REVIEW | The 2020 Mazda 2 is a charm to drive

Distinctive styling, good build quality and peppy performance create an appealing little hatch

The Mazda2 now matches its larger Mazda cousins with updated styling cues like a mesh grille and new style alloys. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE
The Mazda2 now matches its larger Mazda cousins with updated styling cues like a mesh grille and new style alloys. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE

The Mazda 2 hatch competes in a niche that’s large and well presented. Segment choices include sales doyens like Ford’s Fiesta, Volkswagen’s Polo, Renault’s Clio, Toyota’s Yaris and Renault’s Clio in that mix.

With the recent facelift Mazda has stepped up to deliver a truly competitive package. The groundwork has all been done for the 2020 model and has manifested as a car boasting good looks thanks to the company tidying up its sleek “Kodo Soul of Motion” corporate suit with added chrome elements and LED headlights, and they’ve also redesigned the rear light cluster from playful to more mature.

Inside the cabin you’ll also find a neatly stacked and ergonomic dash with tactile buttons and switches. There’s also ample breathing space for passengers and its comfortable rear seats fold down flat to create more carrying space.

Most of the segment-expected features such as USB charging points, a multifunction steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity, smartphone-led navigation and a head-up display were availed in the 1.5 Hazumi test unit.

What’s it like to drive? In town it works like a charm. There’s great visibility for weaving in and out of spaces and to park. The latter was helped by a camera that feeds rearwards images through a floating centre screen, but you don’t need it that much.

The distinguishing aspect of its drive experience begins with the pliancy of its steering, which is nicely sharp, and the responsiveness of its 1.5l four-cylinder petrol engine.

There’s little to complain about inside the Mazda 2 interior. It’s neat and very well equipped. Picture: SUPPLIED
There’s little to complain about inside the Mazda 2 interior. It’s neat and very well equipped. Picture: SUPPLIED

Esteem has amassed for turbocharged motors but Mazda has resisted the urge. Mazda’s trick to recreate quasi-turbo benefits like low fuel consumption and reactive power is to use its Skyactive technology, which in lay terms means low weight construction: the vehicle weighs only 1,070kg, and perfectly geared transmission ratios allow for good low speed tractability and an average 6.7l/100km sip of fuel.

Don’t let the leisurely driving pace employed by most of Mazda 2 owners lull you into thinking it’s not a fun car. The 85kW and 148Nm produced by its small capacity nonturbo engine and its 10.4 second acceleration from 0-100km/h and a top speed of 184km/h understandably aren’t compelling numbers.

But inside that band of speed the virtues of Skyactive lightweight build are palpably clear and evoke the horse and rider harmony marketed by Mazda.

Thanks to slightly long-winded ratios of its six-speed automatic 'box, and the engine’s usability for spirited driving, it’s a tingly and entertaining little hatch. Stability is exemplary on its FWD configuration and it never gets unsettled even deep inside corners, and feels capably balanced at high speeds and on twisty mountain pass roads.

The five-year old car still has a fresh and modern design. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE
The five-year old car still has a fresh and modern design. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE

Indeed, everything about this Mazda 2 is inoffensive and built with the quality that suggests all will work perfectly for a long time. If there’s one criticism, Mazda, it’s the lack of a touch-operated screen (the infotainment’s controlled by a knob). But I get it. Ghastly fingerprint smudges don’t belong inside a neat and tidy cabin.

This was my first drive of the Mazda 2 and it now forms a part of my top 10 small hatch recommendations.

Tech Specs

ENGINE

Type: Four-cylinder petrol

Capacity: 1.5l

Power: 85kW

Torque: 148Nm

TRANSMISSION

Type: Six-speed auto

DRIVETRAIN

Type: Front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

Top speed: 184km/h

0-100km/h: 10.4 seconds (claimed)

Fuel Consumption: 6.0l/100km (claimed), 6.7l (as tested)

Emissions: 140g/km

STANDARD FEATURES

Bluetooth, auto on/off LED headlamps, cruise control, keyless entry, park distance control front, camera for rear park distance control, multifunction steering wheel controls, rain sensor wipers, USB ports, automatic air conditioning, head-up display, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, brake assist, ABS, stability control, six airbags           

OWNERSHIP

Warranty: Three years/unlimited km

Service plan: Three years/unlimited km

Price: R359,900

Lease*: R7,741 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

Mazda 2 1.5 Hazumi

WE LIKE:

Looks, build quality, fuel consumption

WE DISLIKE:

Lack of a touchscreen display

VERDICT:

A satisfying little hatch

Competition

Citroën C3 1.2T Shine, 81kW/205Nm — R315,900

Ford Fiesta 1.0T Titanium Auto, 74kW/170Nm— R364,300

Hyundai i20 Fluid Auto, 369kW/700Nm — R317,500

Peugeot 208 1.2T GT Line auto, 81kW/205Nm — R325,900

Renault Clio 88kW turbo Expression auto, 88kW/190Nm — R306,900

Suzuki Swift 1.4T Sport auto, 103kW/230Nm — R347,900

Toyota Yaris 1.5 Xs Auto, 79kW/140Nm — R308,200

Volkswagen Polo 1.0 TSI Highline auto, 85kW/200Nm — R363,200


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