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The all-new 2015 Mazda 2 has launched into a segment that includes names like Fiesta, Polo, Clio, Yaris and Jazz. But is the latest iteration enough to prompt owners of previous generation 2s into an upgrade?

Now in its third generation, the new Mazda 2 builds on the second generation’s modern styling and engaging drive. The previous generation Mazda 2 is particularly familiar to me because we have one in the family – my wife has had her’s for five years. The problem is she loves the new one so much, she wants an upgrade.

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Both my wife’s Highlight Silver second-generation 2 and the Soul Red third-generation car pictured here, are mid-specification Maxx variants.

The second-generation Mazda 2 Maxx has a smart looking exterior with 15-inch alloy wheels and body coloured wing mirrors and door handles. Starting to show its age in some regards, it also features a flip-out key and no engine start button.

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Inside the cabin there’s a low-rent feel to some of the materials and the car misses out on cruise control and stability control – the latter we optioned in as part of an additional safety pack.

Although my wife doesn’t drive much — the car has only done around 35,000km — we haven’t had any mechanical issues. And it’s cheap to run — the crux of any small city car.

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Two things that have irritated us with the previous generation Mazda 2 include poor brake pedal feel and a clunky infotainment system.

The brake pedal has to extend almost a fifth of its full travel before there is much in the way of retardation. This feels unnatural and unnerving, especially if a heavy braking situation catches you off guard.

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The infotainment issue doesn’t relate so much to the unit’s sound, the four-speaker system is fine, it’s that it looks cheap and isn’t very user friendly. There are also signs of fade on some buttons, indicating the paint used isn’t overly durable.

Move over to the all-new Mazda 2 and the design has been sharpened with creative angles and hints of Mazda global design flair.

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Technically the fourth generation of Mazda’s light car – known as the Demio in its home market of Japan – the new 2 is the third iteration of a model that first went on sale locally in late 2002.

Though the range starts from $14,990 for the entry-level Neo, our automatic third-generation Maxx tested here costs $18,990 — $620 cheaper than the second-generation Maxx’s 2007 launch figure.

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The new Maxx again gets 15-inch alloy wheels but continues to miss out on fog lights and rear disc brakes. The flip-out key has also been swapped for a keyless start mechanism, though somewhat curiously, you still need to manually use the key to unlock the door on entry and then use a starter button to start the engine.

Inside, the new 2 has a much more premium feel. Classy door finishes and soft-touch dash plastics give the car a feeling of prestige — something you wouldn’t normally associate with this segment.

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The Maxx, like the base Neo, doesn’t come standard with any parking sensors, reversing camera or Mazda’s MZD Connect system — very disappointing for a car that will likely spend most of its time parking and manoeuvring around the city. Instead, the dash top-mounted half unit that is there is near identical in terms of functionality to the one my wife and I loathe from the old 2008 model.

The new car does benefit from Bluetooth phone pairing and audio streaming, along with cruise control. On the safety side, six airbags and stability control are also now standard.

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The Bluetooth phone pairing and audio streaming is quite hard to use with the single line infotainment system. There isn’t a logical menu structure and it takes several goes to get everything happening as it should.

Head and legroom up front is great, but, despite growing in length by almost 20cm compared to the second-gen car, rear legroom in the third-gen 2 has actually shrunk.

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There is sufficient head and legroom in the second row for short journeys, but longer journeys may need a stint in the front seat to break things up. Disappointingly, there are also still no rear air vents.

Luggage space remains at 250 litres between the two models — strange considering the new car’s extra 160mm in overall length. And while the 2’s boot space may lag behind its competitors, it’s easy to access and offers a deep storage slot.

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Under the bonnet of the new Mazda 2 there’s a 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine with more power and torque than the outgoing 2. Power has been modestly increased by 5kW to 81kW and torque has risen from 137Nm to 141Nm. A six-speed automatic also replaces the old 2’s four-speed unit, while keen drivers can save $2000 by opting for a six-speed manual.

Though there is only marginally more torque in the new 2, the new auto’s extra two gear ratios help extract the most from the engine. It’s a slick-shifting little ‘box too that works surprisingly well with the pint-sized engine.

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The engine is largely responsive and copes well with darting in and out of city street. Noise inside the cabin remains a bugbear of the Mazda 2, with engine noise particularly becoming quite thrashy closer to the top end of the rev range.

Ride has improved in comparison to the outgoing Mazda 2, but it now errs on the firm side, cementing Mazda’s intentions to skew the 2 toward the sporty corner of the segment. This has its positives and negatives given that the car is likely to spend most of its time in the city.

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Brake pedal feel has improved significantly, with the left pedal now feeling much more responsive to inputs — much like its bigger Mazda 3 brother.

Claimed fuel consumption of the new 2 has dropped almost 30 per cent compared to its predecessor, with the new automatic Maxx claiming 4.9 litres per 100km. Partly thanks to stop-start technology, the improvement makes the new Mazda 2 one of the most efficient cars in the segment.

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Despite production being moved from Japan to Thailand, the new Mazda 2 is a huge step forward for the brand and comfortably takes the city car segment to new premium levels.

That said, a lack of standard parking aids is more than a little disappointing, as is reserving the MZD Connect system for the top-spec Genki model. Additionally, the Mazda 2 recently scored only a four star safety rating in EuroNCAP crash testing.

Parking aids and EuroNCAP results aside, the new Mazda 2 is an impressive package that offers smarts, styling and standard safety features to win most buyers over.

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So, will my wife and I be upgrading from our previous generation Mazda 2 Maxx to the all-new Mazda 2 Maxx? Probably not.

We both love the new Mazda 2 but as nice as the third-gen car is in its mid-spec guise, we both feel we’d need the added parking and infotainment equipment standard on the flagship Genki model to convince us to move from 2008 to 2015. With that in mind though, a higher-spec Mazda 2 Genki with MZD Connect and a reversing camera might now very well be on the cards…

Click on the Photos tab for more 2015 Mazda 2 Maxx and 2008 Mazda 2 Maxx images by Tom Fraser.



MAZDA 2 BREAKDOWN

Mazda 2 Old v New Comparison: Second-generation Maxx v third-gen Maxx
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MAZDA 2 BREAKDOWN

Mazda 2 Old v New Comparison: Second-generation Maxx v third-gen Maxx
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