The Mazda 2 is an important car for Mazda bringing home a good number of sales every month. It’s the top-selling, non-SUV Mazda month-on-month in South Africa. That’s mainly down to sheer accessibility as the smallest and cheapest Mazda you can buy. It goes head-to-head with a number of other cars in a segment that aims to get younger buyers into the brand and then hopefully stay with them for a lengthy bit of time as they choose to upgrade to bigger or more sporty variants as the budget swells. The big names in the segment – Ford and Volkswagen. No shortage of competition then.
In this company, the Mazda 2 is priced within the ballpark of both these competitors, from R261 000 up to the R351 100 for the top-spec 1.5L Hazumi model. It’s a good-looking car, perhaps the most striking in the segment and that’s not surprising as Mazda has become known for this sort of thing. But is that enough? Mazda 2 is the latest receiver in the Mazda journey of breathing ‘Kodo’ design into its cars. In a segment where cars can look and feel cheap from a casual glance, the Mazda is as far from that notion as possible, melding a sharper front mesh grille with a classic and flowing design to the new rear bumper.
It’s a classy place to be. Mazda produces some of the most stunning interiors on modern cars and the Mazda 2 continues the story. The cabin is finished in a number of materials including a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear shifter as well as a leather strip that runs the length of the dash and onto the driver and passenger doors. The seats are combination leather and Alcantara. It makes for an upmarket feel.
The Infotainment centre is well known, featuring Mazda’s rotary dial below the gear shifter. That controls the 7-inch screen. It’s an absolutely easy-to-use, simply designed UX with Apple CarPlay /Android Auto as standard in the Hazumi model featured here.
You won’t find vast amounts of space on the interior of the Mazda 2, losing out on legroom and headroom to the other two juggernauts mentioned above. But the 280-litres of space is not terrible, with a 60:40 split seating adjustment available too. This extends the space to around 940-litres.
The Mazda 2 boasts a long list of safety features that really do put the little car in a higher league. A heads-up display is fitted to the Hazumi trim level. Rear Cross Traffic alert as well as Blind Spot Monitoring is also included in addition to electronic aids auch as EBD, DSC, Emergency Brake Assist as well as reversing camera and rear parking sensors. A full complement of driver, passenger, side andcurtain airbags is also standard across the range.
Mazda has made the choice to bid farewell to all other engine options and stuck to one choice: a 1.5-litre petrol-powered, naturally aspirated engine. It’s an odd choice really, and perhaps in trying to simplify its range of products, Mazda has missed a trick here. The petrol motor is not bad. In fact it’s quite competent, delivering a smooth and linear drive not unlike any other naturally aspirated motor. Where it’s even more complementary is in its fuel efficiency, Mazda claiming a 5,8l/100km figure, very close to our 6,1l/100km. Power output is 85kW with 148Nm of torque available to be down through a manual or automatic transmission driving the front wheels.
From a driver’s perspective, the Mazda is a good mix of comfort with a sporty bent. It exhibits a tad bit of body rolland understeer when tasked with something a bit challenging but it does so more capably than most cars of this size or price. The steering is a touch on the light side but that aside, it’s quite a fun little car to drive. Being naturally aspirated is requires quite a bit of engine revs to get it going and keep it peppered up, a task that can become less exciting factoring in the engine noise that screams into the cabin. The Mazda 2 has a ‘Sport’ selector button that increases engine revs and shift points adding to the overall noise but admittedly adding to a more brisk driving experience.
This is where the Mazda suffers most. The engine drones on when you’re flooring it and even freeway cruising where inclines dictate the need for a lower gear, the noise lets down the overall package.
About 200 Mazda 2’s find homes each month here in Mzansi (pre-lockdown). With four trim levels being offered and as mentioned, just one engine choice, there is a Mazda 2 to suit the budget. What you will get is a quality product, in many respects a class-leading car where quality or design is concerned. The Mazda also brings to the table, a full-house safety net and that’s something to look at. That said, the money you will pay for this flagship Mazda 2 1.5L Hazumi featured here, will also get you into the seat of a Highline VW Polowith a modern 1.0-litre turbo 3-cylinder motor.
An equivalent Fiesta will set you back similar money and give you a wider choice of engines, space, colours and ownership support.
Mazda 2 has its place in this segment for sure. It’s a stunning thing to look at and lets face it, you’ll look at it every day. With this and a feature-rich value proposition, the Mazda 2 brings a level of class and passion to the table.
Some would argue that the lack of a turbocharger would make the Mazda more reliable and whilst that may be true, we can’t exactly say that owners keep their cars long enough to find out these days. It’s a bigger issue than being just about reliability, it’s also an issue of overall driver comfort and efficiency and in this segment, that’s quite important.