Mazda 2

4 Aug 2014 | Author: | Comments Off on Mazda 2
Mazda 2

Mazda 2

(December 2002)

Mazda’s 121 replacement combines practicality, affordability and excitement in equal measures unmatched in the compact car class

2002 was a bumper year for small cars. The Hyundai Getz brought European styling to a Korean price tag, Honda’s revolutionary Jazz rewrote the book on interior versatility and space, and Citroen’s C3 dropped a ton of good looks in the sub-$20k market. All looked good, were strong in their respective disciplines, and were attractive to different buyers – but Mazda’s stunning 2 replacement for the 121 has blown the lot out of the water.

It’s the second chance Australians have to experience the new Mazda DNA. Don’t turn away just yet, because for once a mission statement is more than marketing hyperbole. This one actually translates to the cars.

In essence, Mazda has decided it needs to build cars that are Stylish, Spirited and Insightful. That means cars should be fun to drive and own, not just a form of transport. And these characteristics should apply not only to the pricier models on the list, but to everything Mazda builds.

It’s fairly easy for us to say we’ve never driven a small car as exciting or entertaining as the Mazda 2. Nothing comes close to matching its enthusiast traits while presenting an equally strong argument for practicality.

We’re jumping ahead. Let’s take a look at the Mazda 2, launched in December 2002, from the ground up. On the styling front, don’t expect me to wax lyrical about the Mazda corporate five-point grille, or the striking front profile, etc. Look at the photos, and I’ll simply add that the 2 works very well in the flesh.

It looks smart. It looks good. Its stance is purposeful and exciting.

Physically, the 2 is actually bigger than the 1994 Mazda 323. Against its predecessor the 2 is 125mm longer, 30mm wider and 40mm higher.

The Mazda 2‘s footprint is much bigger, with the axles 102mm further apart, a wider front (+52mm ), rear (+32mm) and track (distance between the wheels).

Unlike the 121, the 2 will not be offered with a stripper 1.3-litre engine. All versions – there are three – will get a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine, with sequential valve timing and four valves per cylinder. Performance is improved with power up 28 percent and torque 10 percent stronger.

The Mazda 2‘s kerb weight, however, is also up, now 1068kg – 123kg more than before.

Which sounds like the perfect recipe for disastrous fuel consumption. Not according to testing done to Australian Standard 2877, which rates the manual version at 7.6l/100km city cycle and 5.2l/100km highway. The 121 could only manage 8.0l/100km and 6.4l/100km.

At the time of writing CarPoint has not had the opportunity to gather real-world fuel figures, that’s scheduled to happen early February 2003.

Mazda claims the 1.5-litre engine produces 90 percent of its peak torque from just 1900rpm, though we found the engine improves noticeably above 3200rpm. The manual gearchange is a delight to use, perhaps topped for tactility by the Honda Jazz, though certainly among the best in its class.

So, on to specifications. Sit down for this one, the names are rippers. Neo, Maxx and Genki – dead set, who dreamed those up?

Prices at launch start from $17,790, which includes air-conditioning, central locking, CD player, power steering, engine immobiliser and optional metallic paint at no extra cost.

Mazda claims the 2 is $1450 cheaper than the equivalent 121, and substantially cheaper than a similarly equipped Holden Barina, Honda Jazz, or Volkswagen Polo.

The mid-spec Maxx, priced at $20,570, adds a six-stack in-dash CD player, 15in alloy wheels, remote central locking, power windows and mirrors, and steering-wheel-mounted stereo controls.

The top specification Genki – a Japanese word which translates as feeling good – gets a sports bodykit, front fog lights, sporty interior trim and antilock brakes for $22,195. A four-speed automatic gearbox is a $1750 option across the range.

Mazda 2

Exterior colours are designed to be noticed, particularly the soft yellow and burnt orange versions pictured here. Interior trim levels and colours differ across the range, from bright grey with blue dash on Neo, bright beige cloth on Maxx and dark blue with metallic highlights on Genki.

Interior space is a highlight of the 2, with plenty of leg and headroom front and rear in all models. Two adults sit comfortably in the rear, though it leaves no room whatsoever for a third, or even a child. Rear seat access is improved on this model.

Boot space is good for this class of car, which has a low loading height and wide hatch for easy access.

As with most new additions to the compact car class, the 2 has versatile seating arrangements. The rear seat not only slides forward 100mm, but can be 50/50 split folded to provide room for longer loads.

On the road, the Mazda 2 works better than any car in its class. Mazda retained the 121’s independent strut front end and torsion beam rear axle setup, revised to offer impressive performance in both ride quality and handling dynamics.

There’s very little to criticise about the 2’s manners on the move. It rides very smoothly and compliantly over choppy surface, barely rolling the body while cornering and changing direction.

The 2’s speed sensitive, power assisted steering is greatly improved over the 121. The quicker rack and torsion bar between the front strut towers add levels of precision and directness to the tiller that make controlling the 2 a breeze. It’s light and accurate and provides plenty of front wheel feedback.

There are small amounts of steering kickback from road corrugations and bumps, but nothing to really complain about.

We liked everything about the Mazda 2 when we first drove it in Japan mid-2002. Re-reading this article in the weeks after publication we were a bit concerned. All too often cars that perform strongly overseas don’t translate well to Australia’s unique and rugged conditions.

Turns out our concerns about the Mazda 2 were totally unnecessary. It performs as well as, if not better than, we remember. The Mazda 2 nails all those disciplines compact car buyers crave, and at a price the others will find hard to match. That alone is enough to recommend it for anyone hunting cheap, practical, flexible transport.

Add the Mazda 2‘s benchmark chassis dynamics and its capable, economical drivetrain, and you’ve got a car too good to ignore.

Published. Sunday, 1 December 2002

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