Car (South Africa) - - CREDITS -

BE­ING the quiet sort who prefers ying un­der the radar to caus­ing a ruckus, I was par­tic­u­larly pleased to take cus­tody of a seem­ingly un­sung hero of the hatch­back fold, the Mazda2.

Men­tion B-seg­ment cars and the likes of the VW Polo, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai i20 will be jostling at the fore­front of your at­ten­tion, com­fort­ably ahead of the Mazda2, and this shouldn’t be the case. Even so, our long-ter­mer’s Me­teor Grey Mica metal­lic paint­work does lend it some­thing of a “stealth hatch” look, but it’s still a taut, sporty lit­tle thing, rolling on a fetch­ing set of dual-tone 16-inch al­loys.

The cabin’s dark colour scheme makes it feel snug but, even with a brace of broader-shoul­dered folk up front, there’s enough width to the in­te­rior to en­sure lit­tle chance of any awk­ward bod­ily con­tact. It’s also neatly trimmed, with soft-touch pan­els and a sporty pod-like in­stru­ment bin­na­cle among the high­lights. This 6 000 km test unit feels solidly put to­gether, with no squeaks, creaks or bits of appy trim let­ting the side down.

In my brief time with the car, I’ve come to ap­pre­ci­ate the Mazda2’s sporti­ness ex­pands beyond its styling, with a sup­ple chas­sis and di­rect steer­ing giv­ing it a dy­namic edge over most of its ri­vals. The In­di­vid­ual Plus is also par­tic­u­larly well stocked, with par­tial-leather trim, cli­mate con­trol, sat-nav, lane-de­par­ture warn­ing and key­less en­try among the stan­dard items. This model also brings with it a head-up dis­play sys­tem that, al­though fairly com­pact, man­ages to clearly con­vey plenty of in­for­ma­tion; from turn-by-turn nav­i­ga­tion cues to speed limit sig­nage and, of course, your cur­rent speed.

I was a bit wary of the smal­l­engine-auto-trans­mis­sion ar­range­ment, es­pe­cially since Mazda has a knack for pro­duc­ing snappy, di­rect man­ual shifters, but the 1,5-litre nat­u­rally as­pi­rated four feels stronger than its 82 kw sug­gest. This is a big plus on the 80 km mo­tor­way stint my daily com­mute in­cludes, where the 2 has lit­tle bother hold­ing its own in fast-mov­ing traf c and is a likely fac­tor in the 7,11 L/100 km fuel econ­omy to date, close to our 6,80 L/100 km fuel-in­dex gure.

Mo­tor­way driv­ing has also re­vealed the 2 to be a sur­pris­ingly sub­stan­tial-feel­ing car de­spite a kerb weight that’s just a hair over 1 000 kg.

Nig­gles so far? Well, the rear legroom isn’t at all gen­er­ous and the head­lamps are rather dim on their dipped set­ting. Oth­er­wise, the Mazda2 has made a qui­etly con dent start.

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