Vehicle Style: 5-door light hatchback
Price: $18,990 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 81kW/141Nm 1.5 litre petrol 4cyl | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.9 l/100km | tested: 5.9 l/100km
Since launching in October last year, the new 2015 Mazda2 has been selling up a storm.
In fact, last month - its second full month on sale - Mazda managed to notch up 1400 sales of the 2, making it the most popular light hatch under $25,000.
Why? Well, besides having a badge with an extremely strong reputation, the Mazda2’s new, but evolved, styling is certainly eye-catching.
But it’s not just good looks that work in the Mazda2’s favour.
An attractive entry price of $14,990 makes it $600 cheaper than a three-door Hyundai i20, it’s powered by a peppy 1.5 litre engine and offers dynamic performance.
In the mid-grade Maxx automatic tested here (expected to be one of the most popular configurations), the price also undercuts most of its major rivals.
We spent a week behind the wheel of the Maxx auto, and found it to be easily one of the best city cars we’ve sampled in recent times.
If you’re after a light car with a premium touch but can’t extend the budget to something European, the Mazda2 should be up your alley.
- Leather trim on steering wheel, gear shifter and handbrake. Manual air conditioning, cruise control, power windows, 15-inch alloy wheels, reach/rake adjustable steering wheel, trip computer, keyless ignition.
- four-speaker AM/FM/CD audio, 3.5mm auxilliary input, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, USB audio input, steering wheel-mounted audio controls,
- Luggage space: 250 litres minimum, 60/40 split rear seats fold down for larger objects.
There are good and bad aspects to the Mazda2’s interior.
The good: it presents well, with a sharp design that looks and feels quite European.
Material quality is great, the driving position is superb and you get leather trim on the steering wheel, gear lever and handbrake.
The bad: the cabin has shrunk in comparison to the last generation Mazda2, with rear-seat head, shoulder and legroom marginally shaved.
Boot space also doesn’t offer any improvement over the old Mazda2, with just 250 litres of luggage space behind the rear seats.
We know it’s only a light hatch, but when the Honda Jazz manages to offer a boot that’s a whole 100 litres bigger there’s definitely room for improvement.
Blame the new Mazda2’s sleeker cab-rearward design, which looks better than its taller, more egg-like predecessor but sacrifices some practicality as a result.
Speaking of sacrifices, there’s been a few made in the spec list too.
There’s no sat-nav with the Maxx - not even as an option - and reversing sensors and a reversing camera will cost you extra.
Some may find it easy enough to live without these mod-cons, but the Mazda2’s small rear window can make it difficult to see low objects when reversing and a camera would be handy.
ON THE ROAD
- 81kW/141Nm 1.5 litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine
- Six-speed automatic with manual shift mode and sports mode. Front wheel drive
- MacPherson strut front, torsion beam rear suspension
- Disc brakes front, drum brakes rear
- Electric power steering
While its predecessor was a fine-handling car, it was also a harsh, buzzy little thing. Suppression of noise, vibration and harshness could definitely have been better.
Not so the new Mazda2.
The body is stiffer, there’s more sound deadening and better engine mounts, not to mention a new engine that’s smoother and quieter than before.
The result is a much more 'mature' and refined drive experience.
Much of the improvement can be put down to the engine. It's a rev-happy direct-injected 1.5 litre that puts out 81kW/141Nm in the Maxx (the base model Neo gets a detuned version with 79kW/139Nm) and consumes 4.9 l/100km on the combined cycle.
It’s hooked up to a six-speed manual as standard but is also available with a six-speed automatic, as we’ve tested here.
Compared to the antique four-speed auto in the previous Mazda2, the new car’s six-speeder is a revelation.
Not having a turbo means there’s no low-down punch to the engine’s torque output, but the automatic intelligently kicks down a gear whenever demands for power are made to compensate.
It doesn’t hunt through the ratios up inclines either, and a 'sport' shift-mode keeps the engine perkier if, say, you’re driving through a hilly area - or if you just want a bit of fun.
And speaking of fun, the new Mazda2 delivers exactly that if you press it hard enough.
The handling balance favours understeer, but the steering is sharp and direct and there’s good grip from the 15-inch rolling stock.
Does it do anything bad? Well besides some wind noise at speed, not really. It’s an impressively well-sorted car.
ANCAP rating: The 2015 Mazda2 has yet to be tested by ANCAP.
Safety features: Dual front, front side and curtain airbags are standard, along with ABS, stability control, hill launch assist and traction control.
Available at extra cost is Mazda’s Smart City Brake Support, and auto-braking anti-collision system that can avoid fender benders at speeds between 4 and 30km/h
RIVALS TO CONSIDER
The light car segment is a congested one, and there’s no shortage of worthy rivals for the Mazda2 - particularly at the Mazda2 Maxx’s price point.
Price-wise the Maxx undercuts many of its rivals, but the lack of a standard reversing camera is something that’s becoming uncommon even in this size category.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
It’s got a premium feel that leapfrogs the VW Polo and challenges more precious metal like an Audi A1, yet it’s one of the most affordable mid-grade light hatches around. Such is the appeal of the Mazda2 Maxx.
Korean rivals like the Kia Rio Si and Hyundai i20 Elite offer less car for more money, and the Mazda2 out-drives both quite convincingly. And as far as beauty contests go, the crown definitely goes to the Mazda.
It’s not perfect though.
Rear seat space has shrunk, it’s a little less exciting to drive than the previous Mazda2 and the Maxx could very much benefit from some kind of reversing aid being on the standard equipment list.
And the Maxx could use some greater differentiation from the base model Neo.
Besides the presence of cruise control, some high-gloss interior trim, alloys and leather-upholstered steering wheel, there’s few other spec differences between the Maxx and Neo.
It’s a shame the integrated sat-nav system and the brilliantly intuitive MZD-Connect interface that’s standard in the flagship Genki isn’t offered in the Maxx, and it’s something we’re sure many buyers would pay a little extra for.
But these qualms aside, its foibles are few. Little wonder, we think, that the new Mazda2 has been attracting buyers by the thousand.
If you’re shopping in the sub-$20k segment, the Mazda2 Maxx absolutely warrants a place on your shortlist.
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