Richard Berry road tests and reviews the Mazda2 Genki hatch with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
Why do TV ads for tiny cars always have happy, fashionable young people in them on their way to a festival or doing something else equally amazing and spontaneous like writing their names with sparklers? They never show a group of 70-year-olds going out to dinner and a show.
Everybody knows that cars like the Mazda2 hatch are a favourite for those people at the start of their driving lives and those who are… um, more experienced. Mazda's own data backs that up: 15 per cent of Mazda2's are bought by people under 25 years old and 16 per cent are sold to 55-65 year olds. It makes sense, neither age groups tends to have a young family in tow and so they don’t need a sprog hauler, just something easy to park and get around in. That also covers a helluva lot of other folks, too.
And a lot of folks buy the Mazda2 – more people bought it in 2015 than those who took home a Toyota Yaris, Honda Jazz, or Suzuki Swift.
So with everybody in mind from Millennials to Boomers and Gen-xers in between this review of Mazda’s smallest and most affordable hatch with the six-speed manual in the top-of-the-range Genki grade is for you.
It’s taken years but Mazda’s entire range of cars all have the same family face and athletic lines – the long, broad nose and the feline eyes to go with the cat-about-to-pounce stance. The big CX-9 SUV was the last of the lot to get the new look and the Mazda2 hatch was the just fourth in line to receive the treatment when this new generation arrived in 2014. The result is that Mazda’s most affordable car looks as beautifully designed as its most expensive.
Not all people who buy a little car are doing so because it’s all the budget can stretch to, they just want a little car and Mazda’s well-crafted Mazda2 means they don’t then have to settle on something which looks cheap. If you are getting it because it’s what you can afford, then you’re getting more than just value for money.
That quality feel doesn’t suddenly dissolve like when you get to your room at a hotel which looked posh when you were standing in foyer but now standing in the doorway looks like a toilet in a park. The cabin, especially in the Genki spec, is more refined than any of its rivals. It’s a stylish cockpit from the stitched dashboard to the leather steering wheel.
The Mazda2 hatch is 130mm longer than the Yaris at 4060mm but has exactly the same 1695mm width. It’s longer than the Jazz by about 65mm but the same width again. The Swift is shortest coming in 210mm less than the Mazda 2, and you guessed it the same width.
Compared to the Mazda3, which is in the size category above it, the Mazda2 is only 400mm shorter – a shoebox’s length. So it’s not actually that little, but the length is all in the nose. It is a nose on wheels.
Is the Mazda2 practical? Yes and no. Yes in that it doesn’t take up much room on the outside, but no in that there’s not a lot of room on the inside. Front passengers have plenty of space, while those sitting in the back wouldn’t want to be behind me – at 191cm I can’t fit my tentacles in when the driver’s seat is in my position and headroom is limited too. The Yaris has even less legroom back there, but a thumb’s width more headroom. The Jazz matches the Yaris for headroom but has more room for legs than both.
If you have kids be aware that the Mazda2’s small and high-placed rear windows mean they’ll be staring at the door most of the way: “I spy with my little eye something beginning with D."
Older people be aware that the rear doors are small and over the wheel arch and this makes getting in and out for those less agile a pain in the hip.
The evidence is mounting that this is more for young people.
Boot size is on the small side at 250 litres (VDA), sure it’s 40 litres bigger than the Swift, but it’s 46 litres smaller than the Yaris and 100 litres less than the Jazz.
Back seat dwellers won’t find any bottle holders or cupholders within reach. But up front there’s two cupholders and room for large bottles in the doors.
Price and features
The Mazda2 hatch in the Genki specification costs $20,690. That’s for the six-speed manual. A six-speed automatic transmission is $2000 more. There's a sedan version of the Mazda2, too, prices are the same as the hatch but it only comes in Neo and Maxx grades. It’s top-spec rivals are in the same ball park with the Yaris ZR costing $21,490, the Honda Jazz VTi-S $19,790 and the Swift GLX SE $21,290.
The Mazda2 range starts at $14,990. So what do you get for paying six more grand? A seven-inch touchscreen with Mazda’s MZD media system, reversing camera, sat nav, rear parking sensors, head-up display, LED headlights and DRLs, 16-inch alloys and pretty bits like chrome exhaust tips and body coloured grille elements.
You’ll appreciate the extra oomph, it’s not a huge difference, but just feels more like your Mazda2 has had its morning coffee.
Keep in mind that the camera, sensors and LED headlights did not come standard on the Genki before August 2015. Thanks to that much-needed addition of equipment the Mazda2 is better value for money.
There’s a choice of eight colours, from Dynamic Blue Mica and Smoky Rose to Soul Red which costs $200 and Snow Flake White Pearl Mica.
Engine and transmission
All Mazda2s have 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engines but the Genki’s is more powerful than the base-spec Neo’s with 81kW of power and 141Nm of torque. You’ll appreciate the extra oomph, it’s not a huge difference, but just feels more like your Mazda2 has had its morning coffee.
Our test car has the six-speed manual, which suits the size and ‘zippy’ nature of the hatch. As mentioned earlier there’s an auto too for those not practised in the art of manual.
With the six-speed manual Mazda2 says you should get going through an average of 5.2L/100km. My driving style made our test car thirsty and it drank at 8.6L/100km even with the idle stop system switched on.
It runs happily on the cheapest 91RON, petrol, too.
The driving position is excellent, the hip-point in the seat is low, the pedals are well positioned, the steering wheel feel is great. The ride is firmish but not hard, and the suspension set-up absorbs speedbumps and dips well.
I’m not in love with the shifting feel of the six-speed manual in this car – it’s a bit clunky. Owners though will get used to it and overtime as the mechanicals wear in it may even become smoother as I’ve experience with cars in the past.
The clutch though is light and there’s good feel in the brake and accelerator pedals.
The Mazda2 lived with me in the city for a week. Little laneways, stupidly small car spaces, threading through peak-hour traffic – it was all pretty much stress-free in a car that seems to have been purpose-built for this type of environment. Even on longer trips beyond the city limits it didn’t feel tiny or uncomfortable to sit on.
Taking off on slopes is made a stack easier with Hill Launch Assist, too.
The giant tacho is over the top, and there is no analogue speedo – but there is a digital one which is even more useful.
The Mazda2 hatch has a five-star ANCAP test rating. There’s front and side airbags for the first row and curtains airbags extend to cover the second row. If you want AEB you’ll need to buy the Smart City Brake Support option for $400.
For child seats there's two top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts - they're on the window seats in the back.
The Mazda2 has a three-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Servicing is needed every 10,000km and is capped at $1454 over five years – not including additional maintenance items such as brake fluid, air filters, transmission oil and spark plugs.