SMALL CAR, BIG VALUE

A cut above reg­u­lar shop­ping trol­leys, Mazda’s sedan adds qual­ity, fun and safety for its pre­mium

Geelong Advertiser - Motoring - - COVER STORY - BILL McKIN­NON

If you’re in­ter­ested in a small car be­cause it’s easy and en­joy­able to zip around town in, with great ma­noeu­vra­bil­ity, fuel ef­fi­ciency low run­ning costs, you can now have one

big car bonuses as well, such as the lat­est safety and in­fo­tain­ment tech, a com­fort­able, quiet cabin, con­fi­dent han­dling rea­son­able per­for­mance.

But you have to spend lot more than $14,990 drive-away, which cur­rently puts in the cheap­est seat class, Hyundai’s Ac­cent. One of the best small cars, Mazda2, has just been given a midlife over­haul, with low speed (from 4-30km/h) au­to­matic emer­gency brak­ing now stan­dard across range. Its only ri­val AEB is the Skoda Fabia.

A new works­burger vari­ant, Mazda2 GT, adds blind spot mon­i­tor­ing and rear cross traf­fic alert, with AEB op­er­at­ing in re­verse as well, giv­ing it the best safety spec­i­fi­ca­tion this class.

It will cost you $23,680 plus on roads for sedan, which we’re in today, or five-door hatch, both with a 1.5-litre four­cylin­der engine and six-speed au­to­matic trans­mis­sion. That’s big money for small car. Is it worth that much?

DE­SIGN

Climb into the GT and it seems a fair price. The cabin fea­tures ex­cel­lent fit fin­ish qual­ity, clean, min­i­mal­ist styling a so­phis­ti­cated, hi-tech feel.

test sedan has leather seat bol­sters and fake suede fac­ings, soft touch in­te­rior trim in dark brown with grey stitch­ing, gloss black plas­tic MAZDA2 GT PRICE $23,680 WAR­RANTY 3 years/un­lim­ited km CAPPED SER­VIC­ING $1486 over 50,000km SER­VICE IN­TER­VAL 12 months/10,000km SAFETY 5 stars, 6 airbags ENGINE 1.5-litre 4-cyl, 81kW/141Nm TRANS­MIS­SION 6-speed auto; FWD THIRST 4.9L/100km DI­MEN­SIONS 4320mm (L), 1695mm (W), 1470mm (H), 2570mm (WB) SPARE Space-saver

fake al­loy high­lights. At­ten­tion to de­tail be­fits a more ex­pen­sive car, from the pre­cise, tac­tile con­trols clear, con­cise in­stru­ments, sporty, leather­wrapped steer­ing wheel and retro-look cir­cu­lar air vents.

You sit high on a com­fort­able, sup­port­ive cush­ion with ef­fec­tive back­rest bol­ster­ing but only ba­sic man­ual ad­just­ments. That said, the driv­ing po­si­tion can be tai­lored to suit just about any­one and tall peo­ple won’t feel cramped in the 2.

Most Ja­panese Korean brands use touch­screen-only in­fo­tain­ment. Mazda adds much safer, more ef­fi­cient ro­tary con­troller/cur­sor in­ter­face favoured by Ger­man mak­ers. Mov­ing around menus is in­tu­itive, com­ple­mented call­ing/email/mes­sage Blue­tooth func­tions, voice con­trol that works with phone, au­dio and nav­i­ga­tion, and a head-up dis­play shows speed, speed lim­its (with 100 per cent ac­cu­racy on test) nav­i­ga­tion prompts.

Rear seat space is pre­dictably tight for tall pas­sen­gers but four av­er­age sized adults will fit com­fort­ably. A huge boot in the sedan — 440L, com­pared with hatch’s 250L can be ex­tended with 60-40 split-fold rear seat back. The re­mote re­lease, as of­ten seems to case, didn’t work on the test car.

AROUND TOWN

In town, the 1.5-litre/six-speed com­bi­na­tion de­liv­ers best-in­class fuel ef­fi­ciency. Our car av­er­aged 6-7L/100km on reg­u­lar un­leaded, abet­ted by an un­usual au­to­matic stop/start set-up that re­quires ad­di­tional firm press the brake, af­ter you come to a stop, to kill the engine.

You then need give ac­cel­er­a­tor sim­i­larly de­ci­sive poke get plot rolling again, be­cause — as in other nat­u­rally as­pi­rated petrol fours

torque is short sup­ply at low revs.

