Mazda has thrown down the gauntlet to rival small cars with the improved, new Mazda2 range starting at a driveaway price of $16,990.
The headline act is the introduction of a stylish sedan variant, but across the range, Mazda2 gains standard Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control, improved suspension and extra features. Mazda has dropped the three-door model so Mazda2 is now exclusively a four-door hatchback and sedan.
What You Get
Lauded at its 2007 debut and subsequently garnering the 2008 ‘Australia’s Best Small Car’ and ‘World Car of The Year’ awards, the Mazda2 is a standout compact that displays some of the best work of Mazda’s stylists and engineers. It’s handily sized, nicely built, drives well and is pin-sharp in the pricing department.
Addition of the sedan model in the 2010 upgrades is a master stroke – offering that distinctive Mazda2 style in sedan guise and providing excellent cargo capacity, Mazda reckons the sedan will attract a new range of buyers to the ‘2’. Mazda is on track to sell 80,000 cars in Australia this year and some 15,000 of them will be Mazda2 models – 80 per cent will be Mazda2 hatch and 20 per cent will be the new sedan.
Mazda says most ‘2’ buyers are females aged between 20 and 34 years and for many, this will be their first new car. Abundant features, a five-star ANCAP safety rating and Mazda’s reputation for quality and reliability all count for a lot with Mazda2 buyers.
Mazda2’s engine remains the 1.5-litre, four-cylinder DOHC unit delivering maximum power of 76kW at 6,000 rpm and peak torque of 135Nm at 4,000 rpm. Drive is via either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission.
Changes for the 2010 upgrades have delivered extra drivability with a wider torque spread.
Fuel consumption remains unchanged at 6.4l/100kms for the manual and 6.8l/100kms for the automatic.
Wisely, Mazda did not tamper with key elements of the ‘2’ interior as part of the 2010 upgrades. There are two new seat trim materials, but the fundamentals - such as the cleverly curved dash, which provides extra front seat spaciousness - have not changed.
For the sedan, the nicely styled exterior with a rising waistline towards the rear smartly delivers outstanding boot capacity of 450 litres. Hatchback versions provide 250-469 litres of cargo space. All versions have a 60/40 split rear seat for cargo versatility.
Mazda2 remains available in three levels of equipment – entry-level Neo, mid-spec Maxx (sedan is available only in Maxx) and range-topping Genki. Maxx and Genki score the full safety kit of front, side and curtain airbags, while the Neo comes standard with two front ‘bags (the extras come as a $400 option).
Neo comes with a single disc, MP3-compatible audio system while the rest gain an in-dash six-disc system.
Interior spaciousness is amongst the best in the compact segment – the ‘2’s’ clever design providing 1,004mm front headroom and 959mm in the rear. Back seat passengers aren’t overawed with legroom, but that’s the same for all compact cars.
The driver’s seat is height adjustable and while the steering wheel only adjusts for rake, we were able to find a first-rate driving position.
We liked the conventional dashboard layout with crisp, easy-to-read gauges and audio/climate control mounted on the centre console.
Exterior & Styling
Mazda ‘2’s’ standout exterior looks have been enhanced with some changes as part of the 2010 upgrades. Most noticeable is the front end with the incorporation of Mazda’s trademark five-point grille and ’family’ face.
The upper grille is now part of the front bumper molding and the large lower grille is now more contoured. New front fog light bezels have been added – the Genki model also gains new design fog lights with silver trims. Maxx models gain a rear spoiler and body-colour door handles while Genki gets side skirts.
New design alloy wheels (15-inch for Maxx and 16-inch for Genki) complete the styling changes.
Mazda’s stylists took the already handsome hatchback and for the sedan added a rising waistline and nicely finished boot. It’s a contemporary look with great appeal for buyers in this segment.
On The Road
We tested the new Mazda2 sedan over a variety of roads in the Gold Coast hinterland. Overnight flooding rains turned the road surfaces slippery and the ‘2’ earned its keep in a three-hour run from Ashmore down to Kingscliffe, south of the NSW-Queensland border.
With the Mazda2 resembling a powerboat at times as we traversed flooded roads, it was fortunate the 2010 upgrades included adoption of Dynamic Stability Control with Traction Control as standard right across the range.
Mazda also made some chassis changes for the latest ‘2’, including pairing 13kgs from its weight. The monotube rear dampers have been replaced with twin-tube dampers for a more refined ride – Genki scores a sportier set-up with revised front damper settings.
In addition, changes in the master cylinder provide enhanced feel for the brake pedal.
The electric power steering is unchanged – it’s nicely weighted and with just 2.7 turns lock-to-lock and a handy 9.8-meter turning circle, the ‘2’ is right at home in confined city environments.
Our sedan test car handled the flooded roads with aplomb – conditions were so bad the tyres were scrambling for grip and the traction control was working overtime. You could not have ｓｃｒｉｐｔed tougher conditions but the ‘2’ got us home admirably.
No diesel engine. Ford has raised the bar in the compact car segment with its Econetic Fiesta’s 1.6-litre diesel engine delivering staggering 3.7l/100kms fuel economy.
Mazda says the dollars don’t stack up for a ‘2’ diesel even though the ‘3’ diesel accounts for 12 per cent of ‘3’ sales.
Addition of the sedan and the rest of 2010 changes have certainly sharpened the Mazda2 package. And with its $16,990 driveway pricing for the entry-level Neo hatch, $1085 less for the Maxx and $1030 less for the Genki, Mazda has sharpened the pricing pencil big-time.
And unlike most manufacturers, Mazda does not charge extra for optional metallic paint colours.
The award-winning Mazda2 is now even safer, better equipped and better priced – that’s a combination that’s hard to beat.
It’s a looker; great value; handy drive; clever sedan
A diesel option would complete the package