LAST year, a friend was deciding on her first car and one of the options that I recommended, straight out, was the Mazda2. Back then, the new generation Premium line had not even been launched; the last year model of the Mazda2 that I was able to drive was the 2016. Yet, the impression remained that this was a car worth keeping on the list if you’re on the market for a no-nonsense, reliable subcompact that comes with impeccable style.
Having had the opportunity to get to know the Premium Series Mazda2 better, it was clear that this was the brand’s effort at leveling up its well-loved sub-compact from #BFF to #RelationshipGoals.
On the outside, this was the Mazda2 that we all know and love; with that familiar curvature, the signature smooth line that connects straight from nose to tail, and the undeniable long sloping hood that ends right above the brand’s emblem.
The overall look is made younger with a subtle sport strip that cuts across both side mirrors. It is an element that complements the red strip that is present on the front grille, right where the emblem rests. In fact, if you look even closer, the car’s aluminum alloy wheels carry the same red piping that weave through the semi-matte silver.
These represent Mazda’s attention to detail — so subtle that you can almost miss it, but entirely cool when you spot it.
The interior of the Premium Series 2 makes it true to its name. While this may be the Mazda2’s last hurrah before the launch of the all-new facelift edition, it pulled out (almost) all of the stops as it offers an upgraded experience. Take, for instance, the trim and upholstery. While others stop at leather seating, the Mazda2’s genuine leather seats come with a plush, suede upper that give it a luxe texture. Likewise, the combination of deep, almost-black grey and dark brown leather trim that covers most of the interior details up until the door frame, made the overall ambience feel elevated. Almost pretentious, if you will.
To complement that imagery and bring the tonality back to Earth, Mazda integrated a nostalgic layout for its controls. First, it employed turn-knobs instead of buttons for its air-conditioning controls. For those who are familiar with the traditional type of controls, this format makes it second-nature when making adjustments. It also complements the infotainment control panel located between the gearshift and the center console.
Second, there is a CD player slot, for an actual CD. While I’m not entirely sure why Mazda decided to integrate a CD player into its audio system, it’s nice to know that the vehicle was also made with the 1990s kid in mind. It may not be a deciding factor, but it is something always good to have.
Third, the USB charging ports and car lighter port are located right below the CD player and air-conditioning knobs for easy access. It would have been perfect, especially with the resting pad connected to it where you can park your smartphone, wallet, keys, or what-have-you. Except that the USB ports refused to charge my iPhone — both of them. I was told that it could be because the charging output are not efficient enough to power a smartphone. In that case, then what are the ports there for?
Fourth, and this may be the one element — aside from the CD slot — that I am confused about. Why the rotary air-conditioning vents? While the rotary vents give the interior a vintage touch, combining it with the modern horizontal vents is awkward. Are we trying to be old-school cool or modern, but not really? On the other hand, rotary vents work in terms of the overall design as it goes hand-in-hand with the control knobs and the infotainment panel board.
Moving on from the interior design details, the cabin is well-built. As a driver and passenger, there is comfort and practicality in every reach. In a previous review of the CX-3, the all-wheel drive subcompact built off the Mazda2 platform, one of my concerns was the lack of interior space. Surprisingly, I found the seating of the Mazda2 to be more generous — there was ample wiggle room, the bucket design was more forgiving than constricting, and my shoulders did not feel like it was confined to the edges of the seatback.
The legroom could use improvement, however, especially in the second row. While the driver and passenger have the luxury of adjusting their seats, other passengers will have to contend with having to fold their legs at an angle of almost 90 degrees at all times, unless you are a very petite individual. Otherwise, the second row seats are as plush as the front — all leather and suede.
Speaking of practicality, a commendable feature of the Mazda2 is its cargo hold. For a sub-compact of its size, I was expecting less than satisfactory trunk space. Rather, there is enough space for at least one medium-sized luggage and one carry-on, and then perhaps some leftover for a couple of backpacks. This makes the little bugger perfect to hold enough load for a weekend road trip out of town or for you to bring a family member to the airport for a week-long trip.
Road trip, you say? As usual, the magic of a Mazda happens behind the wheel. Strap yourself into the Mazda2, get settled, and get comfy with the familiarity of having the car feel like an extension of you. This is one thing that has not changed with every Mazda that I have driven. Sure, the long hood and narrow window panes take some getting used to, especially when coming from the visibility levels of an SUV. But once you’re in the driver’s seat and the power smoothly kicks in, you’ll be reminded again of what makes a Mazda a Mazda.
This particular model runs on a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder Skyactiv-G engine, making it powerful, but a tad more fuel efficient. Even if it’s only a two-wheel drive transmission, there is enough output that make it just right for daily city driving and that occasional weekend out of town. Steering is light and stable and the suspension can be bouncy at times, but overall, comfortable.
The Premium Series Mazda2 is the last of its generation before the facelift arrives. On that note, it chose to leave an impression that even at the sub-compact category, it offers an elevated experience that can satisfy one’s passion for driving and the desire for elegance. The Mazda2 is classy, yet sports-inspired and down-to-earth. It is also luxe, with an arrogant swag.