Nippy and fun to drive
BRIAN BASSETT gets the feel of the new Mazda 2 1.5 on good roads and bad
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.
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.
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.
While an automatic is available, the manual Mazda 2 is a lot of fun to drive on any road.