TWO FOR THE ROAD

Mazda makeover adds value, keeps costs down

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - FRONT PAGE - CRAIG DUFF

WHEN you’re on a win­ner, back it like Winx. The pay­out is only go­ing to be mar­ginal but

still at the top of the field. That’s ap­proach taken with facelifted Mazda2, bring­ing wel­come safety up­dates what is sec­ond best-sell­ing light car in the coun­try (watch out, Hyundai Ac­cent) and most pop­u­lar pri­vately bought seg­ment.

Ex­te­rior changes are barely worth men­tion­ing — will any­one spot the shark-fin an­tenna on roof of high­er­spec mod­els?

Mazda has fit­ted more kit, head­lined by 30km/h city-speed au­ton­o­mous emer­gency brak­ing on all ver­sions, and tried to re­duce noise in­tru­sion with im­proved glass sound dead­en­ing in key ar­eas.

In this seg­ment only the Skoda Fabia can match Mazda for stan­dard AEB and the maker says likes of blind spot and rear cross-traf­fic alert are a first class.

More im­por­tantly, given the price-con­scious na­ture light car seg­ment, prices are un­changed from pre­vi­ous ver­sion. Drive-away start at $16,990 for Neo hatch or sedan, rise to $19,690 the Maxx, $22,690 for the hatchonly Genki and top out at $23,680 GT (pic­tured) in four or five-door guise.

The name­plate takes over from S Pack af­ter Mazda’s re­search showed peo­ple pay­ing top dol­lar for their city car didn’t want it de­scribed as a “pack” edition.

Not that Mazda is dis­count­ing the whole pack men­tal­ity ap­proach — ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign for up­date is tagged “2Tribe” in a bid to en­cour­age young women feel part of net­work. Mazda Aus­tralia boss Vi­nesh Bhindi says the “over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity” buy­ers are women, with a smat­ter­ing of males and empty nesters mak­ing up mix.

The en­try level Neo will ac­count for al­most half Mazda2 sales, de­spite hav­ing an en­gine that is about 0.5L/100km less fuel ef­fi­cient and with marginally power than the next three grades.

It still the only ver­sion to make do sen­sors rather than a re­vers­ing cam­era.

About 80 per cent of buy­ers will pay an ex­tra $2000 for a six-speed auto. Hatch vari­ants are tipped to ac­count 74 cent of all Mazda2 sales.

The CD player has been deleted across the range as yet an­other in­di­ca­tion this car is for smart­phone-equipped mil­len­ni­als with down­loaded tunes and apps for mu­sic­stream­ing. As was the case pre­vi­ously, of eight-hued palette only Mazda’s “soul red metal­lic” paint costs ex­tra, at $300.

ON THE ROAD

Mazda says the facelifted 2 is qui­eter than its pre­de­ces­sor. I’d need a back-to-back drive or a sound engi­neer to dis­cern dif­fer­ences.

Plant the right foot — you need to, be­cause non-turbo 2 needs to have revs on board

do its best work and the 1.5-litre en­gine cranks up vol­ume along with pace. Semi-trail­ers blast­ing along­side like­wise in­trude cabin am­bi­ence.

The Mazda2 is far less vo­cal when driven in city en­vi­rons and the steer­ing and throt­tle are on par with best the class.

If car­ry­ing gear part of rou­tine, sedan is pick

440L of cargo space to hatch’s 250L. Oth­er­wise, smaller hatch a smarter look and car park.

VER­DICT

It’s a mild makeover but Mazda re­ally didn’t need to do much to keep the 2 at the top of the charts. Ac­tive safety should tick

boxes for ANCAP and buy­ers alike.

DEALER: Gee­long Mazda PHONE: 5221 7233 WEB: gee­long­mazda.com.au

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