As much as four-door sedans are still regarded as the norm in the local automotive scene, there is just something about five-door hatchbacks that set it apart from the pack. Besides the obvious lack of a sizeable trunk, a hatchback looks sharper and sportier to look at - this makes them more appealing to certain car buyers. But are they as practical to own and drive like the good ol' sedan?
Mazda seems to think so with the 2018 Mazda2. While it may look the same in terms of design, the sporty hatchback does come with several upgrades. These include a slightly tweaked interior, as well as a new safety feature called G-Vectoring. Are these enough to draw more buyers into the hatchback segment? We find out in the 2018 Mazda2 V+ 5-door.
See anything different? Despite being three years old, the Mazda2 still looks cool and fresh. The wide front grill and angular headlights give the hatchback a mean yet purposeful look that is signature Kodo (Mazda speak for their design language). Smooth curves hug the corners of the Mazda2 which make for a sleek finish on the humble five-door. Topping it all off are sharp-looking taillights at the back, perhaps my most favorite portion on the Mazda2.
All in all, I like how Mazda gave the all-new 2 a more aggressive design while still preserving its signature shape from its predecessor. Some might say Mazda could have done more for its exterior but as the saying goes: if it ain't broke don't fix it.
Pop the doors open and all is familiar inside the Mazda2. However, compared to the 2015 model, this V+ variant has plenty of standard equipment. For starters, it now comes with Mazda's MZD Connect infotainment system. While it does come with a touchscreen display, navigating through the menus can be done with the command wheel control which was a breeze to use. Speaking of navigating, the V+ also comes with navigation as standard via a SD card. Other standard features found on the MZD Connect include AM/FM radio, CD, USB, Aux and Bluetooth connectivity.
Besides the infotainment upgrade, the 2018 Mazda2 now also comes with automatic climate control which kept the cabin cool at even on the hottest of days. In fact, it performed a bit too well that I found myself raising the temperature during cold nights.
Heaps of black fabric, as well as gloss black trim, envelope the Mazda2. Hard plastic is also prevalent inside the hatchback but given that this is Mazda's smallest offering, it is of no surprise. However, I do commend Mazda's build quality on the hatchback as the car felt solid and well-put-together.
Another thing that I liked about the Mazda2 is its driving position. While it's no MX-5, the Mazda2 has one of the most natural driving positions in the hatchback segment. It also doesn't hurt to know that the Mazda2 comes with a fully-adjustable driver's seat, as well as a telescopic steering rack.
While it does come loaded with features and amenities, the Mazda2 lacks cabin space, particularly in the rear. For starters, anyone towering over 5'8 will find themselves hitting the top of the ceiling while sitting at the back. Legroom is also quite lacking at the rear which could come as a deterrent for prospective buyers. With my driving position (I'm 5'7 by the way), there is only substantial space at the back for the rear passengers.
It's no hot hatch, but the Mazda2 has the makings of one which makes it one of the most fun-to-drive hatchbacks on the market today. Under the hood is a 1.5-liter SkyActiv-G inline-four that is hooked up to a six-speed automatic transmission called SkyActiv-Drive. Power is rated at 108 PS at 6000 rpm along with 139 Nm of torque at 4000 rpm.
What's it like to drive on the open road? Having already tested the sedan version of the Mazda2, I was expecting a familiar driving experience. Disappointed I was not when I found out the hatchback delivered a sportier drive. Without a trunk at the back, this Mazda2 felt more nimble and lightweight . Also, its short wheelbase and far-flung wheels meant it was able to dart through around corners easily and swiftly.
What also impressed me greatly was its precise electronic power steering (EPS). Turn the wheel in and the car just follows through without delay. Feedback from the steering wheel could have been better but it's not as numb compared to other EPS systems from other brands.
Also new on the upgraded Mazda2 is the inclusion of G-Vectoring Control. Like the CX-3 we got to test a few weeks ago, G-Vectoring allows for better handling, reduces steering corrections and improves stability. On a car such as this, this feature is a blessing especially when one drives the hatchback spritedly along mountain roads or in the track.
The peppy four-cylinder engine was quite the performer too. Sure, its output figures and displacement were on par with its contemporaries, but it's how it delivered its pep that sets it apart from the rest. Despite peak pulling power being available at 4000 rpm, there is some pull from the motor at around 2500 – 3000 rpm.
Paired with a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic, the Mazda2 is quick on its feet and has a relatively linear power band when driven on the limit. Set the transmission to Sport mode and powertrain is more than eager to deliver all its pep. The revs pick up quicker and linger at higher rpms more than in normal mode.
When you're finished driving spiritedly, the Mazda2 reverts into a sedate and calm cruiser. Drive the Mazda2 around the city and it is capable of averaging between 9.0 – 9.5 km/l in light traffic. Take it to the highway and the hatchback can return about 16.0 – 16.5 km/l
Ride quality, on the other hand, is on the stiff side. With an emphasis on delivering agile handling, the Mazda2 suffers from a bouncy ride due to the sport-tuned dampers. Throw in the car's short wheelbase and most will find the hatchback a little uncomfortable on long journeys. This can be felt while sitting at the back as riding comfort on the front is slightly better, but only just.
So what is my verdict for the Mazda2 in five-door guise? While it does come with a peppy powertrain, as well as sharp handling, it's not the most practical of hatchbacks. Besides having limited room for the rear occupants, the Mazda2 also comes with limited luggage space. Other hatchbacks (such as the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris) have better cargo capacity at the back. It's also let down by its ride quality which is great for taking on the twisties, but not great for when you're going over bumpy roads.
With a sticker price of Php 918,000 (Php 53,000 more compared to last year's price), some may argue that its diminutive size and stiff ride do not exactly translate to a decent-sized, practical five-door. But if you're the kind that favors performance over everything else, the Mazda2 is a great choice for those that want hot-hatch-like performance for less. Did I mention the hatchback also comes with the following: anti-lock brakes, reverse camera with parking sensors, dual SRS airbags, stability control, smart keyless entry and the previously mentioned G-Vectoring Control.
What the Mazda2 lacks in size and comfort, it makes up for in performance and overall packaging.