Despite almost widespread praise, there’s still a good chance the Mazda2 is an underappreciated car. Even though it outshines almost all but the newest members of the fiercely competitive small-car market, the Mazda2 is almost completely overshadowed in terms of sales by its more expensive, and arguably less fun to
And so, the argument goes: could a fully-loaded Mazda2 be enough car to persuade potential Mazda CX-3 buyers?
As I was preparing to trek all the way up to the Mid North Coast for a good set of fish and chips (trust me, the trip would be worth it), I was glad to have the luxury-oriented GT-spec. Speaking as someone who owns a late-model Hyundai Getz, I can tell you highway trips in some small cars are wearisome. I was keen to see how much better the Mazda2 would be.
If there's a reason to swing towards the 2, it’s unlikely going to be due to the exterior's design.
I know a few people have been complimenting the aesthetic beauty of Mazda’s ‘KODO’ design language, but to my simplistic country-boy eye the look of the Mazda2 is just a bit too busy: a crease here, a hump there. Subjectively speaking, it looks like they couldn’t stop working on it.
Genki and GT-grade Mazda2's get auto-LED headlights as standard. (image credit: James Lisle)
The rear lights help spice up an otherwise boring rear-end. (image credit: James Lisle)
The majority of the design seems to be used up front... (image credit: James Lisle)
... leaving the rear-end a little bit bare. (image credit: James Lisle)
Oh, but how the Mazda2's other qualities make up for it...
First off, there’s all the kit. Apart from the new Volkswagen Polo - for which you will need to fork out $27,063 for the DSG-equipped 85TSI Comfortline (with the optional 'Driver Assistance Package') - the Mazda2 GT is one of the best equipped small cars on sale.
The Mazda2 had been in my driveway for a couple of days now, yet the novelty of a head-up display still hadn’t worn off on start-up. After heading for the Pacific Highway on Saturday morning, the sight of a little glass screen ‘rising’ out of the dashboard still prompted a cheeky giggle.
The head-up display is darn useful too, showing not just your speed, but also the speed limit and rear-proximity sensors. The latter seems to work in conjunction with the blind-spot monitoring, so while the rear three-quarter visibility is poor, there’s a huge electronic safety net to compensate.
The front is a comfortable place to be, with space and gadgets all over. (image credit: James Lisle)
While the rear seat experience is probably the weakest part of the car, it's more than big enough for children. (image credit: James Lisle)
On the road, the Mazda2 dishes up even more tricks. The 81kW/141Nm 1.5-litre, four-cylinder, direct-injection petrol engine isn’t a small-capacity turbocharged unit (like we’re becoming more and more used to) but it does include Mazda’s high-compression ‘SkyActiv’ tech. Long story short, it’s an engineering philosophy that promises higher engine outputs without sacrificing all the eco-friendly stuff that makes owning a smaller car so appealing in the first place.
After arriving in Harrington, some hours and 330-odd kays up the NSW coast from Sydney, with an impressive indicated fuel consumption of 5.2 L/100km (wow!) and the customary ‘numb bum’ from the city seats, my immortal fish and chips – thankfully - did not disappoint.
It was sensory overload: fresh, soft, crunchy, greasy, flaky, salty. God, oh god – why did I ever leave this place? Having grown up next door, I can tell you that while Harrington may just be a skatepark with some houses around, they make the BEST fish and chips. Nothing else comes close.
Oh, I also come up to see my mates for the night. But they could wait…
You know what’s better than sleeping in on an early Sunday morning? Standing in the freezing rain trying to get a ’92 Ford Laser to start, that’s what. Bloody carbies…
The things we do for our buddies. My mate had been called up to Coffs Harbour (a further 200km up the coast) to pick up some stuff for his girlfriend, and guess who was asked to come along? After hauling back “a few things” - a fridge, lounge, bed, and a couple of granite drawers - in the Laser and a mate’s single-cab ute, we sailed back down to Harrington where I then took off for Sydney.
Despite the appalling rain and wind, I must say driving the old Laser was a stark reminder (in more ways than one) how far small cars have come. Unsurprisingly, the Mazda2 is leagues ahead of the Laser, but it’s how close it is to brand-new small family cars that gets your attention. It’s not right up there with stuff like the Mazda3, but, impressively, it's not that far away either.
The little engine pulls with fervour and gusto without being too annoying at highway speeds. (image credit: James Lisle)
While the Swift is a properly sorted hatch in the corners, I think the Mazda2 is more fun to drive. It’s more ‘meaty’, featuring a quicker steering system and less body roll. Drive it in the wet and it gets even better. With acres of grip all over the place, the Mazda2 provides a healthy level of confidence.
While the 2 does sport Mazda’s 'G-Vectoring Control' – an electronic system that cuts power from wheel-to-wheel under load - I’m not sure if the merits of the Mazda2’s wet-weather dynamism all comes down to the system. Regardless, the security of the Mazda's handling in the wet is substantial.
Anyway, back to more relevant stuff.
While the boot capacity is short of the Polo's 351 litres of space, it's still a decent shape. (image credit: James Lisle)
The rear seats are a 60/40 split. (image credit: James Lisle)
When we folded down the rear seats, we found the headrest would hit the driver's seat if adjusted for a 180cm driver. (image credit: James Lisle)
Compared to the Polo's 351 litres of space, the Mazda2’s boot is only 250 litres. But it’s a decent shape and just 14 litres short of the pricier CX-3SUV. Woo-hoo! Get the Mazda2 GT sedan and the capacity will balloon to 440 litres - far more than either the CX-3 or bigger Mazda3 sedan, but only two litres less than the CX-5.
It’s the rear seating position where the Mazda2 falls behind, however. Not everything in the GT is perfect, and the rear seats certainly aren't. Not only isn’t there much space – neither my knees or head had much room to manoeuvre behind my own 180cm driving position – there isn’t much in terms of features. You get power windows, and that’s it.
Sorry rugrats - no centre fold-down armrest, centre console air-vents, or USB ports for you.
Minor niggles aside, the Mazda2 is a fantastic car. There’s acres of toys that come at a reasonable price, a punchy engine that sips hardly any fuel, and a sporting chassis partnered with top-notch safety tech.
While a similarly equipped Volkswagen Polo could likely pip the Mazda as the 'better car', for the dollars it's the better value option.
Not only does the GT-spec add even more bigger-car toys to the already impressive Mazda2 line-up, it does so at a cost that won’t break the bank. On top of that, it’s fun to drive, cheap to run, easy to park, good value-for-money, and provides cool gadgets for the everyman (or woman). What more do you want?
If you can justify the leap from other 2 models that provide better value (like the Mazda2 Maxx), the GT is hard to fault. Yet, when compared to the bigger CX-3, the move is almost a no-brainer.
Would you prefer to pay the premium for a small car SUV alternative? Tell us in the comments below.