There’s always been something a little NQR (not quite right) about baby sedans based on city-sized hatchbacks. Fortunately, with the arrival of the new Mazda 2 sedan, that’s no longer the case.
Booted versions of most brands’ smallest models typically have awkward proportions, often failing to blend the donor hatches’ sharply rising beltlines with their high-set boots, and exaggerated overhangs, with any sort of aesthetic nous. As such, they’ve rarely caught on with local buyers.
The Jazz-based Honda City arguably appears the least compromised – something that is perhaps reflected in its current status as Australia’s top-selling light sedan – though even it looks a little squished at the rear.
But the new Mazda 2 sedan is different to most in that Mazda claims to have placed as much emphasis on getting its design right as it did with the 2 hatch, rather than the sedan being an afterthought pumped out haphazardly for Southeast Asian markets.
The result is a cohesive design that elegantly combines the Mazda 2’s cute face with a stylish (if a little bubbly) rear end that looks like a miniaturised version of the Mazda 3.
Momentously, this means there’s now a light sedan that you can buy for reasons other than its added practicality over its hatchbacked sibling.
Mazda 2 sedan pricing mirrors that of the hatch, meaning the range starts from $14,990 plus on-road costs for the Neo six-speed manual, making it one of the most affordable light sedans on the market. The only cheaper option is the Mitsubishi Mirage sedan (from $14,490), while other challengers include the equally priced Hyundai Accent, the Holden Barina sedan (from $15,890), the City (from $15,990), and the Toyota Yaris (from $17,490) – though all of these are regularly subject to driveaway deals, so keep an eye out and haggle hard if you’re in the market.
Most Mazda 2 sedan buyers will pay $2000 for the optional six-speed automatic, while as many as half are expected to opt for the higher-spec Maxx ($17,690 manual, $19,690 auto), which adds alloy wheels, a reverse-view camera, the MZD Connect infotainment system with 7.0-inch colour touchscreen and more to the Neo’s already standard rear parking sensors, push-button start, cruise control, USB input and Bluetooth phone connectivity with audio streaming. (Check out the 2016 Mazda 2 pricing and specifications for full details.)
The interior of the Maxx presents well, which, along with its large tablet-style central screen and tunnel-mounted commander rotary dial, also gets generous splashings of satin chrome, red air vent highlights and seat stitching, and leather on its steering wheel, gear knob and handbrake. Without those niceties, the Neo feels a bit budget and bland, a sensation emphasised by its scratchy plastics and low-quality roof liner – though these aren’t uncommon at this end of the market.
The cockpit layout is clean, attractive and user-friendly, however. The steering wheel features buttons for cruise control and infotainment functions, the half-digital instrument cluster looks slick, and the Maxx’s MZD Connect system is the best available outside of a premium car, providing access to internet radio apps Pandora, Stitcher and Aha, among other things. Satellite navigation is also available for an extra $570.
The front seats are basic, but offer enough sculpting and support to keep you comfortable beyond a quick drive down to the shops.
But while a standout behind the B-pillars on the outside, the Mazda 2 sedan can’t match most of its rivals here on the inside.
Many light sedans offer surprisingly spacious rear seats that give mid-sized sedans a run for their money, but the 2’s second row is largely identical to the hatch. This means there’s still adequate headroom for those just under 180cm tall, but their legs might be a little cramped depending on how far back the front seats are set.
The 2 sedan’s 440-litre boot likewise fails to set any records. While it is impressively 32L larger than that of the Mazda 3 sedan, it’s actually 10L smaller than the old 2 sedan’s boot, and 96L smaller than the Honda City’s benchmark bum. Also disappointing is Mazda’s retrograde introduction of gooseneck hinges for the bootlid, replacing the cleverer struts of its predecessor.
A light sedan without the usual virtues and pitfalls of a light sedan, it seems…
This feeling continues from the driver’s seat, where the Mazda 2 sedan again mirrors the hatch in giving the driver more than just the basics.
Standard- and high-spec versions of a 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine power the Mazda 2 Neo and Maxx variants respectively. The former produces 79kW and 139Nm, the latter 81kW and 141Nm. The only real distinguisher between the two when driving is the Maxx’s stop-start engine system, which contributes to making the auto variant 11 per cent more fuel efficient than its Neo equivalent according to official combined cycle figures (4.9 litres per 100 kilometres versus 5.5L/100km). The manuals are rated at 5.4L/100km (standard-spec) and 5.2L/100km (high-spec).
The Mazda 2 sedan gets off the line well and feels zippy around town, helped by its responsive throttle pedal. Acceleration is tamer once you leave the suburbs, however, and progress is particularly mild when pointed uphill. The engine is refined through its rev range but is noisier than some in this class, and road noise is also obvious at higher speeds and on coarse surfaces.
The 2’s auto is a clever unit, shifting back and forth intuitively to keep the engine in its sweet spot. A Sport toggle encourages it to grab lower gears sooner and hold them longer, making it even more reactive to your inputs. For manual drivers, there’s a smooth-shifting gear stick and a light and communicative clutch pedal.
While Mazdas are typically firm-riding, the Mazda 2 sedan was firmer and fussier than we hoped on our launch drive in and around Adelaide. You feel the suspension reacting to little bumps and ripples in the road, and though it does so quickly and accurately it’s not as smooth as a city-dwelling sedan with chubby 65-aspect tyres should be.
The Mazda 2’s steering is excellent: sharp and progressive, while not being as darty as the old model. It encourages you to throw it into corners and responds with impressive balance and agility. It’s fun to drive like no other light sedan.
Mazda offers a flexible capped-price servicing schedule that will set you back a little over $300 per service for the first six services or 60,000km. The brand supplies a three-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty (some rivals offer up to five years) and also charges for roadside assistance where many other brands include it for at least the first year of ownership.
The new Mazda 2 sedan breaks the traditional light sedan mould. While most of its rivals have traded on offering lots of space for not a lot of money and given little thought to styling, the Mazda 2 is a supermodel by comparison but with fewer practicality perks.
If it’s got you on looks alone, it’s good to know its neat pricing, sporty interior, and decent performance and driving dynamics mean there’s much more to the 2 sedan than just a shapely rear end.