. It handled the trip well but is ultimately geared for snappy city work, not highway hauling.

According to the official VFACTS figures released for July, I am not alone in finding the 2 an endearing drive. Mazda managed to sell 1447 Mazda2's in July, increasing its share of the sub-$25k light car market by 8.3 percent when compared to the same period last year.

It’s not always easy putting your finger on exactly what makes one car good and another just so-so. The 2 is good, there is no doubting that, and after much deliberation I am convinced that it’s because the 2 has personality – driving it is fun – it’s a tactile experience. The brakes and clutch feel right, the manual gear shift is actually fun to use and is perfectly placed for the driver. The engine, for a humble 1.5-litre, is a personality-loaded charmer.

mazda2_04

The little 2 proved to be an admirable travelling companion for a week and should be on the short list for anyone shopping for a new light car.

The Last Word

The Mazda2 is proof that good looks and a vibrant personality are not mutually exclusive. A city runabout that is a genuine surprise package for the daily commuter, in- particular those who enjoy their driving.

• The way it looks

• The way it drives

• Its ‘personality’

• Unusual steering

• Hard to read digital petrol gauge

Gallery

Prices range from $15,750 for Mazda2 Neo to $17,960 for Maxx

Engine: 1.5 litre in-line 4 cylinder 16 valve DOHC S-VT
Cylinder capacity: 1498cc
Valve system: DOHC, VVT
Maximum power: 76kw @ 6,000rpm
Maximum torque: 137Nm @ 4,000rpm
Fuel System: Multi-point electronic fuel injection
Bore x stroke: 78.0 x 78.4mm
Compression ratio: 10.0:1
Speed: 0-100km/h: Manual: 10.0 seconds

Top Speed: manual: 181km/h

auto: 168km/h

Throttle control: Electronic (drive-by-wire)

Transmission: Manual transmission: 5-speed

Automatic transmission: 4-speed

Wheels: 15 x 6.0 JJ 16 x 6.5JJ

Type: Steel / Alloy

Spare: Temporary

Tyres: 185/55R15 82V 195/45R16 80W
Steering: Electronic power assist steering

Turns to lock: 2.7

Suspension: Front: MacPherson strut

Rear: Torsion beam

Brakes: Front: Ventilated disc

Rear: Drum

Fuel: Electronic fuel injection

Capacity:

Recommended fuel: Regular unleaded

(min. 91RON)

Consumption: man (combined) 6.4 L/100km

auto (combined) 6.8 L/100km

CO2 - 152g/km

Emissions standard: Euro Stage IV

Gear ratio (man/auto): 1st - 3.416 / 2.816

2nd - 1.842 / 1.553

3rd - 1.290 / 1.000

4th - 0.972 / 0.695

5th - 0.775 / -

reverse - 3.214 / 2.279

final drive - 4.105 / 4.147

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