Mazda2: panther among pigeons
CAR magazine recently voted the Mazda CX5 the Most Underrated Product in the Special Car Award category in its Top 12 Best Buys Awards.
My colleagues at Car had not yet driven the new Mazda2, but if they had, this award could as easily have gone to this new wunderkind, which has just won Car Of The Year in Japan, where the competition for the annual COTY is tougher than anywhere else on the planet.
I have recently spent a lot of time in the Mazda2, helping to deliver same to magazines in the fairest Cape, and testing it back in KZN.
At the launch of Mazda’s very impressive Skyactiv engine technology, David Hughes, MD Mazda Southern Africa challenged the doubters to see if the natural aspiration made any difference to the performance at Highveld altitude, where most engines need a turbo to make up the power-loss from low air pressure. (I was one of those doubters, but am no longer).
Hughes would like people to remember two things about Mazda. The first is that the brand is again sold and serviced under its own banner in South Africa, and not through Ford.
The second is that-there are no more cheap and cheerful Mazda 323s. Instead, Mazda is now a premium brand that is pitching against the German brands.
The new cross-etched lines of the “Kodo – Soul of Motion” design certainly puts Mazda in the top class. I obscured the logo of the Mazda3 with my hand and challenged a fellow car nut to guess the make. “It starts with an M … I hinted.
“With those lines it looks like a Maserati,” was his guess.
Which may explain why the Mazda2 also recently received the Good Design Award’s Good Design Gold Award from Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Minister’s Award, sponsored by the Japan Institute of Design Promotion.
So it has the the looks, but will the goods under the hood keep you warm at night? The short answer is yes. The sweet-revving little 1,5 makes 82 kW at 6 000 rpm and 145 Nm at 4 000 rpm, with a long stroke for more torque in city traffic. But this little mill will make you smile when you get close to 20 km a litre, as I did in the six-speed automatic.
The Mazda2 Auto 1,5 I had on test sells for R222 800, (the manual is R11 400 less) and came with 16-inch alloy wheels; a seven-inch full colour touch screen display; Bluetooth that I could pair in 12 seconds, a multi-function commander control next to the hand brake, an audio system with: six speakers, auto headlamps, and those little finishing touches that proclaim “premier league”, viz red stitchings on the soft-touch panels and chrome exhaust extensions.
Bearing in mind the competition, I caught a lift to Durban in an Audi A1 to fetch the Mazda2, and must say the Germans better look out. With the Mazda2 there is now a panther among the pigeons.
There is no more cheap and cheerful Mazda 323 from this brand, instead, there is this very, very good little hatch from Japan’s premier car maker.