The skinny: Mazda’s classy little 2 four-door sedan adds extra space and practicality, is strong on features and drives with real ‘zing’.
The super-strong Mazda badge, SkyActiv drivetrain technology and capped-price service program adds to the appeal, as does the smart styling and miserly fuel consumption.
The Maxx version (tested here), although under $20k, comes with some style and quality touches like the MZD-Connect system and seven-inch colour touchscreen, that add an upmarket air to the interior.
The boot is vastly bigger than the hatch, but legroom remains limited – this is a small car afterall. We also think that providing just one rear-seat map pocket is a tad stingy; as is the lack of rear cup-holders. A sunglasses holder is also absent.
Vehicle Style: Light sedan
Price: $19,690 (plus on-roads)
Engine/trans: 81kW/141Nm 1.5 4cyl petrol | 6sp automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 4.9 l/100km | tested: 5.6 l/100km
They haven’t proven popular here, these small sedans. But Mazda is having a crack with the Mazda2 sedan, now selling alongside the very popular Mazda2 hatch.
Unlike some of its competitors though, the new baby Mazda is not a hatch with a boot welded onto the back.
But while designed and built from the ground up as a sedan, it still manages to look a tad ‘hippy’ from the rear, as though it needs a bag of cement in its boot.
That said, it’s better-looking than most of the small sedans we’ve seen in recent years; it also drives a lot better than most.
Quality: While there are plenty of plastic surfaces on the dash and doors, the surfaces are varied and look reasonably classy.
The seven-inch colour screen sits atop the dash, and, as with other Mazdas, it is perfectly positioned for quick glances or finger touches as required.
Comfort: The new sedan’s interior stands apart, designed with enough roof height for 190cm front-seat passengers. And, in the rear, this 185cm reviewer also had no trouble fitting the bonce below the ceiling.
There is height-and-reach adjustment for the leather-wrapped steering wheel and enough seat adjustment to dial in your ideal driving position..
Equipment: For a mid-spec vehicle in the light-car segment, the Maxx comes with an impressive standard inventory – Mazda’s MZD Connect system, accessed via the smart seven-inch touchscreen (and containing internet radio apps like Pandora, Stitcher and Aha) is premium fare and right in the slot for a modern commuter car.
It also comes with air-conditioning, cruise control, trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio capability, iPod-compatible USB port, keyless push-button engine start, six-speaker audio system, leather wrapped steering wheel, gear-shift knob and hand-brake lever, multi-function commander control system and reverse camera.
Mazda’s so-called ‘smart city brake support’ (SCBS) system is available as an option.
At speeds between 4km/h and 30km/h around town, the SCBS system automatically applies the brakes to prevent colliding with the vehicle ahead.
Storage: The Maxx’s boot is good for 440 litres of luggage; enough, Mazda claims, for two large suitcases or a couple of well-filled golf bags.
There is a gaping opening to the boot when the lid’s raised so putting stuff in is nice and easy. Also, seat backs split-fold 60/40 for longer cargo.
In the cabin there are front-door pockets, but none in the rear, and while the front-seat passengers have two console-mounted cup holders, there is none in the rear (however an open bin at the rear of the centre console may do the trick).
There is one rear map pocket behind the front-left seat but the right-side rear-seat passenger misses out (and no roof-mounted sunglasses holder to be found).
ON THE ROAD
Driveability: Quite simply, the Maxx sedan upholds the Mazda family tradition of ‘fun-to-drive’ cars.
We really like the electric power steering. It’s pin sharp, and nice and progressive, and helps that feeling of being ‘as one’ with the car.
The automatic transmission is carried over from the hatch. It’s ok, but is not as slick as the unit Mazda has developed for its cracking new MX-5.
That said, the six-speeder works well-enough with the characteristics of the engine and there’s a console-mounted ‘Sport’ switch to engage what Mazda calls “drive selection".
Although 81kW and 141Nm is not a lot of power and torque (by modern standards), in Sport mode, the car becomes quite a bit livelier, more willing to rev and can feel pretty brisk for a quick point-to-point run.
