By: Denis Droppa
Knysna - Mazda Southern Africa is churning out models with the pace of a bullet train since splitting from Ford late last year. The Japanese company became a standalone brand with its own dealer network on October 1, and marked the occasion by introducing the all-new Mazda3 and Mazda6 ranges along with an expanded CX-5 line up.
On a mission to regain lost market share after being somewhat neglected by its former parent company in latter years, next on the agenda is the new-generation Mazda2 unveiled this week.
The five-door hatch goes on sale in a range of six derivatives, comprising two engines and four specification grades, all offered with Skyactiv, Mazda’s brand name for a series of technologies – including engines, transmissions, body and chassis – which improve fuel efficiency and performance.
Going up against worthy competitors like the Ford Fiesta, VW Polo, Renault Clio, Kia Rio, Hyundai i20 and Opel Corsa – to mention just a few – there’s no room for mediocrity in the hotly-contested B-segment hatchback league, and the Mazda2 doesn’t disappoint.
Continuing the theme of the impressive 3 and 6 model ranges, Mazda’s new compact hatch is a classy little effort that brings big-car build quality and refinement into a smaller package.
It’s brimming with the safety features and gadgets that modern small-car buyers expect, including a navigation system on the flagship model. Interior space is tight as you’d expect from a B-segment car, but it’s packaged in a classy-looking cabin.
It’s the ride quality that particularly stands out as giving the Mazda2 a grown-up feel. When I drove it at last week’s media launch on the roads around George and Knysna, the little car wafted over bumpy roads with unusually comfortable suspension compliance for its size, lacking the choppy nature usually associated with short-wheelbase cars.
A nippy nature makes it scoot with agility through twisty roads, although admittedly there’s no higher-powered model to really test the chassis.
TWO FRUGAL ENGINES
The two engines – one petrol and one turbodiesel – are both 1.5 litres in capacity and are more focused on providing useable commuting pace with frugal economy.
The bulk of the range is powered by the normally-aspirated 1.5 petrol, a smooth little unit which delivers its 82kW and 145Nm outputs with reasonable pace at sea level but will be muzzled somewhat in the thinner air of high altitudes like Gauteng. It’s available with a choice of manual or automatic transmissions – both with six speeds. The 1.5 DE turbodiesel – with 77kW and 250Nm on offer – is the pick of the two engines for both its gutsier torque delivery and its superior economy, which the factory claims at 4.4 litres per 100km compared to the petrol’s 5.7 litres (auto) and 5.5 litres (manual).
The turbodiesel should work particularly well at high altitude where its performance won’t be choked as much as the normally-aspirated petrol.
The diesel’s an easygoing performer that doesn’t require hard revving and there’s no major lag at lower revs, characteristics that make a good pairing with the six-speed automatic transmission – no manual is available in the diesel version.
PACKED WITH FEATURES
The diesel engine’s only available in the top-of-the-range Kazumi model which is priced at a steep R259 900, however, and a case could be made for offering a lower-specced diesel with a more affordable pricetag. The 1.5 DE Kazumi has a bountiful features list that includes satnav, full climate control, half-leather seat trim, and Dynamic Stability Control, but its pricetag pushes it well into the territory of the larger Mazda3.
The bottom-of-the-range 1.5 petrol Active offers an attractively-priced R188 000 entry point to the Mazda2 range, as it comes standard with air conditioning, push-button engine start, an audio system with USB/aux inputs, electric windows, trip computer, remote central locking, tilt and telescopic steering adjustment, dual airbags, and ABS brakes.
As you move higher up the range the additional items that become available include a 7” colour touchscreen, Bluetooth, alloy wheels (the baseline model has steel versions), automatic headlamps, and enhanced interior trim, among others. No side airbags are offered in the range, as in some competitor cars.
As part of an aggressive strategy to entice buyers back to the brand, Mazda is the only company in this segment to offer an unlimited-distance warranty on its vehicles. This three-year guarantee comes with a three-year service plan with roadside assistance.
1.5 Active - R188 000
1.5 Dynamic - R199 900
1.5 Dynamic Auto - R211 300
1.5 Individual - R211 400
1.5 Individual Auto - R222 800
1.5 DE Kazumi Auto - R259 900