What’s Hot: A rewarding drive, modern interior and frugal engine
What’s Not: Petite boot and backseat, lacks a reverse camera
X-FACTOR: Offers impressive technology and capable dynamics in a package you’ll love being seen in
Vehicle Style: 5-door light hatch
Price: $19,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 81kW/141Nm 1.5 litre petrol | 6spd man
Fuel Economy claimed: 5.2 l/100km | tested: 6.2 l/100km
Traditionally, one of the drawbacks with cars in the light-car segment is that they’ve always been, well, "light".
Not just light - as in 'weight' - but a little light-on for refinement, quality and features. But, that isn’t necessarily true anymore; case in point, the new Mazda2 Genki.
This pint-sized Mazda packs a large serve of the technology from Mazda’s larger models into a compact footprint, and delivers style, comfort, and features unheard of in this category just a few years ago.
Already, the new Mazda2 has climbed to the top spot for sales in its class. After spending a fortnight with the top-of-the-range Genki model, it isn’t hard to see why.
- Leather wrapped steering wheel, gear shifter and handbrake.
- Single zone climate control.
- Cruise control, power windows, 16-inch alloy wheels.
- Trip computer, keyless ignition, electric folding head-up display.
- Seven-inch MZD Connect touchscreen with secondary control wheel.
- Six-speaker AM/FM/CD audio, 3.5mm auxiliary input, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB audio input, steering wheel-mounted audio controls,
In developing the Mazda2, the carmaker's engineers decided to focus on the front seats. The reason being, they factored in how rarely the rear seats would be used by buyers in the target market.
The result is great front seats - comfy, with modern fabrics and shaped really nicely.
The dashboard too is as fresh as they come.
In Genki spec there’s also a large touchscreen and multi-function control dial to navigate through the infotainment system borrowed from the Mazda3.
It's not just the features that impress. Interior quality throughout is at the top of the class, with well-finished surfaces, a generous splash of metallic trims, high gloss highlights and a soft-padded lower instrument cluster with contrasting stitching.
Plus, there's leather for the steering wheel, handbrake, and gear knob.
Head to the back and the fancy flourishes are a little more sparse. The rear is also a fraction tighter (just a fraction, we're talking millimetres here) than the model before it - but it’s no 'contortionist trap' by any means.
You’ll still pack a couple of friends in for a quick dash to the mall, but the legroom limitations and sweeping roof mean you’d best keep the journeys (or your friends) short.
Storage space is also a little light on. You will however find there’s a decent glovebox and front bottle-holders, plus seat-back map pockets.
There’s no lidded console nor rear door-pockets though, and the centre console has a shallow tray that will hold your iPhone 5, but you’re out of luck with anything larger.
Boot space maxes out at 250 litres with the seats up, but can be stretched out by dropping the 60/40 split rear seats.
ON THE ROAD
- 81kW/141Nm 1.5 litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine.
- Six-speed manual. Front wheel drive.
- MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension.
- Disc brakes front, drum brakes rear.
- Electric power steering.
When it comes to city cars, 'ease of use' is a must-have. That often means that an automatic transmission is the default option. But in the case of the new 2, that doesn’t need to be the case.
Coupled to the transmission is the ‘high-output’ version of Mazda’s 1.5 litre SkyActiv engine.
That results in outputs of 81kW of power at 6000rpm, 141Nm of torque at 4000rpm, and a combined fuel consumption figure of 5.2 l/100km.
In the light little 2, acceleration feels very spry. In fact, for around-town work, the Genki has ample zest to keep itself out of trouble and spins freely without becoming uncomfortably vocal.
It’s also deceptively tractable. It will happily pull in a higher gear without shuddering or baulking, and simply continues on, taking just a moment longer to gather momentum.
The ride too is very good for such a small wheelbase. While it has a slightly firm edge, it is perfectly capable of ironing-out most speed bumps and dipped driveways.
That little rigidity in the chassis tuning gives a good degree of body control and gives the Mazda2 a secure and not uncomfortably sporty on-road feel.
Head out of town, and even away from its ideal urban environment the Genki cruises comfortably on the open road.
A couple of its light car class competitors do a better job of isolating noise, but the new Mazda2 is a noticeably quieter conveyance than its predecessor.
Steering is another area that benefits from the right amount of weighting.
It’s light enough to easily twirl into a tight parking space, but has well-judged weighting and feedback when carrying more speed.
ANCAP rating: The 2015 Mazda2 has yet to be tested by ANCAP
Safety features: The airbag tally includes driver-and-passenger airbags, front side-bags and full-length curtain airbags.
Other standard items include ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist, hill-launch assist, stability and traction control, 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. Smart City Brake Support can be added as an option.
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
If something with a more premium feel is what you’re after, Renault’s Clio, or Volkswagen’s Polo answer the call.
Space conscious consumers will love the versatile Honda Jazz, while value seekers might find the newly upgraded Toyota Yaris the right fit.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
Tech-savvy buyers will love the Genki’s MZD connect infotainment system. It pairs seamlessly with most smart phones, is easy to use and doesn’t require the added hassle of HDMI cables for things like satellite navigation.
But there's a lot more to the Mazda2 than its technology features. This is a car with real character, is thoroughly enjoyable at the wheel, and is arguably one of the style-leaders in the light car segment.
Better still, it can be yours for less that $20k, before on-road costs, which makes it quite an astute value proposition.
Maybe not 'world-beating', we'll grant you (and we could pine for a reverse camera or sensors), but still a thoroughly well-presented, well thought-out and appealing buy.
The 2 is certainly one of the best in its class.
If you happen to be one of the many who doesn't care much about a more compact boot, nor bothered by a marginally tighter rear seat, absolutely check out the Mazda2.
The smart little Genki might be just the ticket for giving your cosmopolitan sense of style a bit of a boost.
PRICING (excludes on-road costs)
- Mazda2 Neo - 1.5 petrol 6MT - $14,990
- Mazda2 Neo - 1.5L petrol 6AT - $16,990
- Mazda2 Maxx - 1.5L petrol 6MT - $16,990
- Mazda2 Maxx - 1.5L petrol 6AT - $18,990
- Mazda2 Genki - 1.5L petrol 6MT - $19,990
- Mazda2 Genki - 1.5L petrol 6AT - $21,990