Driven: Mazda 2

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A supermini that can appeal to the head as well as the heart

Now employing the same ‘Kodo’ design language - which means the Soul of Motion - as larger models in the Mazda range, and now in its second generation in South Africa, the Mazda2 is the most stylish and distinctive small hatchback the firm has offered SA buyers. With its sights aimed squarely at the Volkswagen Polo, Ford Fiesta, Renault Clio and Opel Corsa, the Mazda2 had to bring its A-game to compete in the super competitive subcompact segment.

Mazda has gone to great lengths to enhance the new 2’s refinement levels. Great care has been taken to minimise all kinds of exterior noise from entering the cabin, the sense of calm amplified by the comfort-biased suspension. Everything feels well-assembled and robust inside the 2’s spacious cabin, although those who favour soft-touch plastics will be hard-pressed to find any.

Two motors are offered in South Africa. The single 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol variant with Skyactiv technology, and the diesel model. While the 82kw petrol unit powers most of the range, and is barely audible at idle speeds; the flagship is an equally sized diesel motor that puts out 77kw and 220nm, but mated to a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic transmission makes this relaxed compact sportster a very interesting proposition. Claimed fuel economy is as low as 4.4 litres per 100kms in the diesel 2, while mid 5s are expected in the petrol derivative.

With light steering, progressive brakes and its small footprint, the Mazda2 is a good town car. Take the Mazda2 out on a weekend blast, and you will find you have a grin as big as the grill on the front of the car as you flick through the cogs and carve your way through the bends, which will end all too soon. The Mazda2 has to be up there with the class-leading Ford Fiesta for its handling. All models feature an electronic stability control system and six airbags. 

While condensing the dynamic styling of the Kodo design language to match its compact size, the packaging for the Mazda2 is carefully designed to provide driving pleasure, a comfortable cabin environment and easy-to-use features. Stylistically the new 2’s interior isn’t dissimilar to the new MX-5 sports car, with a driver-focused section Mazda calls the cockpit zone, and a wider section in front of the passenger. The reasoning is that driver distraction is minimised with all the key information directly in front of them, while controls for the air-con and infotainment system, which aren’t looked at as frequently, are to the side where the front passenger can access them equally well.

Can the Mazda2 escape the shadow of the Fiesta, Corsa and Polo? It certainly deserves to. With a smart exterior and interior, plenty of kit and low running costs, there’s nothing to rule it out. The Mazda2 scores highly in enough areas to make it worthy of a place on your shortlist. On top of these things, the Mazda 2 is enjoyable to drive without suffering from the poor refinement of its predecessor. The range topping Hazumi turbodiesel is priced at R352 700, while the petrol engine range starts from R228 900 to R304 500 dependent on trim level. All come standard with a 3-year maintenance plan and a 3-year unlimited kilometre factory warranty.

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