March 28, 2016 @ 05:15 PM

Review: Mazda2 – Nippy little hatch that introduces the joy of driving

The easiest thing to do is to gush over the handsome Mazda2. But are good looks all that it has to offer?

Skim the surface and the Mazda2 seem like a good buy. Seeing as how they produce hit after hit, one might be lulled to think that it is hard to go wrong with a Mazda. The CX-5, the Mazda6 and the Mazda3 prove that the new Zoom-Zoom-infused Kodo-formed SkyActiv-armed vehicles from Hiroshima — and Kulim to a certain degree — offers refinement that you don’t usually get from the Japanese makes. In fact, in certain aspects of the vehicle, Mazda either matches or surpasses the European offering.
The Mazda2 does not differ. For RM85,446.30, on-the-road without insurance, which includes the accessories like the rear parking sensor, reverse camera, alarm with immobiliser and 16-inch alloys, the imported hatchback is a bargain. Factor in the standard features such as keyless entry with push start, manual levelling headlamps, auto climate control, traction control, i-stop, Head-Up Display and DRL and you’ll need to flip back to the cover of the brochure just to make sure you’re reading a Mazda2.
What would make you want to put down your signature, I’d wager, is the Commander Control linked to the seven-inch LCD display floating on the dashboard, which is very German-like. Not only it shamelessly looks like BMW’s iDrive or Mercedes-Benz’s older Comand Controller, the system works just as slick. Rotate the knob to highlight a menu, press down the knob to activate it, rinse and repeat until you need to go back, which you will press the button with the house graphic.
It’s not just the gadgets that elevate the status of this seemingly budget hatchback, the quality of the materials, the precise fit of the panels and the finishing of the trim are the most important elements that Mazda had gotten right. In truth, the car should have been more expensive but a re-think of the manufacturing process has helped to bring costs down, among other things.
The layout is typically Mazda, in that you’ll know where everything is the moment you sit in. The expansive dashboard and clean centre stack don't make the front look busy anymore than it needs to be. Also, typically Mazda is not having too much room for movement, which perhaps is a compromise for having a sporty-esque interior.
As good as it sounds, I can’t get the seating right. The driver’s seat of the Mazda2 puts me in a very awkward position, and among the latest Mazdas that wear the Kodo uniform, the experience is a first. The common denominator when it comes to the front seats is that they cradle you in a way that feels as if your behind is hovering just inches about the tarmac. Although that does not necessarily be the reality, the point is that the seats give the impression that you are driving something interesting.

In the Mazda2, I am placed in a position that’s somewhere between being hugged and getting kicked out of the car. The backrest is pushing me forward, the side bolsters hugs half-heartedly, the well-padded cushion adds too much height and the short thigh support fees like my behind is always at the seat’s edge. Fiddling with the levers and pulleys struggles to put me in a more favourable position; in the Mazda2’s defence, my build is rather large for a car this small. I soldier on.
It matters the seating position. Besides comfort, how secure you are in the seat directly influences your approach and attack of any corner. Go in too hard and you’ll risk sliding off the seat. Go in too softly and the inherent handling talent of the Mazda2 goes to waste. Make no mistake, the Mazda2  is as capable and fun as it looks, and wants nothing more than to be chucked into corners all day. Even with the standard energy-saving 16-inch rubbers, the hatchback has the anchors to make it track accurately around anything turns it encounters. It is quite sublime.

In any case, you’ll come out of the corners fairly quickly and find that the 1.5-litre inline-four engine is ready to tap you into its 114bhp and 148Nm. In spite of the humble numbers the mill generates, the light hatchback never feels robbed of power or find itself in situations that leave you wanting more.

OK, back to reality and let’s put things into proper perspective. There’s no doubt that the Mazda has made a very, very good hatchback that focuses on a great and fun drive but manages to discard space and the ability to carry many more things; somethings got to give. So, it all boils down to what you want in your sub-RM90,000 car. Everyday space and comfort? Or a toy that will let you have fun in your commute. No, you can’t have both.


SPEC: Mazda2

RM85,466.30 OTR without insurance
1496cc, inline-4 cyl, SkyActiv-G, 114bhp @ 6000rpm, 148Nm @ 4000rpm
Six-speed SkyActiv-Drive, front-wheel drive
On sale

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