It is surprising how ‘sporty’ and ‘fun’ this car feels.
Refinement: Noise, vibration and harshness is vastly improved with this newer 2; the beautiful little 1.5-litre SkyActiv engine revs with a wonderful balance, even when being stretched.
Road noise is also improved, and, while you’ll notice it on coarse bitumen, it is otherwise quite well attenuated.
The 2 Sedan seems a little quieter even than the hatch - perhaps the boot helps here - but you won’t need raised voices to carry on normal conversation in this cabin.
Ride and handling: Like all in the Mazda stable, the new Maxx sedan has a firmer chassis set-up. But Mazda manages ‘the double’: an alive, even sporty ride, and nice and flat when cornering, but achieves it without harshness.
You’ll find the new baby sedan rides smoothly and comfortably and it’s only on some of the rougher patches of bitumen does the car jump around a bit.
Overall, handling is excellent – precise and predictable – and, when pushed into corners, the well-tuned steering comes into its own.
Braking: Stopping power comes from ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear. Being small and light, the brakes are perfectly adequate for the 2 sedan, and we found no brake fade in our testing (even after some harder work).
ANCAP rating: 5-stars. This model scored 36.35 out of 37 possible points.
Safety features: Driver-and-passenger front airbags, front side airbags and front-and-rear curtain airbags. Also included is dynamic stability control, traction control, ABS brakes, electronic brake-force distribution, emergency brake assist, an emergency stop signal and a reversing camera.
Hill-launch assist and rear parking sensors are also included, as are ISOFIX child-restraint anchor points and top tethers, whiplash-minimising front seats, and side-impact door beams.
WARRANTY AND SERVICING
Warranty: Unlike many of its competitors with five-year warranties – and Kia now has seven – the Mazda2 comes with a three-year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Service costs: The Mazda2 Maxx (and others in the Mazda2 range) are covered by Mazda’s capped-price scheduled servicing program that requires service every 12 months or 10,000km (whichever comes first) up to 160,000km. There is a maximum cost of $307 excluding some bits and pieces such as spark plugs and filters.
HOW IT COMPARES | VALUE FOR MONEY
Barina CDX ($20,590) – Holden’s light-car offering has a slightly beefier engine (85kW and 155Nm) and it also has a six-speed automatic transmission. With a luggage capacity of 505 litres, it can carry rather more cargo. But, for quality feel, it is a long way behind the 2 Sedan.
Hyundai Accent Elite ($20,990) – Hyundai’s 1.6 litre Accent with its CVT transmission is the most powerful among the Maxx, Barina and City brigade, good for 90kW of peak power and 156Nm of maximum torque. It doesn’t have the Mazda2’s sporty charm, and, at 6.6 l/100km, it is not as economical as the Maxx, although its boot (465 litres) is slightly roomier.
Honda City ($17,990) – The 1.6 litre, CVT-equipped City also has more power (88kW) and torque (145Nm) than the Mazda2 and its boot space of 536 litres also trumps the Maxx. It’s a nice little car, and worth a look, but its combined fuel-consumption figure of 5.7 l/100km is a fair bit thirstier than the Maxx’s claimed 4.9 l/100km.
Note: All prices are Manufacturers’ List Price and do not include dealer-delivery and on-road costs.
TMR VERDICT | OVERALL
With the new Maxx sedan, Mazda has done it again – this 2 Sedan is one of the best, and one we can comfortably recommend.
While the sedan body-style is not for everybody, Mazda has produced a fine, practical, fun-to-drive car that’s sharply priced and frugal at the petrol pump.
It's not as glamorous or classy inside as some among Mazda’s more expensive model range, but it can certainly match or beat the best of the small-sedan competition.
For those who like their share of technological infotainment, Mazda’s MZD Connect system is class-leading and its big tablet-like dash-mounted screen really looks the part as it delivers access to internet radio apps Pandora, Stitcher and Aha.
And, satellite navigation is a value-for-money option at $570.
In summary, this is one to chat to your Mazda dealer about.