In the subcompact class, the Mazda2 has been a bit of an enigma in the last five years it has been in the market. We always knew it was a good little car from the brand known for zoom-zoom, but the little Mazda2 just didn’t have what it takes to capture a significant chunk of the market.
Judging by the time Fast Times spent behind the wheel of this new generation Mazda2 hatchback, all that is about to change for the better.
The new generation of Mazda’s subcompact was launched last year in other markets, intended to be the smallest and entry point into the new and revitalized Mazda brand and the SkyActiv banner. Much is expected of this entry-level Mazda given the stellar performances and reviews of its bigger brothers, especially since this is geared toward younger customers that Mazda is eager to introduce to their brand of drive. They have to make a stellar first impression.
Style-wise, it’s easy to see how this little hatch can—the Mazda2 is the spitting image of its brethren, thanks to a generous serving of Kodo design. It just looks good from any angle and looks poised to move with those curves and lines. This is the five-door hatchback version of the 2 so there is no trunk to speak of, especially since it measures in at 4,060 millimeters long, 1,695 mm wide and 1,495 mm tall with a wheelbase of 2,570 mm. Mazda Philippines does not offer the top spec 1.5R in hatchback form, so this is the mid grade 1.5V variant for now, hence the smaller 15-inch wheels.
Inside the Mazda2 is a revelation when it comes to interior design. The dashboard is clean, purposeful, functional and, most important, feels more premium than what this class of car should be. From the driver’s seat, you can really feel this is a great little hatchback. With the visibility it provides its driver, the feel of the materials, among others, everything just fits so well around you. The steering wheel is great to the touch, along with the automatic shifter with a sport mode that has the more intuitive pull to shift up and push to shift down.
Being a mid-grade version means this Mazda2 does not have the excellent human machine interface as seen in the Mazda3 and 6, but the dash-top audio unit does well to consolidate the audio functions; it’s a bit out of reach for the driver, but there are buttons on the wheel to adjust volume and select tracks on the fly. USB input, an Aux port and Bluetooth are all standard equipment.
In terms of space, the Mazda2 loses out against the well-maximized 2015 Honda Jazz, but so does every other subcompact hatch in the market today. Like most hatchbacks, the rear seats do fold down to accommodate larger cargo and boxes, though bikes might be a bit challenging to get in there. I do wish they put in a bit more attention to rear legroom as the Mazda2 can get a bit tight for adult occupants.
Pop the hood and there sits a 1.5-liter twin cam 16-valve SkyActiv engine with 108 PS and 139 Nm of torque matched with a front-wheel drive SkyActiv six-speed automatic. To the uninitiated, SkyActiv is Mazda-speak for technologies that improve fuel efficiency through better engines, new technologies, better transmissions and lighter, stronger bodies. As a result, the Mazda2 is the lightest in its class when compared to the Jazz, Fiesta and Yaris.
Light, fun, direct
Remember the original Mini? That’s what the 2 reminds me of: a car that’s light, ingenious, fun and direct. In town, it really shows. The Mazda2 is very easy to negotiate tight city streets with 90 degree turns because it is nimble and agile. Acceleration is also good, but the focus being fuel economy, it’s able to deliver 9.2 kilometers to the liter in moderate traffic (23 kilometers per hour average speed) when driven sensibly.
On the highway, the Mazda2 really impresses. The SkyActiv transmission is excellent and quite easily the best in the class because it shifts smoothly and efficiently. In fact, the SkyActiv gearbox has a selector switch at the base of the gearstick that adjusts its program for normal or sporty driving. That is quite cool. As a result, when driven in normal mode, the Mazda2 delivered 15.7 kpl when driven at an average speed of 96 kph on an open expressway.
Enter a racetrack or a tight winding mountain road and the Mazda2 simply springs to life. Flick the switch to sport mode and the transmission activates the shift program, maximizing the revs and downshifts quickly when you brake to enter a corner. The suspension also works in unison to generate a car that’s fun to toss around from corner to corner, though the tires could be better for this kind of spirited driving.
It’s hard not to get carried away with a car like this. The Mazda2 delivers on the promise of a lively small hatchback, one that is exhilarating to drive, practical, efficient, stylish and so much more. If this is how Mazda seeks to introduce new customers to their brand, they have indeed put their best foot forward. And then some.