Re­spon­sive gear shift­ing then en­sures that the 2 moves eas­ily through h the traf­fic, where trans­mis­sion’s s ex­tra two ra­tios, com­pared with h the four-speed­er­s­ders in Kia Rio and Toy­ota Yaris, give the Mazda a telling ad­van­tage in per­for­mance re­fine­ment.

Sport mode, ac­ti­vated via a cen­tre con­sole tog­gle switch, gives you im­me­di­ate kick­down to the lower gears for zippy

when need it. Very firm sus­pen­sion can make ride pretty rugged on bumpy city streets and the test car’s brakes were rather grabby and dif­fi­cult to mod­u­late at low speeds in heavy traf­fic.

ON THE ROAD

One of the qui­etest small cars I’ve driven, 2 cruises ef­fort­lessly on high­way with

1.5 tick­ing over at 2250rpm in sixth gear, re­turn­ing a su­per fru­gal 4-5L/100km.

It makes easy work of hills, again due to re­spon­sive, so­phis­ti­cated soft­ware that picks the right gear at the right time and pre­vents hunt­ing.

When you get a few tight cor­ners, can have bit of fun in 2, too.

Sport mode down­shifts like hot-hatch trans­mis­sion, with blip un­der brakes and keen­ness for the lower gears, WHAT IT’S GOT Six airbags, sta­bil­ity con­trol, 16-inch al­loy wheels, rear park­ing sen­sors, rear cam­era, head-up dis­play, au­to­matic low speed emer­gency brak­ing, blind spot mon­i­tor­ing, cross traf­fic alert, seven-inch touch­screen, Blue­tooth, voice con­trol, nav­i­ga­tion, dig­i­tal and in­ter­net ra­dio, two USB ports, leather/ fake suede up­hol­stery, au­to­matic air­con, space-saver spare. WHAT IT HASN’T Ap­ple CarPlay, An­droid Auto, rear air vents, radar cruise, lane de­par­ture warn­ing, lane keep­ing. OWN­ER­SHIP Base ser­vic­ing costs $1486 over five years/50,000km. Ser­vice in in­ter­vals are 12 months/10,000km. WHAT WE LIKED Su­per­bSupe qual­ity, el­e­gant de­sign and pre­ci­sion engi­neer­ing.eng Fru­gal, re­fined engine trans­mis­sion­tra with enough per­for­mance to do th the job. Runs on reg­u­lar un­leaded. Classle lead­ing stan­dard safety tech. So­phis­ti­cated, us user-friendly in­fo­tain­ment. Ag­ile, en­joy­able dy dy­nam­ics. Big boot. Strong re­sale val­ues. WHATWH WE DIDN’T No b bot­tom end torque. Low speed ride lacks com­pli com­pli­ance. Brakes are a bit grabby in traf­fic. Vague on-cen­tre­on­steer­ing at free­way speeds. Not much cov­ered stor­ages in the cabin. Space-saver spare. Short war­ranty and ser­vice in­ter­vals.

TOY­OTA YARIS ZR $22,470 1.5-litre/four-speed auto is old, noisy and in­ef­fi­cient com­pared with the Mazda but it’s well made, cheap to run and in­cludes AEB and lane de­par­ture alert. SKODA FABIA MONTE CARLO $23,490 VW Polo mu­tant with class lead­ing per­for­mance from a punchy 1.2-litre turbo/seven-speed dual-clutch auto. AEB stan­dard, radar cruise op­tional. Wagon adds $1150.

POLO 81TSI COMFORTLINE $21,190 Runs on pre­mium un­leaded. AEB, radar cruise and nav­i­ga­tion are pack­aged as a $1900 op­tion.

where the 1.5 (a de­tuned ver­sion of that in base MX-5) pulls will­ingly and quite strongly be­tween 4000rpm-6500rpm.

Open road dy­nam­ics are sporty flavour, with ac­cu­rate, rea­son­ably com­mu­nica­tive steer­ing, dis­ci­plined body con­trol, great front end grip and se­cure road­hold­ing on rough sur­faces, where the ride also be­comes more com­pli­ant be­cause sus­pen­sion works through of its travel.

The brakes gain pedal feel at speed and have am­ple

power. The steer­ing lacks on­cen­tre feel, so in free­way cruis­ing you’re con­stantly mak­ing frac­tional ad­just­ments at the wheel.

VER­DICT

Sure, the Mazda2 GT is pricey for a small car but it’s also good value be­cause you get much more than just cheap shop­ping trol­ley.

It’s pre­mium qual­ity, welle­quipped, pre­ci­sion-en­gi­neered lit­tle ma­chine with best-in-class safety and a fun-to-drive fac­tor that lifts it above the pack.

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