Small but incredible Mazda2

GOOD fortune has befallen this subcompact.

GOOD fortune has befallen this subcompact.

Text and photos by Tessa R. Salazar

MONTHS before the “mecca” of all Pinoy motoring scribes, the Tokyo Motor Show, filled the motoring pages—and Facebook status updates, the “little David” of the Japanese “Goliaths” in the automotive industry organized two ride-and-drive events in the Philippines that took our breath away.

Global car manufacturer Mazda’s two 2015 test-drive events using the subcompact Mazda2 highlighted how an automobile company run by engineers could create tiny but seriously fun driving machines able to squeeze the maximum mileage out of every drop of fuel in their tanks (yes, without the need to compromise the “fun” part). This was the same car company that set into mainstream attention Ikuo Maeda’s “Kodo: Soul of Motion” design philosophy, neatly wrapped in the “zoom-zoom” theme of all Mazda vehicles.

This design philosophy, the Mazda brand identity, and the exciting directions the company was headed to were all at the forefront during the two ride-and-drives, resulting in the melding of erstwhile two opposing wheels of thought: practicality and the sheer fun of driving.

The September drive event was basically a fuel-efficiency test run. This author was in car No. 10, along with a codriver, in a 12-car convoy that braved the hellish traffic from Valle Verde in Pasig City to Tagaytay City in Cavite and back.

I read about the experts in Green Car Report who noted that this Japanese carmaker delivered notable fuel-economy gains using its SkyActiv line of efficiency-focused power trains in its new vehicles. During the run, I opted not the use the sport mode because we were going for fuel efficiency, not speed. Our average speed for the entire run was 17 kph.

I also noticed a few thoughtful touches in the Mazda2’s elegantly simple layout and finishes. Our Mazda2 unit had nonleather seats, which was giddily good (That meant no animals were harmed in the making of the seat, plus, the seats wouldn’t absorb so much of the sun’s heat if parked directly under the sun).

THE TREE trunk says it all: V for victory.

THE TREE trunk says it all: V for victory.

Mazda, as an automaker, has stuck to what it does best—make its internal combustion engines perform so much better for less fuel. To prove my point, even when our convoy got stuck in traffic of “carmaggedon” proportions (this word should already be added to the dictionary, and used exclusively for morning and evening rush-hour traffic in Metro Manila), ballooning our trip time for this 140-kilometer loop to over nine hours, our fuel meter still yielded an uber-efficient 6 liters for every 100 km. And our team wasn’t even among the top five fuel efficient performers for that day.

‘One-gram’ strategy

Back in 2012, I already had the pleasure of being behind the wheels of a Mazda2 en route to northern Luzon. That time, Mazda2’s main design theme revolved around the “one-gram” strategy—the extensive use of lightweight materials with stronger properties. The weight advantage significantly impacts the driving experience—from fuel economy to the agility and nimbleness of the vehicle. Mazda’s Sherlyn Co confirmed to this author that “the ‘one-gram’ strategy was the forerunner to today’s much more comprehensive SkyActiv Technology.”

Now for the fun part. The driving pleasure packed into 10 units of Mazda2 sedan and hatchback variants was enjoyed by the motoring media during the drive around the Southern Tagalog region, in an event themed “All-new Mazda2 SkyActiv defies expectation.”

I and my co-river were assigned the second-longest among the three routes crisscrossing the culture- and history-rich Southern Tagalog region: 365 km of driving over two days. The route would see us pass through Laguna, Rizal, Batangas, Quezon and Cavite.

The long drive didn’t just reveal Mazda’s engineering and design innovations, it also showed just how fond I was for a compact car, especially one that had the Mazda badge. It wasn’t too difficult to pinpoint what exactly about the Mazda2 I loved first. It was the seat; how, when I first dug into the Mazda2 seat, I felt right away that it was just waiting for me, designed just for me. And when we were moving, the Mazda2’s dynamic ride behavior made me feel one with the car. The Mazda engineers from Hiroshima explained as much after the ride, and I couldn’t agree more.

