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Mazda's inexorable advance in Australia continues, growing in strength with each new model, the latest of which is a four-door sedan variant of the Mazda2. This joins the five-door hatch launched last November.
Small hatches with a horizontal bootlid grafted to their rumps typically look so wrong that just about no one buys them. So the designer of the Mazda2 sedan has penned it with a sloping tail to give it the appearance of an extended hatch.
Well aware of the importance of style to its sales success, Mazda Australia invited the design chief, Shigeki Nakamura to meet the motoring media in Australia to explain his version of the company's Kodo styling philosophy. The long nose and strong grille shape of the outgoing '2 sedan is unchanged, but Nakamura-san has shaved a little off the height at the rear of the cabin, to give the whole vehicle a sleeker look. That's clever.
Everything else being equal, sedans have more rigid bodies than hatches and, obviously, a much larger luggage area. A sedan's body has added rigidity provided by the crossmember at the base of the rear window. And Mazda2 sedan's luggage volume of 440 litres isn't far short of some cars a couple of classes larger.
The bigger boot has been achieved by extending the body by 260mm over that of the hatch. It sits on the same platform as the hatch, so the wheelbase is unchanged at a substantial 2570mm.
We are impressed with the boot hinging arrangement that lifts it up and out of the way for ease of loading. The big squared-off hole make every one of the 440 litres accessible. This boot holds two large suitcases, and can probably handle a bicycle with the front wheel removed. Rear seatbacks fold down for added versatility.
In the cabin there's no real difference in styling between the Mazda2 sedan and hatch. However, the use of different materials in the two bodies does give it a slightly different ambiance, it's hard to describe so perhaps pop down to a dealer to get your own thoughts.
There's a stubby instrument binnacle in front of the driver with a large central dial and two smaller 'wings' either side of it. The centre dial is either a speedo or tacho depending on the model.
The dash centre has one of two multimedia screens, a basic shallow one for the Neo and a deeper, 7.0-inch colour screen for the topline Maxx. The latter gives access to Mazda's MZD Connect system, note that satellite navigation is an extra cost option, albeit at a modest charge of $570.
Note that the upmarket Genki which sits a level up from the Maxx in the Mazda2 hatchback isn't offered as a sedan; an apparently surprising decision that may, in our opinion, be reversed later.
Under the skin things are virtually identical in the Mazda2 sedan and hatch. Both are offered with a choice of two 1.5-litre four-cylinder engines. Power and torque outputs are very similar in the two engines: 79kW and 139Nm in the one called standard-spec engine that's fitted to the Neo sedan, and 81kW and 141Nm in high-spec unit in the Maxx.
Basic numbers don't always tell the full story and during our initial test drives in the Adelaide region we felt the 79 kilowatt unit had enough power, but not a lot to spare. Whereas the 81kW has a sense of purpose and was much nicer to sit behind, probably due to its more complex exhaust system. The 81 engine doesn't exactly make the Mazda2 a sports machine, but its performance will suit most people.
Stylish, well priced and pleasant to drive
Six-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions are offered in all variants. We much preferred the manual for the control it gives you, but realise the majority of buyers will prefer the convenience of the automatic. The manual has short, easy gearshifts with a nice feel.
Mazda2 is fitted with front and side airbags for the driver and front seat passenger and curtain airbags to protect the heads of occupants in the front and rear seats. Mazda tells us the side airbags are specially tuned to provide the best protection within the relatively short occupant-to-door distances of a small car and to reduce the possibility of contact with the door.
Stylish, well priced and pleasant to drive the new Mazda2 sedan looks like adding at least two to three thousand sales to the 100,000-plus that Mazda Australia looks set to score by the end of 2015.
|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|