Model tested: Mazda 2 - 3 door Maxx
Recommended Retail Price: $17,960
Options fitted: Automatic Transmission - $1650
Great looks, fuel economy, handling, refinement, quality for price
Steering doesn't self centre properly
CarAdvice rating: (4.5)
Photographs and review by: Karl Peskett
Everyone is proud of a new baby. There's the cards, the flowers, the visits, and of course the photos. Without getting too nostalgic, I remember the day my son was born, like it was ten minutes ago. And as proud parents, we couldn't wait to show him off to everyone. Now that he's two, he shows himself off to everyone. But I digress...
A new baby is something that the parents should be rightly proud of, too. It's a way to carry on the family tradition and heritage. An opportunity to mould a personality in the family's ways. And if it's cute, then you're on a winner.
Well, Mazda should be rightly proud of its new baby, the 2. It's certainly a cute little jigger, and that works very well in its favour. Unlike the previous generation, the boxy lines, and upright stance are gone. Designer Ikuo Maeda took inspiration from the entire Mazda range (you'll notice elements of the RX-8 and CX-7 in the front wheelarches for instance), and infused the 2 with its own personality. And compared with its main rival, the Yaris, the 2 is a supermodel. And it could also be argued that the three-door looks better than the five-door.
But it's not just about how it looks on the outside. The inside has been carefully designed too.
Certainly to set it apart from other superminis, the centre-stack initally looks unusual, like a frog staring at you, with those variable vents for eyes. But after a few minutes of driving you realise just how functional it is.
The Maxx specification which we tested brings extras over the Neo such as rear roof spoiler, body coloured door handles, 6-CD MP3 stacker, steering wheel audio controls, and alloy wheels. It's worth the extra money, trust us. Having the wheel-mounted controls for example is a life-saver, not having to take your eyes off the road, especially when the stereo buttons are spread over such a wide distance on the dash.
Mazda should also be proud of the fact that even though the entire door trim is plastic, it doesn't look cheap or tacky. In fact, although the car is cheap, it doesn't really feel that cheap. Sure, there are things like the door trim moving when the electric window closes, but then this is a car that's built for under $20K. It's more about the package.
The seats are trimmed in a nice cloth, with a zig-zag pattern which doesn't look naff. They're also comfortable, and look to be hardwearing, with excellent stiching and seam lines. There's heaps of space, front and back (yes, even for a three-door), with excellent leg room and headroom. Even the distance the seats move back is good. And the stereo has some punch for the price bracket this car's in. It's all looking quite promising then.
It's on the road, though, that its mettle is tested. But don't worry, because it passes with flying colours.
The brakes for example are strong and feel good, despite the rears having drums. The gearbox in auto form (as that's all we had to test) is a good performer for a small unit too, with smooth changes, and a nice kickdown response which doesn't labour the engine. On light throttle openings it picks the best ratio for revs, despite only being a four-speed.
The engine itself is a little pearler. It's only 1.5-litres, but then this car only weighs a little over a tonne. The 76kW and 137Nm on paper give you a useable powerband of about 2000rpm. But in reality it's much, much greater than that. We loaded up the 2 with passengers and cargo, and not once did it put a foot wrong. Even when reaching the upper reaches of revolutions, the motor never feels thrashy or harsh. It's a little louder, of course, but pulls cleanly and is linear. The 0-100km/h of 10 seconds seems a little underdone, as it always feels quicker than that.
The steering is a bit of a mixed bag, and is probably the 2's weakest link. It is light and doesn't have much feel, but it's quick and accurate, much like a lot of cars these days. Where it gets let down is it tends to not want to self centre. But apart from that, the dynamics are all good.
Even the chassis. The ride is firmed but well damped and with excellent body control. It resists understeer fairly well for a small car, and doesn't squirm or wallow in hard cornering. You could even call it fun to drive.
Based on the five-door's build, Mazda is confident that the 2 three-door will receive the same 5-star EuroNCAP safety rating. Just make sure you tick the box for the optional safety pack for that added security.
The Mazda 2 is a cute, nimble, zippy city car which fits the bill for an economical runabout that doesn't compromise on quality and comfort. Toyota's Yaris, and Suzuki's Swift had better watch out. The stylish 2 has stamped its authority in the marketplace...
..and made a space in our hearts.
2008 Mazda 2 - 3 door Maxx auto specifications
Top Speed: 168km/h (auto)
Fuel tank: 42-litres
Fuel consumption: 6.8 litres/100km (claimed)
Fuel type: 91RON