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Mazda2 Maxx and Genki 2015 review

EXPERT RATING
8
Paul Gover road tests and reviews the Mazda2 at its Australian launch.

It will take something special to replace the Mazda2 as the favourite choice with baby car buyers.

It's been No. 1 for two of the past three years. For six consecutive years, it's been in the top three despite classy rivals such as the Toyota Yaris, Suzuki Swift and Volkswagen Polo.

But that something-special car has arrived - and, no surprise, it's the new Mazda2, which will do the baton change with the outgoing model in showrooms in just over a week.

Line them up side-by-side and there are obvious differences between the old and new tiddlers, from the body styling to a fresh mechanical package with the brand's efficient Skyactiv technology.

The price too, gets sharper, as the starting sticker drops to $14,990 (or $850 lower).

However, the big change is the way Mazda has gone about the new 2, making it more of a scaled-down Mazda3 than another lightweight runabout for first-car buyers and retirees. To steal a line from a rival brand that made the claim but never made it stick, the new Mazda2 is mini but not tinny.

The outgoing vehicle is a good car in most ways, from the body shape to the cabin finishing and the first-class backup in dealerships. It drives fine and it is great on resale, although Toyota still holds the highest ground there.

But to drive, the old car is just a car, a nice but not outstanding vehicle and, for the CarsGuide crew, not as good as a Polo.

The new 2 changes that, because as soon as you drive beyond a city commute it is quieter, more refined and more enjoyable. Noise levels are down, comfort is up and you could easily think you are driving a Mazda3.

The seats are not ideal for me and the handling is not as sharp as a Polo, but that's about it on the negatives. Fuel economy - the Mazda claims 4.9L/100km and the VW 4.8L - swings the other way because the new 2 needs only standard fuel against premium for the Polo.

The only remaining question mark is the $14,990 price leader, as the new Neo has yet to land and I have only driven the mid-level Maxx and fully loaded Genki, which starts at $19,990 including a nifty head-up display for the speedo.

I worry a little because the 1.5-litre engine in the Neo (79kW/139Nm) is the 'base' level and not up to the Maxx (81kW/141Nm) that I drive.

However, I can feel the in-built quality. Running over the car, checking everything from the plastics and cabin finishing to the new touchscreen display, confirms a continuation of the recent form by Mazda.

"We tried to make it feel like a car from the next class up," says Mazda Australia marketing chief Alastair Doak.

"The price has come down by about $850 and the value equation is better by about $1200. We've got Bluetooth in this car that we didn't have before.

"There's a 19 per cent improvement in economy in the Neo and 28 per cent improvement in the high-spec engine." The Neo does not come with a reversing camera, unlike the latest Honda Jazz, but the specification is just what you expect in the class.

It should be five-star on safety, although the city brake support option adds $400.

Mazda talks big on its 'Kodo' design, which means both a bigger-car look on the outside and a grown-up approach to the cabin, but also admits pricing had to be sharper for the new 2.

"I think the price just reflects the competitive nature of the segment. You look around, see what's there, see what's happening, and react to that," says Doak. "A lot of people went conservative. We continued to improve the value equation." 

But the new Mazda2 does not look or feel like a price player and it's going to rattle its rivals, as well as strengthening its appeal to buyers. It's a definite four-star car and, once we've driven the Neo and put it up against the Polo, that score could go higher.

It's also making a powerful case for inclusion next month in our 10-car field for the Car of the Year judging.

Pricing guides

$14,990
Based on 225 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$9,400
Highest Price
$19,999

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
Genki 1.5L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $9,300 – 13,970 2015 Mazda 2 2015 Genki Pricing and Specs
Maxx 1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $9,100 – 13,640 2015 Mazda 2 2015 Maxx Pricing and Specs
Neo 1.5L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $7,000 – 10,780 2015 Mazda 2 2015 Neo Pricing and Specs
Maxx 1.5L, ULP, 6 SP MAN $8,200 – 12,760 2015 Mazda 2 2015 Maxx Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
8