Calgary Herald

Mazda’s subcompact peppy, bold and economical


HIROSHIMA, JAPAN — At Mazda’s recent drive day, three models caught my eye in particular — diesel versions of the Mazda6 and Mazda3, along with a pre-production Mazda2.

The Mazda6 and Mazda3 featured the company’s 2.2-litre Skyactiv D diesel engine. It produces 175 horsepower and, more importantl­y, 310 pound-feet of torque at 2,000 rpm. As employed in the Mazda6, it put some real spring in its pace around the track. However, as used in the Mazda3 Sport, it showed its true colours. It was quick enough that it would make a novel version of the Mazdaspeed­3.

First, the Sport is 157 kilograms lighter than the Mazda6. This and the sportier suspenders saw it romp through corners and then pile on the speed as the torque did its thing. Down the main straight, I managed to clock 165 km/h.

Mazda needs to bring the Mazda3 Skyactiv D to Canada, and the sooner the better.

The third car was the upcoming Mazda2, all neatly wrapped in camouflage. In spite of its disguise, it was easy to figure out what it will look like; the look mirrors the Hazumi concept showed at the Geneva Motor Show earlier this year.

As with its bigger siblings, the Mazda2 features the company’s bold Kodo (Soul of Motion) design language and the new grille that’s been adopted across the portfolio. It’s a good-looking ride.

The all-new Mazda2 grows appreciabl­y. At 4,060 millimetre­s, it is 160 mm longer than the outgoing model. It is also 25 mm taller (now 1,500 mm) and, most importantl­y, it rides on a 2,570-mm wheelbase, which is up 80 mm. The latter imparts substantia­lly more rear seat leg space. This and the increased headroom saw a 6-foot-2 rider slide into the back seat with ease.

There’s also plenty of cargo space. The nit is the split/folding rear seats do not sit flush with the floor when folded down.

The rest of the cabin mirrors that of the larger Mazda3.

The test car featured Mazda’s HMI (Human-Machine Interface) with its Commander Switch and dash-mounted screen. It gives access to all of the phone, infotainme­nt and car setting functions as well as showing the view from the backup camera. The tester also arrived with lanedepart­ure warning and blindspot monitoring.

The next Mazda2 will be offered with two 1.5L Skyactiv gas engines in Canada. The difference between the two boils down to the exhaust manifold. The base 102-hp engine uses a four-intoone system. The up-level engine earns the Skyactiv four-into-twointo-one header. Mazda did not say how much horsepower this will add, but somewhere around 115 would seem fair. The header also promotes mid-range torque.

It’s intriguing that other parts of the world will get Mazda’s new 1.5L Skyactiv D diesel. It produces 105 hp and 184 lb-ft of torque at 2,000 rpm. Based on my experience with the Mazda3 Skyactiv D, the smaller diesel would be a natural for the Mazda2 in Canada. It would also be without peer in the segment.

The entry-level European gas engine powered the car I tested. Compared to the two Canadian engines, it produced significan­tly less power. It did get up to speed, though. In spite of having just 75 hp and 105 lb-ft of torque on tap, it hustled around the track nicely.

A big part of the Mazda2’s hustle boils down to the gearing. The ratios allowed the little car to put 100 km/h on the clock before shifting into third gear! There will be an automatic transmissi­on available for the shiftless at heart.

Riding on front struts and a torsion beam rear axle, the new Mazda2 takes a big step forward in the ride and handling department­s.

The all-new Mazda2 takes big strides forward in all areas. In many respects it sets a new benchmark: the ride and handling is as good as anything in the class while the new Skyactiv engines promise to be both peppy and economical.

 ?? Graeme Fletcher/Driving ?? The perky Mazda2 is a real contender in the subcompact class.
Graeme Fletcher/Driving The perky Mazda2 is a real contender in the subcompact class.

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