What’s Hot: Super-frugal engine, nimble handling, lots of added value.
What’s Not: Limited rear legroom and storage; expensive optional rear-view camera and centre-armrest.
X-FACTOR: The 'MZD Connect' media system, will find lots of favour with young connected buyers.
Vehicle style: Five-door light hatch
Engine/trans: 81kW/141Nm 1.5 litre petrol | 6spd auto
Fuel consumption claimed: 4.9 l/100km | tested: 5.3 l/100km.
Buyers in Australia’s light-car segments have a smorgasbord of choice, with at least 20 brands and a vast number of models to pick from.
In the seven years since the third-gen Mazda2 arrived, it has been one of the stand-out performers - with 100,000 sales here since 2007- and it’s a car younger buyers love.
The new Thai-built 2 gives buyers the choice of three models and two variations of the same 1.5 litre engine.
For this test, the top-spec Genki automatic was chosen and it is powered by what Mazda calls the “high-spec Skyactive-G” engine.
The top-spec Genki has more hard plastics than we were expecting. For instance, while front-seat occupants have nice padded arm rests on the doors, their rear-seat counterparts have uncomfortable hard-plastic units.
And, while controls are generally well-placed and easily used, the Genki’s seven-inch touch screen looks a bit of an afterthought design-wise. That said, it’s functional and well-positioned for both the fingers and the eyes.
On the plus side, we like the classy cloth seat-fabric and red stitching, and the red-stripe feature on the seats also helps the interior ambience.
Comfort: The front seats are well-shaped and bolstered and rear-seat passengers get a little outer bolstering.
Front-seat passengers have plenty of legroom (this reviewer, 185cm from top-to-toe, fits comfortably), but this is not the case for those in the rear - especially if the front seats are well back for the aforementioned lump.
Having just spent a week in the new Honda Jazz - one of the Mazda’s key competitors - the Honda wins hands down for space and cabin flexibility.
Equipment: There’s no shortage of equipment in this top-spec Genki model; the feature list and media system is a real plus.
Stand-out features include 16-inch alloy wheels, climate-control air-con, seven-inch colour touch-screen display with MZD Connect (which works in tandem with a smart phone to handle features such as short text messages, Tweets and Facebook), a six-speaker audio system, sat-nav, Bluetooth, internet radio integration for Pandora, Sticher and Aha, rain-sensing wipers, front fog lights and a multi-function, leather-wrapped steering wheel.
Storage: Not one of the 2’s strong points. For instance, there are two cup holders in the front but none in the rear.
Also, while the front doors have small bottle-friendly door pockets, the rear doors don’t. (And we’d like a roof-mounted sunglasses holder, also absent).
There is however a storage pocket behind the front-passenger’s seat, a good-sized glovebox, and three small open cubby holes on the centre console.
With the rear seats occupied, there is just 250 litres of boot space. To put that in segment perspective, the Honda Jazz has 350 litres.
The Mazda does however, have a 60/40 split for the rear-seat backs which helps somewhat.
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: With a great-to-hold, height-and-reach-adjustable leather-wrapped steering wheel and adequate seat adjustment, dialling up the precise driving position takes just seconds.
Mazda engineers have moved the 2’s front wheels 80mm further forward, and this has allowed for improved positioning for both the accelerator and brake pedals.
The Genki, like others in the new 2 range, comes with electric power steering; the result is precise steering feel and feedback.
The car’s new 1.5 litre engine likes to rev and that’s a good thing, given that peak torque doesn’t arrive until nearly 5000rpm. It zings along very well and feels quite sporty when pushed.
Also impressive is the way the intuitive six-speed automatic transmission does its thing for both up and down-shifting, rarely putting a foot wrong and always having the right gear underfoot.
One driveability feature - and it’s a segment first - is the Genki’s head-up display, projecting speed and other information onto a small pop-up plastic screen mounted above the instrument binnacle.
Refinement: The Genki’s underpinnings are set on the firm, sporty side, and that’s a good thing in a car in this category.
The outgoing Mazda2 was noted for its poor noise, vibration and harshness performance. With the new model, a lot of work has gone into improving the new 2’s NVH standards.
In fact, Mazda claims a 15 percent improvement in road noise levels. It is noticeably quieter on road.
Ride and handling: The car’s firmish suspension employs a MacPherson-strut front-end and torsion-beam rear.
Mazda engineers have also added friction-control front-and-rear dampers to improve ride and steering response.
Mated with the new electric-assisted steering, the Genki is something of a driver’s car with its predictable turn-in and overall nimble on-road performance.
Braking: Stopping power comes from 258mm ventilated front discs and 200mm drums at the rear, and we found no issues in pulling up the little 2.
The new Mazda2 has not yet been tested either by ANCAP or EuroNCAP. (Mazda believes the car will achieve a 5-Star rating.)
Safety features: There are front driver-and-passenger airbags and front side bags as well as front-and-rear curtain airbags.
Other safety kit includes ABS brakes with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, hill-launch assist, dynamic stability and traction control, an engine immobiliser, an emergency stop signal, side-impact door beams and three-point seatbelts for all passengers.
The front belts have pretensioners and load limiters as well as height-adjustable shoulder anchorages.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Unlike many of its competitors with their five-year warranties - and Kia now has seven - the Mazda2 comes with a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Service costs: The 2 is covered by Mazda’s newly launched capped-price servicing program that requires service every 12 months or 10,000km (whichever comes first) with a maximum cost of $298, excluding some bits and pieces.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Hyundai i20 Elite 1.4 litre ($17,590) - Segment leader so far this year. The i20 is almost identical with the Genki’s power-and-torque figures but its 5.9 l/100km combined fuel-consumption figure is exactly a litre worse than the Mazda’s. (see i20 reviews)
Honda Jazz VTI-L 1.5litre CVT ($22,490) - Again, the Jazz’s old-fashioned 88kW/145Nm single-overhead-cam engine can’t hold a candle to the Genki’s fuel figure (5.8 litres versus 4.9 litres) but the Honda’s cabin space and interior flexibility blow the Genki out of the water. (see Jazz reviews)
Toyota Yaris ZR 1.5 litre automatic ($22,690) - Again, like the Honda, the Yaris 80kW/142Nm engine is a bit long in the tooth and with a combined fuel-consumption figure of 6.3 l/100km, buyers will spend more money at the bowser than their Genki counterparts. (see Yaris reviews)
Note: All prices are Manufacturers’ List Price and do not include dealer-delivery and on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s no wonder that the outgoing Mazda2 has been such a stalwart of the light-car segment.
It has always been brim-full of personality and fun-to-drive. It also sits perfectly with its target audience - often younger city-based women.
The new model looks particularly smart, and with that zingy little Skyactiv engine and transmission, and outstanding fuel economy, the new 2 is sure to be a sales success.
In the case of the top-spec Genki, its new suite of smart media features will only add to its appeal for younger ‘connected’ buyers.
It’s one you’ll be happy with.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Mazda2 Neo - 1.5 petrol 6MT - $14,990 ($16,990 drive-away)
- Mazda2 Neo - 1.5L petrol 6AT - $16,990 ($18,990)
- Mazda2 Maxx - 1.5L petrol 6MT - $16,990 ($18,990)
- Mazda2 Maxx - 1.5L petrol 6AT - $18,990 ($20,990)
- Mazda2 Genki - 1.5L petrol 6MT - $19,990 ($21,990)
- Mazda2 Genki - 1.5L petrol 6AT - $21,990 ($23,990)