Oops someone forgot to buy those dictionaries for Mazda’s Product Planning Department. The need is obvious – Mazda2 mid-spec model is called Maxx (with two x) and the range-topper is called Genki (whatever that means).
Luckily the team in charge of car names at Mazda is remote from the engineering staff – the Mazda2 remains one of the benchmark compact cars, its Tokyo-chic looks, sharp pricing, extensive equipment and top-shelf driving dynamics adding up to a brilliant all-round package.
So good is the Mazda2 it was Australia's third most popular compact car in 2010 – outselling Holden Barina, Suzuki Swift and Ford Fiesta en route to 14,794 sales for the year and more than 10 per cent of the total compact car market segment (which racks up some 21 vehicles). By way of comparison, the award-winning, much-hyped Volkswagen Polo only accumulated 3,195 sales for a miserly 2.3 per cent of the segment.
We’ve previously enjoyed two tests of the Mazda2, but this time Mazda handed us the keys to the range-topping Genki model hatchback.
Over its siblings, the Genki model scores exterior and interior enhancements (including 16-inch alloy wheels, fog-lights and upscale trim), some extra airbags and detailed suspension improvements for a sportier drive.
Priced from $20,940 (since Mazda sharpened its pricing pencils at the latest facelift) the Mazda2 Genki really does represent great value.
A 1.5-litre, four-cylinder engine powers Mazda2. With 76kW of power at 6,000rpm and peak torque of 135Nm at 4,000 rpm it’s on par with most in this segment (Hyundai gets 91kW/156Nm from its 1.6-litre i20 models).
Fuel consumption is as low as 6.4l/100kms.
It’s responsive and nimble, but if we were to be super-picky, this time around we did find the Mazda2 Genki just a tad noisy when pushed really hard – a trait we didn’t recall from our previous Mazda2 tests.
Mazda2 The Interior
Typically Mazda, the Mazda2 provides an interior which is just that little bit more up-market and sophisticated than many segment rivals. This stems from the quality of materials (both cloth and plastic) and a stylish colour palette.
In the case of the Genki (range-topper of the Mazda2 lineup) this is enhanced with even higher-grade black fabric with sporty grey/red highlights. Genki models also score a leather-wrapped steering wheel (rake adjustment only) with left-spoke-mounted remote controls for the six CD in-dash/MP3 compatible four-speaker audio system.
That three-spoke steering wheel is just the right size and with ratchet-type height adjustment for the front seats, even tall drivers can find reasonable comfort. Several of our drivers commented on the excellent all-round visibility in the Mazda2 Genki.
We still like the hallmark Mazda2 curved dashboard and the stylish interpretation of the instrument cluster (two white background gauges for speedo and rev-counter, accompanied by a digital readout for secondary information).
Naturally rear seat legroom isn’t massive but the Mazda2 Genki has a 60/40 split-fold rear seats and 250-469-litres of cargo capacity.
Mazda2 Exterior & Styling
Picking the range-topping Genki from the rest of the Mazda2 lineup is easy - the front fog lights with their classy chrome-trimmed bezels make a huge difference to the front-end appearance (aided by a black finish for the horizontal bar in the grille). The Genki also scores side skirts and five twin-spoke 16-inch alloy wheels.
There were some minor changes to the styling of the Mazda2 as part of the 2010 facelift but nothing to significantly alter its brilliant looks – headlined by the alluring combination of simple yet precise curves in all the right places.
We continue to marvel at the front end of the Mazda2 with its large headlights and the way they blend with the steeply sculptured bonnet and broad, flared wheel arches.
And the rear with those cheeky-looking taillights has similar appeal.
It’s all so sophisticated you need to remind yourself the Mazda2 is a compact car, which starts around $16,000.
Not so long ago this segment was the “Battle Of The Bland”.
Mazda2 On The Road
There is a lot more to the Genki model Mazda2 than just visual and interior enhancements. The range-topper of the Mazda2 lineup rides on unique 16-inch alloy wheels and its suspension is re-tuned with great detail for sportier ride and handling.
Like all Mazda2 models, at the most recent upgrade, the rear dampers were replaced with twin-tube designs to match the fronts.
However the struts on the Genki model have 10 per cent softer rebound and 10 per cent stronger low-speed compression in the front (better road-holding and higher roll stiffness) and 30 per cent stronger compression for the rears (higher overall roll stiffness). Genki version anti-roll bars are 59 per cent stiffer that regular Mazda2 models.
That’s a lot of detail changes and production line work for a model line which starts at $16,500.
But for compact car buyers the result is a vehicle which matches the best in this league for on-road dynamics.
The ride in the Mazda2 Genki tested this time was noticeably tauter than its siblings and the extra rubber provided enhanced grip levels when we tackled our mountain roads test loop. But the Mazda2 is renowned for its chassis balance so there we weren’t surprised by its overall competence – crisp turn-in, nice balance and slick weight-shift under acceleration.
Of course around town is the natural home of the Mazda2 with its miniscule 9.8-metre turning circle and lively 1.5-litre engine making light work of the daily commute.
Just like our previous tests of the Mazda2, we’ve got no issues with the product or its pricing. But the lack of a diesel for the Mazda2 must be gnawing at the Mazda Australia team.
On the other hand, none of the top-five sellers in this segment offer a diesel, so maybe compact car buyers aren’t that fussed.
Mazda says they can’t make a business case for the oil-burner so good on them for avoiding the trap of a ‘loss-maker’ on their books.
Sales success for the Mazda2 is apparent – a great car made less expensive. The Genki model tested scores lots of extra kit, but Mazda lopped $1,031 from the sticker price and there’s no extra charge for metallic paint…that’ll always get attention in the dollar-driven compact car segment.
A full book of standard safety equipment including six airbags, stability and traction control also makes the Mazda2 Genki hugely appealing as a family or second car.
It’s a crowded market and by any measure the Mazda2 is one of the very best in this league. We would happily have a Mazda2 in our garage permanently.
Mazda2 The Competition
With so many good teams and players when was the last time you scored 100 per cent with your NRL or AFL tipping? That’s what it’s like in our compact car segment with 21 nameplates competing for buyers’ dollars.
In terms of engineering and driving, Volkswagen’s Polo is the class of the field but it’s a bit of laggard when it comes to equipment levels (and hence ‘bang-for-bucks’ in a segment driven by dollars).
Of the volume players, we’d be shopping the Mazda2 Genki against Ford’s Fiesta, Hyundai i20 and Honda Jazz – all are accomplished and great value.
But over-riding all that, there’s an all-new Toyota Yaris on the horizon. Toyota being Toyota, you can expect a great car, sharp prices and lots of hype so it might be worth the wait if you can.