TAKING the market by surprise, like how David beat Goliath

TAKING the market by surprise, like how David beat Goliath

During the twisty sections of the highway towards our overnight stop at Pico de Loro Sands Hotel in Cavite, with speeds running upwards of 60 kph, the car felt stable and assuring. The dynamics of motion coursing between the driver and the vehicle could have been controlled by a number of factors: The damper or the suspension system, the acceleration, and the engine control system. Combined, these made for a unique feeling of being one with the car.

This feeling of oneness is most felt with the driver perfectly fitted onto the seat. The Mazda2 driver’s seat is so designed to provide support to the body’s center of gravity, the lower back, and the core. The center of the body felt stable, and the movement of the driver’s arms were considered by the engineers as well. The basic concept used with a high-end seat cushion adjustable to a variety of body sizes was applied to the Mazda2 driver’s seat.

LIKE its grand background, the Mazda2 design is destined to become a classic.

LIKE its grand background, the Mazda2 design is destined to become a classic.

Berjaya Auto Philippines and Mazda Philippines president and CEO Steven Tan said: “The famed Viaje del Sol route around the provinces south of Manila not only offer a rich cultural and historical backdrop to any road trip, but it also provides some of the most scenic and challenging roads that any driver will thoroughly enjoy. The all-new Mazda2 SkyActiv not only provides the ideal platform for motorists to get from point A to point B, but it also allows them to enjoy getting there.”

The all-new Mazda2 SkyActiv is the fourth generation of the nameplate and the second generation to be launched in the Philippines. It is also the fourth model to embrace the “Kodo: Soul of Motion” design philosophy in Mazda’s local lineup.

There was also the impromptu photo competition, and an open forum/feedback between motoring journalists and Hiroshima-based Mazda engineers and designer. CameraHaus, distributors of a wide variety of photography and video equipment, provided documentation gear for the participants’ use as well as prizes for the photography contest during the event.

“There’s no better way to communicate the above-class quality, design, dynamism and performance of our latest Mazda vehicle than by driving our cars the way they were meant to be driven,” Tan reiterated.

He added, “We wanted the motoring press to experience the all-new Mazda2 SkyActiv in varying degrees as it offers the Filipino consumer the full range of practical, everyday usability together with above-class build quality and that unique ‘zoom-zoom’ driving pleasure that only Mazda can deliver.”

The all-new Mazda2 SkyActiv comes with the full-range of SkyActiv chassis, suspension and drivetrain technologies designed not only to enhance fuel economy but also overall driving performance. Four variants of the Mazda2 are currently available in Mazda Philippines’ showrooms—the Mazda2 SkyActiv R sedan, the Mazda2 SkyActiv V sedan and hatchback, and the Mazda2 SkyActiv S sedan.

Fun, eco-friendly, cruelty-free

Even if I was having the drive of my life behind the wheels of the Mazda2, I couldn’t let the more conscientious side of me out of the action. So I asked the Mazda engineers and designer about the automaker’s view on using cruelty-free car parts.

The Hiroshima-based gentlemen asserted that it would, indeed, be possible for a car company to make fantastic cars without causing harm upon animals (read: without using leather and other animal-based materials).

In fact, they revealed, they already use synthetic leather, but not on all parts that require leather. They explained that, basically, the area where animal leather is still used is at the touch points of the seat and the driver, since most owners and drivers still specify genuine leather on these touch points. The side interiors, however, already use synthetic leather.

IN ANY color the Mazda2 looks ready to pounce.

IN ANY color the Mazda2 looks ready to pounce.

However, for luxury categories, customers still demand all-real leather on all applicable interior surfaces.

Mazda2, by using synthetic leather, has made a good start in the long, arduous route towards sustainability, eco-friendliness, and true compassion. Here’s a little food for thought, just to put this issue into context: Many animals—mostly cows—are skinned alive, conscious and in pain, for their leather. The leather-making industry also uses hazardous chemicals that poison ground water. There are alternatives (faux leather, synthetic leather that looks and feels like genuine leather) that do not retain heat when exposed to the sun for prolonged periods, do not pose risks to the environment, and do not sacrifice sentient beings. A car executive of a European brand told me that some EU brands are shifting to faux leather because of the growing public clamor. Perhaps, when we have our fun driving under the sun, shouldn’t we also be avoiding this erstwhile unseen “hit-and-run”?

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