Nippy and fun to drive

BRIAN BAS­SETT gets the feel of the new Mazda 2 1.5 on good roads and bad

The Witness - Wheels - - MOTORING -

is now just over a year since Mazda’s re­birth as an in­de­pen­dent brand.

Hav­ing moved out of Ford’s shadow, the brand has launched a num­ber of re­ally fine cars like the CX5, now one of the best-sell­ing SUVs on the mar­ket, as well as the 3 and 6 se­ries, all of which we have re­viewed in this col­umn and found to be finely crafted, well de­signed and a plea­sure to drive.

We were thus very pleased when Faisal Hoosen, new ve­hi­cle sales man­ager at Bar­loworld Mazda, of­fered us an op­por­tu­nity to spend a few days with the baby of the Mazda se­ries, namely the Mazda 2, from which we ex­pected a great deal be­cause of our pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence of the brand. We are pleased to re­port that the car did not dis­ap­point.

STYLING

The Mazda 2 of­fers one of the most at­trac­tive de­signs in its class. The car looks youth­ful from any an­gle with Mazda’s pen­tag­o­nal grill giv­ing it an big nose over an ag­gres­sive “mouth”. Fog lamps in the bumper re­in­force the ag­gres­sive lines. Five-spoke al­loys sit well in the pro­nounced wheel arches and cre­ate a fine fi­nale an ex­cel­lent over­all de­sign. The colour-coded, elec­tric side mir­rors fold away at the touch of a switch to en­sure that the huge SUV parked next to you at the shop­ping cen­tre does not take one or the other mir­ror with it while re­vers­ing out.

IN­TE­RIOR

In­side, the car-maker’s Kodo de­sign phi­los­o­phy, which sets out to cap­ture the spirit of mo­tion, cre­ates a min­i­mal­ist, easy-to-read dash with a com­bi­na­tion of dig­i­tal and ana­logue el­e­ments.

What im­pressed was the fact that at no time did we have to look away from the road to read the di­als. The cen­tral stack is crowned by a seven-inch touch screen that con­trols a re­ally good, sixs­peaker ra­dio/CD/MP3/Aux-in/sys­tem, as well as a GPS, which is avail­able as an op­tional ex­tra.

The sys­tem is op­er­ated by a chunky knob on the trans­mis­sion tun­nel. The air-con­di­tion­ing con­trols are part of the cen­tre con­sole and have a ro­bust feel — in fact the whole cabin has a com­fort­able, ro­bust feel that speaks of qual­ity and ex­cel­lent de­sign.

The leather-cov­ered, mul­ti­func­tion, tilt and tele­scopic steer­ing wheel con- trols the usual range of ra­dio and Blue­tooth func­tions, as well as hav­ing an in­for­ma­tion but­ton that is use­ful in pro­vid­ing a range of driver-rel­e­vant on­screen data.

Win­dows are all elec­tri­cally op­er­ated with switches set into a shelf on the doors. Con­sid­er­ing the com­pact ex­te­rior di­men­sions of the car the rear seats will take two adults com­fort­ably. Th­ese also fold down in 60:40 fash­ion to vir­tu­ally dou­ble the 280 litres of boot space on of­fer.

SAFETY AND SE­CU­RITY

The Mazda 2 is a fam­ily car and the list of safety mea­sures is long. The usual ABS with EBD, driver and pas­sen­ger airbags, Elec­tronic Brake Force, Emer­gency Brake As­sist, Dy­namic Sta­bil­ity Con­trol, side im­pact bars and child re­straint an­chor points, as well as seat­belts for all make up only a small por­tion of the safety fea­tures to en­sure driver and pas­sen­ger sur­vival. The car also has cen­tral lock­ing, an alarm and key­less en­try, al­though I missed the pres­ence of a park as­sist sys­tem on the ve­hi­cle at shop­ping cen­tres.

PER­FOR­MANCE AND HAN­DLING

The Mazda 2 has a 1.5 petrol en­gine that makes the most of its 16 valves to de­liver 82 kW and 145 Nm with­out any help from a turbo. A six-speed man­ual gear­box sends the power to the front.

The gear­box is a tri­umph, with short throws, a good me­chan­i­cal feel and a tac­tile, leather-cov­ered gear lever mak­ing shift­ing a plea­sure.

The Mazda han­dles beau­ti­fully on a rigid chas­sis that en­cour­ages 0-100 km to come up in less than 10 sec­onds. Around the bends the steer­ing is light and re­spon­sive.

Over­all damp­ing is good and the car dealt with the D-roads in the Mid­lands with­out any prob­lem al­ways re­main­ing im­pres­sively sta­ble at all speeds.

I vis­ited friends who farm not far from Michael­house on Satur­day evening and found that, treated with care; the Mazda also took farm roads in its stride. Long, steep hills and the need to pass ar­tic­u­lated trucks will re­quire gear chang­ing and this adds to the fun of driv­ing this plea­sur­able lit­tle car.

Fuel con­sump­tion is al­ways dif­fi­cult to cal­cu­late but around 6,5 l/100 km is what we achieved.

COSTS AND THE COM­PE­TI­TION

The en­try-level model comes in at about R190 000, while the 1.5 In­di­vid­ual Man­ual we drove will set you back around R212 000.

There is an auto at about R223 000 and a diesel auto at about R260 000. All come with a three-year un­lim­ited kilo­me­tres war­ranty, road­side as­sis­tance and ser­vice plan. Ser­vice in­ter­vals are ev­ery 15 000 km.

Th­ese days this is a very com­pet­i­tive seg­ment so also look at Honda Jazz, Kia Rio, Toy­ota Yaris, Hyundai i20 and VW Polo to name but a few.

PHOTO: SUP­PLIED

While an au­to­matic is avail­able, the man­ual Mazda 2 is a lot of fun to drive on any road.

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