Volkswagen Polo 2020 review: Style
The continued success of VW's Polo proves there's a semi-premium niche to fill in the city-car segment. But is it worth the extra spend?
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The Mazda2 has been, to my thinking, the best light car in its class. That doesn't mean it's the cheapest - it isn't - but its mix of styling, engineering and safety mean you know where your money has gone. The plucky 2 continues to duke it out with the all-conquering Toyota Yaris, the VW Polo and all manner of Euro and Asian competition.
Things sure have changed in this segment in the last decade or so, with not one single model cracking 10,000 sales (although the Hyundai Accent came close).
Despite its higher cost against the Accent and various contenders, the Mazda2 still came third in its class in 2019, with just under 8200 sales. Just as the year was winding down, Mazda announced a customary, detail-focused rejig of the Mazda2 line-up.
|Mazda 2 2020: GT (5YR)|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
You can't buy a Mazda2 for less than 20 grand anymore - remember I said they're not the cheapest car in class. A manual G15 Pure is $20,990, with automatic adding $2000. The Evolve sits in the middle of the range as an auto-only with a $24,490 sticker and the GT, at $25,990 is also available in hatch or sedan. The Genki is gone, the Maxx shuffled off this mortal coil and the Neo has vanished.
The GT I had for the week features 16-inch alloys, a six-speaker stereo, climate control, front, side and reversing cameras, keyless entry and start, front and rear parking sensors, active cruise control, sat nav, auto LED headlights, head-up display, leather wheel and shifter, partial leather seats, power windows and mirrors, auto wipers and a space-saver spare.
The MZD Connect runs the older version of Mazda's own media and navigation software and, while feeling a bit creaky, it holds up well. Try saying that about a Toyota Yaris's system, which is nothing short of dire. MZD also has DAB+, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. All of the features are controlled by touchscreen when the car is stopped and by a rotary dial on the console any time you like.
The 2 has been a funky car from the very beginning, after its name change from being the Mazda 121. They've looked pretty much the same for well over a decade, but there's no shame in that. The 2 is also proof of just how elastic the Kodo design language is, starting here in the small-car size and stretching happily to the massive CX-9 I had last week.
For 2020, the 2 has a new grille with the "wing" running along under the tweaked headlights to widen its stance. The fog lights are now integrated with the headlights and various small changes are alleged by Mazda to make the car look a bit more premium. I'm an unabashed fan of Mazda styling, so I'm onboard with these changes. Apart from the new alloys, which look a bit old-personish.
The cabin is largely untouched, apart from some new materials, including the oddly executed mix of blue-grey leather and a synthetic suede. The back seats, in particular, look like you've sat on them straight out of the bath. They're not bad, just odd. The lovely Mazda steering wheel, wrapped in leather, takes centre stage and the minimalist design of its bigger siblings has long since filtered down to the 2, and works a treat. Most of the materials feel nice and help justify the price, too.
Well, look, it's not massive, this thing. At barely more than four metres long, you can't really expect too much from the tiny 2. Boot space starts at 250 litres and Mazda doesn't supply a seats-down figure, but trust me, a trip to Ikea for a Billy bookshelf is not on the menu.
Front-seat passengers score two cupholders and a phone-friendly tray forward of the shifter. Behind the slightly awkwardly placed cupholders is a square tray with a removable divider. In the back it's, uh, tumbleweeds - no cupholders, bottle holders or even an armrest.
The space in the back is as tight, as you might expect. When I sit behind my driving position - all not-towering 180cm of me - my knees touch the seatback, but it is soft. My feet go under the front seat, though, so that's fine for short trips. Headroom is surprisingly good, but I pity anyone squeezed between two adults in the centre seat.
The G15 in the name translates to Mazda's 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated SkyActiv four-cylinder. Slightly cheekily, Mazda says it has increased power to 82kW from 79kW, but that's because the old base Neo made do with the lower figure. Since 2017, the 2 has had 81kW and 139Nm and now it has (drumroll please) 82kW and 144Nm.
More torque is always welcome and, without giving any details, Mazda says the revisions have also reduced harmful emissions.
The official fuel figure of 5.3L/100km is good, but you're not going to get that around town. By the time my week was done, I had a 7.9L/100km indicated figure, which is a solid miss, but no surprise given you need to give it a bit of welly to get it going.
The 2 has long been a pioneer on the advanced safety front. In addition to six airbags, ABS and stability controls, you get forward AEB with pedestrian avoidance, cameras everywhere, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, reverse AEB and reverse cross traffic alert. I have been wracking my brains to work out another car this size with that kind of gear, and I think it's the rather more expensive Audi A1.
There are also three top-tether anchors and two ISOFIX points.
The 2 scored five ANCAP safety stars in December 2015.
5 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The company does persist with the annoying 12 months/10,000km servicing regime. It's probably less annoying for an obvious city car, but it's worth knowing. Service prices are capped for the first five services and are either $300 (first and third) or $330, with extras listed on the website, such as brake fluid and a cabin filter.
There is just one annoying thing about the Mazda2 driving experience; the fact that it's a bit slow on the uptake. Well, not necessarily slow, but the transmission and throttle take their sweet time sorting themselves out, especially when you want to get out of a corner. Being a naturally aspirated engine, you have to rev the 2 to get some go, which explains the solid miss in the fuel-economy figures.
The last 2 I drove was manual, and it felt a lot more peppy and easier to get going quickly if I needed it to.
Hitting the Sport switch improves the throttle response but the transmission just gets dumber, sadly.
The rest of it, though, is mint. The inclusion of the clever G-Vectoring system on the smallest Mazda was something I liked in 2017, and still do. Along with a firm-but-compliant suspension setup, the 2 has lovely pointy steering. The way it responds to a turn of the wheel is enthusiastic, without being worrisome.
The G-Vectoring Plus system mimics a tiny lift of the throttle by reducing torque to the front wheels and shifting the weight forward to the front tyres. This makes the car quite chuckable, almost reaching the warm-hatch territory occupied by GT-Line branded Euros from Renault and Peugeot. The Plus bit means that the brake-based torque vectoring has been added to the 2 for better performance out of corners.
The ride is perhaps a little firmer than you might expect from a small hatch - even taking into account a short wheelbase and relatively high-profile tyres - but that does translate into the 2 being good to drive if you're not an enthusiast, and fun to drive if you are.
The Mazda2 sure ain't cheap to buy, but neither is its spec list stingy. While the GT is taking the Mick a little bit at $26,000, it does have a lot of stuff, yet none of it is really a must have. With an alright engine bolted into a really good chassis, the 2 is the kind of fun small cars haven't been for a while.
The bottom line is, any Mazda2 is a good choice - the depth of engineering is part of the reason it costs so much, and the ownership proposition is good with a long warranty. It's also very well-built, feels substantial despite being light and is packed with safety gear. And you can still get the entry-level Pure in manual...
|G15 Evolve||1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$18,300 – 25,520||2020 Mazda 2 2020 G15 Evolve Pricing and Specs|
|G15 GT||1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$19,400 – 27,060||2020 Mazda 2 2020 G15 GT Pricing and Specs|
|G15 Pure||1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$17,200 – 23,980||2020 Mazda 2 2020 G15 Pure Pricing and Specs|
|Genki (5YR)||1.5L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$17,700 – 24,640||2020 Mazda 2 2020 Genki (5YR) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|