Mazda2: pan­ther among pi­geons

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING - AL­WYN VILJOEN

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.

PHOTO: QUICK­PIC

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.

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