New Mazda2 gets a price

A sexy price and facelift mark a strate­gi­cally im­por­tant car, writes Paul Gover

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Onroad -

THERE is very lit­tle change in the 2010 model of the Mazda2. Un­til you look at the bot­tom line. The small­est mem­ber of the Mazda mob picks up the smi­ley fam­ily grille, there are im­prove­ments to the rear shock ab­sorbers and the brakes, with stan­dard elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol on all cars, and there is a booted sedan for the first time.

But the biggest change is a $16,999 drive-away price tag.

It’s the re­ward for sales suc­cess and — though Mazda de­nies it — switch­ing pro­duc­tion from high-cost Ja­pan to low-cost Thai­land.

Mazda de­scribes the $16,999 sticker as a pro­mo­tional deal but is not set­ting any time limit on it, which makes the Two a much tougher ri­val for a range of op­po­nents from the Hyundai Getz to the Toy­ota Yaris.

Alastair Doak, mar­ket­ing man­ager for Mazda Aus­tralia, says: ‘‘We mean busi­ness. Mazda2 is very im­por­tant to us. It’s very im­por­tant to get cus­tomers into the brand at that level.

‘‘It has con­sis­tently de­liv­ered us a younger au­di­ence and more first-time car buy­ers. It’s play­ing its role as the step­ping stone into the line-up.’’

The new four-door model— which comes at the ex­pense of the three­door Two — is the first sedan since Mazda’s long-loved 121 ‘‘bub­ble’’ back in 1990. It opens up a 450-litre boot, com­pared with the 250-litre ca­pac­ity of the hatch.

But the sedan is only avail­able with the mid-level Maxx pack­age — in­clud­ing al­loy wheels and six-disc CD sound— but it costs no more than the hatch at $19,090.

‘‘If you look at other sedans, they are much more con­ser­va­tive than the hatches. Ours keeps the sporty look, but it’s per­haps a lit­tle more grown-up and re­fined,’’ Doak says.

The 2010 model Two is a facelift of a car which hit in late 2007 and has tripled show­room sales of the car, as well as slash­ing the av­er­age age of own­ers, from 52 to 43.

The me­chan­i­cal pack­age of the Mazda2 is un­changed, which means a 1.5-litre four-cylin­der en­gine with 76kW/ 135Nm, ei­ther a five-speed man­ual or four-speed au­to­matic gear­box turn­ing the front wheels, four-wheel disc brakes and front MacPher­son struts with a tor­sion beam for the rear sus­pen­sion.

Mazda says the weight of the body is down 22kg with more strength in the shell, giv­ing it five-star pro­tec­tion.

The equip­ment lev­els are un­changed at Neo, Maxx and Genki, which means ev­ery car gets air­con- di­tion­ing, four airbags, elec­tronic sta­bil­ity con­trol, anti-skid brakes and re­mote cen­tral lock­ing.

So, are pas­sion and spirit missing?

Driv­ing

I WOULD love to re­port a ma­jor change in the way the Mazda2 drives. Or feels.

But, to me, it feels the same as the pre­vi­ous model. Per­haps, just per­haps, there is a lit­tle more com­pli­ance in the sus­pen­sion. And a bit more feel to the brake pedal. But that’s it. There is noth­ing to re­port from the en­gine room and the dash­board is just as I re­mem­bered.

Mazda says the new Two is a bet­ter drive than the Ford Fi­esta. But I dis­agree. It’s not as sharp, sim­ple as that. Even so, the Two is a tidy pack­age and a car which works very well for the peo­ple who buy them — and choose it ahead of the Fi­esta or the

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