I have always had a soft spot for the Mazda2.
The last generation of the little subcompact hatchback from the company known for zoom-zoom was just so much fun to drive and toss around on any open road, racetrack, or even just in the metro. It was just too bad that the little Mazda2 didn't quite capture a significant chunk of the market especially when it was faced with more competitive models in its category like the Honda Jazz and the Ford Fiesta.
Now there's a new generation of Mazda's micro machine and, based on our time behind the wheel, something tells us that the Mazda2's fortunes are about to change for the better.
The new generation of Mazda's subcompact was launched last year in other markets (as the Demio in Japan), intended to be the smallest and entry point into the new and revitalized Mazda brand and the SkyActiv banner. Much is expected of this entry level Mazda given the stellar performances and reviews of its bigger brothers, especially since this is geared towards younger customers that Mazda is eager to introduce to their brand of drive. They have to make a stellar first impression.
Style-wise, it's easy to see how this little hatch can; the Mazda2 is the spitting image of it's brethren thanks to a generous serving of Kodo design. It just looks good from any angle and looks poised to move with those curves and lines. This is the 5-door hatchback version of the 2 so there is no trunk to speak of, especially since it measures in at 4060mm long, 1695mm wide and 1495mm tall with a wheelbase of 2570mm. Mazda Philippines does not offer the top spec 1.5R in hatchback form, so this is the mid grade 1.5V variant for now, hence the smaller 15 inch wheels.
Inside the Mazda2 is a revelation when it comes to interior design. The dashboard is clean, purposeful, functional and, most importantly, feels more premium than what this class of car should be. From the driver's seat you can really feel that this is a great little hatchback with the visibility, the feel of the materials and the way everything just fits so well around you. The steering wheel is great to the touch, along with the automatic shifter with a sport mode that has the more intuitive pull to shift up and push to shift down.
Being a mid grade version means this Mazda2 does not have the excellent human machine interface as seen in the Mazda3 and 6, but the dash-top audio unit does well to consolidate the audio functions; it's a bit out of reach for the driver, but there are buttons on the wheel to adjust volume and select tracks on the fly. USB input, an Aux port and Bluetooth are all standard equipment. One thing I would change would be the brightness of the digital gauges flanking the large speedometer; the daylight glare can really make them hard to see.
In terms of space, the Mazda2 loses out against the well maximized 2015 Honda Jazz, but so does every other subcompact hatch in the market today. Like most hatchbacks, the rear seats do fold down to accommodate larger cargo and boxes, though bikes might be a bit challenging to get in there. I do wish they put in a bit more attention to rear legroom as the Mazda2 can get a bit tight for adult occupants.
Pop the hood and there sits a 1.5 liter twin cam 16-valve SkyActiv engine with 108 PS and 139 Nm of torque matched with a front-wheel drive SkyActiv 6-speed automatic. To the uninitiated, SkyActiv is Mazda-speak for technologies that improve fuel efficiency through better engines (through higher compression), new technologies, better transmissions, and lighter, stronger bodies and suspension subframes. As a result, the Mazda2 is the lightest in its class when compared to the Jazz, Fiesta and Yaris.
The Mazda2 is very easy to negotiate tight city streets with 90 degree turns with; nimble and agile. Acceleration is also good, but the focus being fuel economy, it's able to deliver 9.2 km/l in moderate traffic (23 km/h average speed) when driven sensibly. Parking is a breeze too, as the size makes it easy to get into those tight (and pesky) mall parking slots; just for good measure, Mazda also put in rear parking sensors.
On the highway the Mazda2 really impresses. The SkyActiv transmission is excellent and quite easily the best in the class; shifting smoothly and efficiently. In fact, the SkyActiv gearbox has a selector switch at the base of the gearstick that adjusts its program for normal driving or sport driving; quite cool. As a result, when driven in normal mode, the Mazda2 delivers 15.7 km/l when driven at an average speed of 96 km/h on an open expressway.
Enter a racetrack or a tight winding mountain road and the Mazda2 simply springs to life. Flick the switch to sport mode and the transmission activates the shift program, maximizing the revs and downshifts quickly when you brake to enter a corner. The engine is just perfect for it's size and lightness of being. The suspension also works in unison to generate a car that's fun to toss around from corner to corner, though the tires could be better for this kind of spirited driving. Braking is precise and top notch, and the ABS and stability control work well to keep the car in check while attacking turns.
Mazda certainly has a winner. It's hard not to get carried away with a car like this, and it comes as no surprise that the Mazda2 has already racked up accolades around the world, the most important of which is the title of Car of the Year Japan for 2014 to 2015.
The 2015 Mazda2 delivers on the promise of a lively small hatchback. At PhP 855,000 for this 1.5V hatchback, a three year or 100,000 kilometer warranty and three years or 60,000 kilometers of free servicing under Yojin3, expect to see many of these Mazda2's running around. And they even have one more variant coming soon with the 1.5R hatchback.
If the new generation Mazda2 is how they plan to introduce their brand of drive to new customers, Mazda has indeed put their very best foot forward. And then some.