by Marc Greig - 13/11/12
It’s great products like the Mazda2 which have put Mazda on-track for all-time record sales in Australia again this year. Sure the top-selling Mazda CX5 SUV and all-new BT50 ute are headline grabbers, but it’s the runaway success of the ‘2’ and the Mazda3 which are the baseline for Mazda’s ripper sales year.
In fact the rest of the Mazda world must be viewing the Australian operation with some envy. Indeed some compact car rivals must be looking at Mazda with some envy because sales of their newer models can’t match the Mazda2.
Happy days for compact car buyers then.
Mazda sells the Mazda2 hatchback in its familiar model grades – entry-level Neo, mid-grade Maxx and range-topping Genki. Normally automotive media minimize ‘seat-time’ in so called lower-grade compact cars in favour of something more exotic/sporty/expensive, sourced from Europe – but here at Car Showroom we’re all about providing the most relevant information to new car buyers so we asked Mazda for an entry-grade Mazda2 Neo with an automatic transmission – the best-selling variant in fact.
Since it was first launched, Mazda2 has received a couple of running changes. For the Neo model these brought fresher looks in the form of new-design 15-inch steel wheels, body-colour door handles, new seat trim, stylish piano black interior highlights, steering wheel audio controls and extra safety courtesy of side and curtain airbags (bringing the total to six airbags).
With 76kW of power at 6000rpm and peak torque of 135Nm at 4000rpm, Mazda2 trumps most rivals for under-bonnet shove, except the Ford Fiesta.
Mazda2’s 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine drives the front wheels via a four-speed automatic transmission (as tested) or a five-speed manual.
Fuel consumption is rated at 6.8l/100kms (automatic as tested) and Mazda2 is Euro IV- rated for exhaust emissions.
It is true that some newer rivals boast six-speed transmissions (manual and automatic) and Volkswagen Polo even comes with a seven-speed auto.
We’ve been curious to read some of our colleagues’ work leveling criticism at not only the Mazda2 but also others in this class for their interiors. We think our mates need to spend less time in Mercs and Beemers and get back to reality – line up the main players here, cars like Mazda2, Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Micra, Volkswagen Polo and even the Honda City… and honestly there’s not a dud interior amongst them.
In fact for cars with price tags south of $20,000, the quality of these interior is nothing short of sensational when you recall some of the horrors of…well, not so long ago really.
Mazda2 is a perfect example of the current trend. Climb inside and with multi-adjustments the driver is soon extremely comfortable and gazing at a modern-looking dashboard with Mazda’s usual high-quality instrumentation and, to the left a single CD system with all of the connectivity required by the Car Showroom juniors and their various devices.
The youngsters were perfectly happy in the rear seat too with legroom rivaling the best in this league
For sure the total Mazda2 interior package stepped-up at the most recent upgrade when those new seat fabrics and piano black interior highlights did bring extra up-market look/feel.
Mazda2 provides luggage space of 250-litres with the rear seat in-place or 469-litres with the rear seat folded. With everything folded, your Car Showroom correspondent managed a full-size golf bag, buggy and related paraphernalia to tackle a day of drenching in Melbourne’s miserable winter.
With an overall length of 3900mm and measuring 1695mmin width, Mazda2 hits the sweet spot for compact hatchbacks. Buyers in this league are often females and a handy size is high on their list of priorities.
With its wide-mouth Mazda-style grille, large headlights (which wrap-over onto the outrageously curved front fenders), curved rear fenders, rising glasshouse and strong side character lines, Mazda2 presents one of the most contemporary looks in the compact hatchback segment. That’s shows how Mazda’s designers were ahead of the game because, as we know, the ‘2’ isn’t the latest creation in the showroom.
Our Neo model rode on 15-inch steel wheels which gained an attractive new look at the most recent upgrade.
So – on paper - the Mazda2 appears a ratio or two short in the transmission compared to rivals, but in reality, that 76kW/137Nm 1.5-litre gets the job done handsomely. Tipping the scales at 1032kgs (auto as tested), Mazda 2 makes the most of what it’s got, not only with strong acceleration (zero to 100km/h just a smidge over 9.2 seconds) but also with impressive refinement and quiet operation even at freeway speeds.
Our Mazda2 was right at home during our weekday commute, zipping in and out of traffic and simply sneering at our tight CBD car park thanks to good all-round visibility and a miniscule 9.8-metre turning circle.
Suspension is the common MacPherson strut front/Torsion beam rear set-up favoured by many designers for its benefits in luggage space. Mazda has it reasonably well sorted and over the smooth sections of our mountain roads test route, the ‘2’ exhibited high-quality ride and handling with precise turn-in, nice mid-corner balance (a tad too much body roll for us) and predictable behavior at the limit.
Mazda2 was a bit of head-scratcher. Our test car impressed all-round on the smooth road sections of our high-speed loop, but a bit of tyre noise and front suspension clatter was noticeable when we hit some rough roads. Sorry Mazda engineers, we know these Aussie secondary roads are downright pitiful, a disgrace in fact, but they’re what we have and there’s no sign of them being improved any time soon.
There’s no mystery behind Mazda2’s sales success – it’s a damn fine compact car, well-equipped and sharply priced. And buyers can purchase with confidence because the quality reputation of the Mazda brand has been earned over decades of great products.
Sure keen drivers might better appreciate the driving dynamics of the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo – but you’ll need to pony-up substantial extra dollars to secure German compact car engineering.
And in a segment where buyers watch every cent, value-for money is where the Mazda2 shines. In fact Mazda’s compact car star shines in most departments really.
For the last few years Mazda has certainly brought its ‘A-Game’ to the table, particularly in the value-for-money stakes and that spells trouble for rival brands.
In the case of the Mazda2, consider the Ford Fiesta. Conceived in Germany, the Fiesta is a Car Showroom Favourite and its 88kW151Nm 1.6-litre engine has Mazda2’s 76kW/137Nm 1.5-litre well-and-truly covered as does its six-speed automatic transmission to Mazda 2’s four-speeder. But the Fiesta’s entry-level CL model hatchback automatic is priced at $18,990 – that’s $1550 more than our Mazda2 Neo automatic.
Same with the Volkswagen Polo, another Car Showroom Favourite. But the entry-level Polo five-door hatchback automatic is priced at $19,490 – that’s $2,050 north of our Mazda2 Neo test car. Sure the Polo comes with a superb seven-speed automatic transmission an
d almost matches the Ford Fiesta for the segment’s best chassis dynamics, but Polo’s 63kW/132Nm 1.4-litre engine is toasted by Mazda 2’s 76kW/132Nm 1.5-litre.
We’re very keen on the all-new Toyota Yaris. While the 63kW/121Nm 1.3-litre is overshadowed by the Mazda2, Yaris boasts fresh new looks and the YR model five-door hatch is sharply priced at $17,290.
Nissan’s Micra is very sharply priced at $16,990 for the mid-range ST-L four-speed automatic. Micra employs a 75kW/136Nm 1.5-litre engine once you get above the entry-grade ST.
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