Something’s great and small: Mazda2 on the road
Mazda2 packs a lot of delight into its subcompact frame
SUBCOMPACT cars used to be a form of cruel and unusual punishment where driving was concerned. But within the last couple of generations, some Japanese B-segment cars turned their very smallness into a desirable feature. By embracing lightness and packing clever features into the interior, these cars have become fun companions.
One of the best in the segment is the Mazda2. The swoopy lines of the brand’s Kodo-Soul of Motion styling, which makes the midsize 6 and the low-slung MX-5 such head turners, have been suitably summarized for the shorter 2.
The cab-rearward stance is enhanced by the sharp character lines on the doors. A sensuous curve starts from the headlamps and stretches across the front doors.
The Mazda pentagonal grille with beady-looking headlights makes for a sometimes-friendly, sometimes-aggressive nose. As with all Mazda bodies lately, it looks best in the signature Soul Red, although even our more somber gray test unit looked sharp.
The interior is where the Mazda2 stands out, even from the more upscale-leaning Japanese subcompacts.
Taking inspiration from the MX-5 roadster, the Mazda2 interior is definitely driver-oriented. Seating position is excellent, with the gearshift and steering falling to hand.
The trim won’t look out of place in a car thrice the price of the 2. The black leather seats feature playful red stitching, and a stripe right in the middle.
There’s thoughtful padding for the center console, preventing bruised knees during tight maneuvers.
We were taking a lot of tight maneuvers in the 2. The 2 loves corners, just like its sports car sibling.
The 1.5-liter gasoline engine generates 108 horsepower and 139 Newton-meters. These are modest numbers, but they’re carrying barely 1000 kilograms of the car.
Mazda seems to squeeze every bit out to the front wheels, too. The six-speed automatic transmission helps here, with crisp shift response and a manual override gate.
There’s a Sport mode to access more power, switchable via button behind the shifter.
True to its definition, Sport allows the engine to hold revs. But we found the Normal mode quite intelligent enough to know when to shift, anyway.
And when you do need more revs, paddle shifters are standard on the SkyActiv-R variant (which is sedan-only).
The Mazda2 instrument panel features a large central tachometer, with a small digital speedometer inset at the corner.
Fuel, temperature and other secondary indicators make use of digital displays on either side of the tach. The vehicle speed is also projected via a head-up display onto a small panel close to the windshield.
Audio, trip computer and phone functions make use of a rotary controller and screen, much like BMW’s iDrive system. The system is responsive and logically arranged.
The screen is mounted near the windshield, too, making it easier to glance at. Still, we couldn’t help but think that a touch screen would be easier to use, if more distracting.
The Mazda2 handily scooped up the Car of the Year Philippines trophy for 2015-2016, and deservedly so.
It looks good in either sedan or hatchback guise, and is available with all the goodies that are normally reserved for the midsize class: stability control, smart key with push-button start, auto headlamps and wipers, and four-wheel disc brakes.
One feature that is difficult to simply add on is the nose-to-tail, fun-to-drive factor of the 2.