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Mazda 2 Maxx and Genki 2015 Review

EXPERT RATING
8
Malcolm Flynn road tests and reviews the new Mazda2, with specs, fuel economy and verdict.

It’s not that long ago that we considered light hatches like the Mazda 2 a mere secondary vehicle, or something ‘just to get to the shops and back’. We’d accept things like wind up windows, manual steering, unrefined drivetrains and even fewer safety features for the sake of a lower pricetag and a car that wouldn’t take up much room on the street.

These days manufacturers would be hard-pressed selling a light hatch without power windows and steering, air conditioning and a five star safety rating, but Mazda is about to take the segment several steps further with the all-new third-generation 2. 

Yes the Volkswagen Polo already does a good job of bringing premium comfort to a mainstream runabout, but the new 2 brings the latest curvaceous evolution of Mazda’s appealing Kodo design language, plus the availability of every mod-con you could hope for in a light hatch.

Not that long ago that we considered light hatches like the Mazda2 a mere secondary vehicle, or something ‘just to get to the shops and back’ 

It may look like a Kodo-facelifted current model from some angles, but the new Mazda2 is very much all-new from the tyres up, and been preened and pruned to suit modern demands.

Pruned? The new entry Neo starts from just $14,990 – some $800 less than the previous Neo Sport price leader, yet offers a claimed $1200 of extra value.

Mazda is also offering ongoing drive-away pricing across the new 2 lineup, to help remove some of the guesswork from the buying experience.

Ahead of the new 2’s November 1 on-sale date, the second-generation model is still the second-best selling  in the light hatch segment year to date, behind the ageing Hyundai i20, and still fending off the recently facelifted VW Polo and Toyota Yaris, along with the new-generation Honda Jazz.

Mazda HQ in Japan is well aware of Australia’s current love for the brand, and has recognised our significance by making us the first market outside Japan to receive the new model.  

The new 2 is so fresh that only the mid-spec Maxx and top-tier Genki will be available from November 1, with the entry Neo grade delayed until mid-December. 

Unlike the last of the previous 2s and the current Mazda3, 6 and CX-5, all Australian third-generation 2’s will be sourced from Thailand instead of Japan – a key factor in the new model’s price competitiveness.    

DESIGN

Joining the existing 3, 6 and CX-5 models, the new 2 rides on an all-new Skyactiv generation platform, with a stronger and safer body, along with new and more efficient drivetrains.

Like the other Skyactiv models, much attention has been paid to weight minimisation for the new 2’s chassis, but overall weight has crept up slightly from 1010- 1032kg to 1027-1058kg due to the new generation growing in most dimensions.  

The wheelbase lengthened by 80mm to 2570mm and the overall length increasing 160mm to 4060mm. It is also 20mm taller at 1495mm than the model it replaces.

The increased size of the Mazda2 does not necessarily mean a boost in cabin space however. Aside from an 11mm increase in front seat shoulder room, rear shoulder room has dropped by 30mm, and headroom has shrunk by 20mm and 15mm front-rear. Legroom is also marginally reduced by 5mm in the front and 4mm in the rear. 

Also like the existing Skyactiv models, the 2's extra wheelbase has been used to move the front wheels further ahead of the cabin, creating a more cab-rearward profile rather than adding to interior space. 

This has also left room under the bonnet for the complex Skyactiv exhaust manifold and enabled the driver controls to be straightened from the current model's left-skewed layout. 

The result is a driving position where you feel more like you’re sitting in the 2 rather than on it, giving the impression of a larger car and a nicer place to be for long journeys. 

Mazda is about to take the segment several steps further with the all-new third-generation 2.

The cabin presentation of the Maxx and Genki models at the 2’s Australian launch have taken a significant step forward, eclipsing even the 3,6 and CX-5 designs with new circular air vents and overall forms that match the exterior design beautifully. 

The Genki is understandably a step above the Maxx with its padded surfaces with red stitching, but both are more akin to a premium Audi A1 than a mainstream VW Polo – two established cabin benchmarks.  

Maxx and Genki trim quality feels every bit as good as the larger Mazda passenger models, with no sign of cost cutting for the baby 2 or compromise over the Japan-built models.  

Rear seat accommodation feels much the same as before, with ample room for 2 average height adults, plenty of toe room beneath the front seats, a fixed angle backrest and 60/40 split-fold. 

Luggage space remains unchanged from the old Mazda2 at 250-litres (VDA), with a spacesaver spare beneath the boot floor. The 2’s boot figure is 100-litres short of the new Jazz, and doesn’t quite offer the van-like cavity or flexibility of the Honda’s Magic Seat system. 

The all-new chassis and strut front/torsion beam rear suspension in the Mazda2 have been refined to reduce road noise and vibration, and a quicker steering ratio has been used for a sportier feel.

VALUE

The new 2 reintroduces the three trim-levels used when the previous version arrived in 2007 - Neo, Maxx and Genki to replace the previous Neo Sport and Maxx Sport trim levels used since September 2013.

The $14,990 ($16,990 drive-away) Neo comes with air-conditioning, cloth seats, matte black trim, USB/Bluetooth compatible audio system with the basic dashtop interface from the Mazda 3 Neo and multifunction steering wheel and hubcap-clad 15-inch steel wheels.

The new entry Neo starts from just $14,990 – some $800 less than the previous Neo Sport price leader, yet offers a claimed $1200 of extra value.

