Thursday, July 9, 2015


If you compare the new Mazda 2 to, say, a Bugatti Veyron the little hatchback will come up short!

It’s not as powerful, it’s not as fast, and it doesn’t handle as well. BTW, the pricetag also comes up well short of the Veyron’s million dollar asking price.

However, in its class, the Mazda 2 is an outstanding
competitor, and a car that’s absolutely fit for purpose.

During my time with the car I mostly drove it where Mazda 2s will clock up most of their mileage, around town and on the local freeways. I can’t fault it.

You get what you pay for – a smart, well-built and well-equipped small car which will satisfy its owners.

To humour myself I also took it on a 200km drive on the roads that wind, climb and sweep around the scenic rim of south-east Queensland, among the volcanic plugs and extinct erupters.

From the grazing paddocks of the Numinbah Valley, up across the ridges of the Border Range and down into the lush tropical valleys near Murwillumbah, I pushed the Mazda hard, and it was never found wanting.

Despite its relatively small 165x60x16 tyres it offered tenacious grip, it tracked confidently, and the secondary ride quality is amazing for a car with such a short wheelbase.

In fact I was equally impressed with the rigidity, and stiffness, of the body on some badly broken surfaces. This car feels strong - just like the latest Corolla with its seam-welded body.

I did find the electric steering a bit ‘sticky’ and lacking in sensitivity around town, but out on the highway it became precise and progressive.

Whilst the Mazda 2 is not a particularly engaging drive, it’s noticeably competent at cruising speeds.

As we know it’s brand new from the ground up. New platform, new underpinnings and a brand new design, plus SkyActiv technology liberally sprinkled throughout. It differs in every way from its immediate predecessor – in styling, shape and dimensions.

From a design perspective it embraces the Kodo styling theme seen in the Mazda 6, Mazda 3, and the light SUV duo – Mazdas CX3 and CX5.

Mazda CX-3

Essentially you can sum it up as a long nose design theme, and that brings with it some difficulties, and some inspired solutions.

This is amplified in such a small car, because the designers’ wish to transpose the long nose design on to the Mazda 2, means that to achieve the proper perspective something has to suffer, and it’s the size of the cabin which may appear to lose out.

However, the solutions are elegant and inspired. Putting the new and old Mazda 2s side by side you can notice the obvious differences.

However, if you jumped to the conclusion there’s less interior space, you be partially wrong.

As I said, the solutions to the challenges are inspired – and numerous.

First, the front axle line has been moved forward 80mm, to help create more front legroom.

The front seatbacks have been put on a diet to give more room in the rear; the rear seat backrests have a stiffer angle, and headroom has been increased to suit someone sitting in a more upright position. The floor has a deeper recess under the front seats.

I can’t say the changes create a more comfortable interior, especially with the squabs on both front and rear seats having been shortened.

However, the changes are clever, and provide adequate space – not for long interstate drives perhaps, but appropriate for round town.

I would love to have been a fly on the wall when the exterior and interior designers got together with the production engineers, and the packaging experts. The consensus the Japanese team has reached does them all proud.

The car I drove was the Genki top of the line version, and the list of standard features is impressive. The most noticeable being the 7” flat screen for the nav system plus menus for
communications and entertainment options.

This latest trend, of placing the screen on the top of the IP doesn’t seem very inspired, but at least it’s easy to see. 

However, the one inclusion I really appreciated was the simple, but effective Heads-Up Display for the speed, and cruise control settings.

It’s simple in concept, but brilliant, with important safety benefits.

The buttons, control knob and associated switches for changing settings are well-located on the centre console just aft of the transmission lever. Once you get used to the location, they are all easy to feel and use by touch, without taking eyes off the road.

On the subject of transmissions you have to sample Mazda’s homegrown-designed-and-built 6-speed automatic gearbox to believe the smoothness in shifts the Mazda team has achieved. The previously-used (and notably smooth) Aisin-Warner automatic is pretty good, but the SkyActiv Drive is brilliantly smooth in either up or down changes, and the ratio spread make the most of the modest 82kW.

Out on the open road it was great fun driving the transmission manually, and especially on the twisting descent from the Border Ranges.

This model will not be the most important member of the Mazda 2 range (I’d say it will probably account for less than 10% of sales), but it does fulfil a need in the market. There are many people who only want a small car, but they want to have all the kit you would find in a larger, more upmarket vehicle; and with the Mazda 2 Genki that’s what you get.

But, that’s where I struggle, because when you add $2000 for automatic transmission the total price with on-road costs jumps dramatically. However, Mazda Australia will tell me that it doesn’t matter. Price will be no barrier to the people who really want this package, and the mere fact it’s available at all, is smart marketing.

When you add the new Mazda 2 to the latest range of Kodo-inspired models, equipped with SkyActiv technology, it’s not hard to see why the Japanese minnow can tough it out with a giant like Toyota.

If it’s not already obvious, let me say again that I have a huge respect for Mazda and its engineering teams, and as a relatively small carmaker, what they have been able to achieve with their latest range.

These cars are well designed, and well equipped, and people are noticing just how good they are, when you study the monthly registration data.

Average fuel economy for a week's worth of driving was 6.6 L/100km

As I’ve said before Mazda has taken a long time to establish its credentials for design and manufacturing integrity, and when you add the bonus of good-looking styling and thoughtful inclusions, it creates a value proposition that’s hard to ignore.

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