LARGER THAN LIFE
Mazda’s all-new 2 hatch is lighter, better looking and is packed with technology. But is it still as fun to drive, asks wheels’ Sony Thomas
From relative obscurity until less than a decade ago, Mazda has sprung back into the limelight with an impressive line of ingeniously engineered cars and utility vehicles. From the strikingly good-looking 6 saloon and the peppy and practical CX-5 and CX-7 crossovers to the 3 hatchback, Mazda’s line-up of new models offers clearly more sophisticated and feature-laden alternatives to regular Japanese cars in the market. However, it’s obviously a bit of a challenge trying to squeeze the same winning principles of Kodo design language and Skyactiv engineering into its smallest and cheapest car, the 2 hatchback.
We loved the previous generation of Mazda’s supermini for the fantastic fun-to-price ratio it offered. But since that car owed much of its dynamic abilities to the platform and engineering it shared with Ford’s Fiesta, it would be interesting to see how this all-new model with Skyactiv everything matches up.
Well, one look at the tech sheet and you can see that the Japanese carmaker has got the fundamentals right. At around 1,050kg, it is much lighter than before and weighs less than most of its competitors. This is mainly thanks to the Skyactiv construction, which has a simpler frame layout and uses high amounts of high-tensile steel. This has also contributed to increasing the car’s torsional rigidity by 22 per cent.
Mazda also claims the adoption of a Skyactiv chassis has resulted in a quicker steering gear ratio. While all this makes the 2 a lithe and sprightly little supermini, the steering could do with a little bit more feel and load, especially when taking corners at speed. But the steering’s lightness makes pottering around town and slotting into tight parking spaces a breeze.
The new 1.5-litre Skyactiv G mill is a revvy four-pot that eggs you on to
drive hard, but the response isn’t as sharp as the engine note would suggest. While it’s smooth and refined when cruising along, pushing it hard seems to leave the new six-speed automatic ’box confused as it keeps hunting for the right cog while sounding unpleasantly high-strung and coarse. The best way to get the most out of this engine is to take control of the gearshifts via the paddle shifters.
Meanwhile, Mazda has spruced up the 2’s looks by applying the same styling language as the rest of its range. In fact, with the trapezoidal family face, the sharp creases along the sides and a waistline that kicks up to meet the lunging roofline at the rear, it looks very much like a mini-me version of the Mazda 3 hatch.
The styling flourish is carried over to the inside as well, with the distinctly upmarket cabin clothed in leather and carbon fibre-look plastic trim, pointing to Mazda’s aspirations of being a brand that straddles the mass market and the premium.
However, despite being a notch above all its Japanese rivals in terms of fit and finish, the 2’s cabin does not feel as well-built or robust as that of a Volkswagen or Audi offering. But then, you’re paying only about Dh58,000 for the top-spec model, which also comes packed with loads of class-leading technology like head-up display, a 7.0in touchscreen, great smartphone connectivity and cruise control, among other things.
Although Mazda says the car’s longer wheelbase has freed up more space inside, the rear seats are still better left for kids or really short adults, especially with two six-footers up front. In its latest iteration, Mazda’s supermini is still a tremendously fun-to-drive car. And with prices starting at Dh47,900 for the base, it’s positioned in the same bracket as most of its Japanese rivals, which are more practical, but not as deft.
This is a sensible choice for youths or young couples looking for an engaging set of wheels that won’t burn a hole in their pockets.
With the trapezoidal family face and sharp creases, it looks very much like a mini-me version of the Mazda 3 hatch