2012 MAZDA2 NEO REVIEW
Vehicle Style: 5-door light hatchback
Fuel Economy (claimed): 6.4 l/100km
Fuel Economy (tested): 7.1 l/100km
Earlier this year production of the Australian-market Mazda2 switched back from Thailand to Japan, which also saw the sedan body-style dropped from the line-up.
At the same time, both the Neo and Maxx variants were given minor cosmetic upgrades.
The Mazda2 Neo sits at the bottom of the range, but if you don’t mind a relative lack of standard equipment, it’s a good buy. It is also one of the most enjoyable light cars to drive.
Quality: The interior is well-built, constructed largely from high-quality plastics. It’s a bit plain-Jane in terms of upholstery and trim, but then again the Neo is the base model in the Mazda2 range.
Comfort: The front seats are small-ish but comfortable; the back seats can accommodate two adults. Rear headroom can be tight though, and the steering column only adjusts for tilt, not reach.
Equipment: Standard features include a single-CD four-speaker audio system, a 3.5mm auxilliary audio jack, power windows, power mirrors, air conditioning and 15-inch steel wheels.
Steering wheel-mounted audio controls are optional.
Storage: The Mazda2 offers a tight 250 litres of cargo space with the rear seats up, which is enough for a couple’s weekly shopping but not much else.
Capacity rises to 469 litres with the back seats folded.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: The Mazda2’s 1.5 litre inline four produces 76kW and 135Nm of torque - not huge numbers, but the Neo’s 1010kg kerb weight means not a lot of power is needed in the first place.
The engine is a keen revver, and is at its gruntiest above 3500rpm. Low-down torque is okay, but with a passenger or two aboard it’s best to keep revs high.
The standard manual gearbox is a standout in this segment. The feel of the gearshift is exceptional, with a clearly defined gate and smooth, well-weighted throw. It is a delight to use. It’s only a five speed, but the ratio spacing suits the engine’s performance well.
Refinement: Not the Mazda2’s forte unfortunately. There’s quite a bit of wind noise and tyre roar and the cargo shelf rattles over corrugated roads.
Suspension: The Neo’s soft suspension and 15-inch wheels give a compliant ride (and quite comfortable for such a small, light car).
Most bumps are soaked up easily, and the Mazda2 has good body-control over undulations. There’s plenty of roll but it doesn’t feel floaty; the little Mazda2 is actually surprisingly agile.
The electrically-assisted steering is quick to respond to driver input, and it’s proper fun to chuck the 2 into corners with gusto. Dynamically it feels quite neutral, and lifting the throttle mid-corner helps the 2’s nose tuck in tighter.
In more everyday driving situations, the tight turning circle and quick steering makes it easy to weave through traffic and into confined parking spots.
Braking: Braking revisions brought in last year have made the Mazda2’s brake pedal more responsive. A light kerb weight means the Mazda2 doesn’t need a huge brake package to stop quickly, but the grip of its tyres can be challenged if you really jump on the pedal.
ANCAP rating: 4-Stars
Safety features: Stability control, ABS, EBD and brake assist are standard, along with dual front airbags. Side and curtain airbags are only available as part of the optional Safety Pack.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: 3 years/unlimited kilometres.
Service costs: Given a $110p/h advisory labour rate, the cost of maintaining the Mazda2 alternates between roughly $160 and $380 per routine service.
Servicing intervals are set for every six months/10,000km. The first major service is due at 4 years/120,000km, and costs roughly $650.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Nissan Micra Ti ($16,990) - It costs a bit more than the Mazda2 Neo, but as the flagship of the Micra range the Ti is generously equipped with things like climate control, a proximity key, parking sensors and Bluetooth.
Power and torque are almost line-ball with the Mazda2, but the Nissan can’t match the Mazda for driving enjoyment. (see Micra reviews)
Ford Fiesta CL ($16,990) - The Fiesta’s interior styling may not suit everyone’s tastes, but its more powerful 89kW/151Nm 1.6 litre engine easily eclipses the Mazda’s outputs. It also offers brilliant handling and is a sharp and enjoyable drive.
Like the Mazda, the equipment list is a little sparse in the Ford, although Bluetooth and remote audio controls are standard. (see Fiesta reviews)
Suzuki Swift GA ($15,990) - The base-grade Swift is, like the Mazda2, one of the most enjoyable light cars to drive. Its 70kW 1.4 litre engine is a down on power compared to the 2, however its engaging handling makes up for it.
Overall it’s about par with the Mazda2, but the Suzuki’s standard USB and side, curtain and knee airbags give it a slight edge. (see Swift reviews)
Note: all prices are Manufacturer’s List Price and do not include dealer delivery or on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
For those who value handling agility and quality, the Mazda2 Neo is at the head of the pack. But it’s sparsely equipped - outdone by the Swift and Micra for standard features.
That said, in a really tough segment, the pricing is competitive. Between the Mazda2, Ford’s Fiesta and the Suzuki Swift, there is little to split them - each is a good drive and good buying depending upon your priorities.
Without the optional Safety Pack for the Neo however, missing safety features like side air-bags is a concern.
But, that aside, we like the 2; it won’t disappoint you.