A bit too noughtie
The smallest Mazda is strictly one for the nostalgists
MY DJ friends, of whom I have none, assure me noughtiesstalgia is the next “thing”.
The thing preceding was, apparently, “nineties-stalgia”, a cocked eyebrow celebration of whatever occurred during the 90s that is now deemed worthy of commemoration by the people who decide these things.
When comes the time of the decade previous to go into high (or yet higher) rotation on the many excellent audio and visual cultural channels available to subscribers, might I make so bold as to suggest an automotive motif?
This one. The Mazda2. It is both bestseller of its type and the surest sign that last decade is best left where it is.
An aspect of that is the sticker. Though this is a drive-away deal on a car in run-out (the new one lobs before year’s end), it serves to demonstrate that times have changed in more ways than one.
When this jellybean 2 arrived in 2007 (a radical reshape of the previous boxy device), Korean cars were shedding their driveaway/chuckaway reputation.
Now Hyundai and Korea make better Japanese cars than the Japanese and tend to charge a bit more for them, something justified still by inherent value, but also by technical and qualitative superiority.
Alone among its compatriots Mazda can hold its head up — the emerging generation Mazdas are world class — but the 2 is an old car, one that arrived when the company was recovering from near extinction.
While the design was and remains bold (visuals are surely the greatest factor in Mazda’s singular Australian success), this car rolls with a tired engine, old transmissions and achieves fuel consumption easily bettered by far bigger cars.
The “noughtiest” aspect of Mazda’s value story though is in what it doesn’t offer — neither annual nor capped servicing and only three years warranty. Honda try this on too, but they haven’t become used to being irrelevant. Mazda do it because they can get away with it.
Next to its direct competitors from Hyundai, Kia, Ford or even Volkswagen, it’s a bad joke on buyers.
Not quite a case of nothing to see here, but you have seen it all some time ago. As smaller engines achieve higher performance at a smaller cost in fuel, this 1.5 is blustery and thirsty. Its this aspect in which the new 2 will make its biggest stride, much as the incoming 3 renders the outgoing model prehistoric.
The 2 rides alertly with a responsive MacPherson front end and bog basic back. Mazda’s dynamic sharpness almost always shines and pensionable or not, the 2 is no exception with steering tastily direct at 2.6 turns lock-to-lock. Stability control calibration is another Mazda trump card. The Hiroshima based bods are among the few who can achieve a setting that concedes not all driver’s are numpties while catching the majority.
While the lines of the outgoing Mazda3 and previous model 6 define instant obsolescence (if they look a bit much now, how crook will they look in a year or three?), the 2’s visual statement transcends the years. In eschewing the hyper practical for pretty to the eye and practical enough, the Mazda2 continues to exercise its influence.
Then you open the door. A reader wrote last week that
quality fit and finish equates with durability, not soft touch material. What a noughtie fellow. Today, of course, it means both and the 2 realises only the former. The lack of Bluetooth is almost confronting in 2014 and the skinny plastic wheel is unpleasant to hold in any decade. The Clio craps on it.
Ergonomics are sound, though, especially the high mounted gear leaver that’s within my hand span of the wheel. Instantly legible instruments contribute to an efficient and pleasant work station.
Four stars and 30.8 points out of 37 sufficed for a small car crash test in 2008. Not now.
Although sales of new manual cars decline as precipitously as the government in Newspoll, a four speed auto with so indifferent an engine is best avoided.
It’s manual in the 2 or forget about it, another respect in which the old love’s getting on for the six-speed twin clutch autos of the Fiesta and Clio leave both its transmissions for dead.
And yet ... When stirred along, the base Neo Sport is a good bit of old world fun, though it’s driverly dynamics are foremost on the sort of backroads to which it’ll be seldom taken.
The short shifting stick and progressive clutch pedal (wonder how many more times we’ll write that about a new car?) mean that it’s far from a chore to manoeuvre in the city.
Old style Korean value from Japan. You can do better.