The $16,990 ($18,990 drive-away) Maxx improves on the Neo with high-gloss black cabin trim, cruise control, leather-wrapped steering wheel, gearshift, and handbrake and 15-inch alloy wheels.

The Maxx can also be optioned with a $250 colour pack - on white, silver or black body colours - which replaces the black trim with high-gloss red centre console side-panels, front door armrest panels and ventilation louvre surrounds. The seats are also coloured red, as is the front door armrest.

The top-spec $19,990 ($21,990 drive-away) Genki gets the same MZD multimedia interface as the upper-spec Mazda3s, with a 7-inch touchscreen and satnav, multimedia and communication apps and six-speaker audio. 

The Genki also gets a heads-up display for the driver, several black soft touch panels with red stitching, climate control, automatic headlights and wipers, front fog lamps, chrome-tipped exhaust and 16-inch alloys.

The Xenon headlights with segmented LED daytime running lights seen on early Japanese-market images are absent from the Australian lineup due to cost however. 

Aside from the revised pricing, Mazda estimates value gains of more than $1200 for the Neo, $1500 for the Maxx and more than $2000 for the Genki compared with the previous 2 lineup.

ENGINES / TRANSMISSIONS

Two versions of a new 1.5-litre Skyactiv-G 4-cylinder petrol engine produce more power and torque than the current 2’s 1.5, while also delivering better fuel consumption. 

All trim levels can be paired with either a six-speed manual or six-speed torque converter automatic transmission for an extra $2000.

The Neo comes with the 79kW/139Nm ‘standard-spec’ VP-5 engine, representing a 3kW/4Nm increase over the old model. Combined fuel consumption of 5.4L/100km with the manual or 5.5L/100km with the auto represent 1.0L and 1.3L improvements respectively.

Maxx and Genki models step up to the 81kW/141Nm ‘high-spec’ FP-5 engine, with a higher compression ratio, 4-2-1 exhaust manifold and variable valve timing on the exhaust cam on top of the standard 1.5's variable inlet timing only. A stop/start system also helps reduce combined consumption to 5.2L/100km with the manual and 4.9L/100km with the automatic.

Like all current Skyactiv petrol engines, the new 2 will happily run on 91RON unleaded petrol.

SAFETY

Safety features on the new Mazda2 include front, side and full-length curtain airbags, ABS, stability control and emergency stop signalling. Mazda expects a five star safety from ANCAP in the coming months, but is yet to be tested.

One notable omission from all grades is a standard reversing camera.

One notable omission from all grades is a standard reversing camera, contrasting with the new Jazz that includes the safety feature even on the entry $14,990 VTi. A reversing camera is optional on all Mazda2 grades however, with a display integrated into the rear view mirror on Neo and Maxx models for $778 fitted, and via the MZD screen on Genki models for $420 fitted. Front and rear parking sensors are also available as individual options, priced at $599 and $399 fitted respectively.  

An i-Activsense autonomous emergency braking (AEB) system can be optioned across all trim levels for $400, which could potentially be amortised through cheaper insurance premiums.

DRIVING

Given the absence of Neo models from this week’s Australian launch, we’ve only had the chance to sample the high-spec engine so far. With just 2kW/2Nm disparity, we don’t expect the difference to be notable.

In line with the more upmarket cabin, noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) has been improved by a claimed 15 per cent due to the new body structure, and the high-spec engine is discernibly smoother than the old 1.5 throughout the rev range.  

The new 2 may be a sizeable 160mm longer, but the refinement gains, improved driving position, longer wheelbase and cabin presentation all contribute to a perception that the 2 is now a car you’d happily take on long trips. 

The base Neo may lack cruise control, but the Maxx and Genki both feel very much a scaled-down version of the long-distance friendly Mazda3 – which is a very good thing.

Like the other Mazda Skyactiv models, the 2’s ride is not as supple as the equivalent Volkswagen – in this case the Polo – but many will prefer the 2’s more connected ‘Zoom Zoom’ feel on the road. 

On the roads on test, the 2 felt impressively stable through corners, with good steering feel through the excellent leather-wrapped wheel of the Maxx and Genki.

Despite the longer wheelbase, the new 2’s turning circle has been reduced by 40cm on the Neo and Maxx to 9.4m, while the larger-wheeled Genki matches the previous model’s 9.8m kerb to kerb figure. So it will still handle tight city manoeuvres like the last 2.

The high-spec 1.5 has enough grunt to maintain highway speeds over inclines, and a Skyactiv-characteristic discrete throaty snarl is available from about 5000rpm. 

We drove both the manual and automatic versions, and the six speed manual has a nice shift and relatively short throw, but the six-speed auto is expected to make up 70 per cent of sales. 

The auto feels very reminiscent of the other Skyactiv units, with a smooth operation but a tendency to hold taller gears in the name of fuel efficiency.  A toggle-activated Sport mode is available for more spirited driving, which changes the auto’s character distinctly with higher shift points and more responsive downshifts.

Pricing guides

$15,990
Based on 191 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$10,500
Highest Price
$21,990

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Genki 1.5L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $8,900 – 13,420 2015 Mazda 2 2015 Genki Pricing and Specs
Maxx 1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $8,800 – 13,200 2015 Mazda 2 2015 Maxx Pricing and Specs
Neo 1.5L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $7,600 – 11,770 2015 Mazda 2 2015 Neo Pricing and Specs
Maxx 1.5L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $8,000 – 12,320 2015 Mazda 2 2015 Maxx Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8
Malcolm Flynn
CarsGuide Editor

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