Tribal, not triv­ial

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - FIRST DRIVE - CRAIG DUFF

WHEN you’re on a win­ner, back it like Winx.

The pay­out is only go­ing to be mar­ginal but you’re still at the top of the field.

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

Ex­te­rior changes are barely worth men­tion­ing — will any­one spot the shark-fin an­tenna on the 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 and sound dead­en­ing in key ar­eas.

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

More im­por­tantly, given the price-con­scious na­ture of the light car seg­ment, prices are un­changed from the pre­vi­ous ver­sion.

Drive-away prices start at $16,990 for the Neo hatch or sedan, rise to $19,690 for the Maxx, $22,690 for the hatchonly Genki and top out at $23,680 for the GT (pic­tured) in four or five-door guise.

The GT name­plate takes over from the Genki 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 — the ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paign for the up­date is tagged “2Tribe” in a bid to en­cour­age young women to feel part of a net­work.

Mazda Aus­tralia boss Vi­nesh Bhindi says the “over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity” of buy­ers are young women, with a smat­ter­ing of males and empty nesters mak­ing up the mix.

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

It is still the only ver­sion to make do with 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 for 74 per 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 the 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 the dif­fer­ences.

Plant the right foot — you need to, be­cause the non-turbo 2 needs to have revs on board to do its best work — and the 1.5-litre en­gine cranks up the vol­ume along with the pace.

Semi-trail­ers blast­ing along­side like­wise in­trude on the cabin am­bi­ence.

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

If car­ry­ing gear is part of the rou­tine, the sedan is the pick with 440L of cargo space to the hatch’s 250L.

Other­wise, the smaller hatch is a smarter look and smaller car to 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 the boxes for ANCAP and buy­ers alike.

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