The Mazda 2 Neo has been a great urban runabout for the CarAdvice Melbourne team, but one of the things a car like this is likely to undertake at some stage in its life is tackle a more extended drive.
When I think about when I was a teenager (some may argue that it wasn't that long ago), I remember doing a lot of long trips in my parents' old 2000 Honda CR-V, and most friends at the same age did the odd road trip or two as well. When taking a long drive, your car is like your best friend, it's your stallion, your vessel – whatever you want to call it.
As part of our long-term testing, we decided to take the little Mazda to the annual staff off-site, which this year was held in the beautiful town of Lorne, Victoria.
It's a near 150km trek each way from the CarAdvice Melbourne office, blending a mix of freeway, highway, country roads and a wide mix of road surfaces, a perfect test for the Red Rocket. Riding shotgun was our very own Southern Region Sales Director, Marika Zhu.
The 250-litre boot swallowed most of our stuff for the trip – with overflow thrown into the backseat – and we were off. Ahead of us, a two-hour trip on sunny Tuesday afternoon, over the West Gate Bridge and down the M1 freeway before the final run down the spectacular – and famous – Great Ocean Road.
The Mazda impressed with its zippy performance, well sorted and comfortable ride, and surprisingly good wind and road noise suppression – this, despite Mazda's reputation for not exactly being class-leading in this area.
Conversation was possible without having to shout, while tyre roar wasn't too intrusive even at 100km/h on the M1. Wind noise was kept to a reasonable level, despite the heavy winds.
With the cruise control set to 100km/h, the Mazda’s 1.5-litre petrol engine hummed along nicely at around 2250rpm in sixth gear. It’s worth commending the Mazda’s cruise control, which worked a treat, maintaining the set speed nicely, both up and down hills. It’s certainly better than the system in some cars we’ve driven in the segment which can – and do – struggle to maintain a consistent speed, particularly on up- and downhill stretches of road.
Equally as impressive was the little Mazda's fuel economy – we saw the indicated figure drop to the mid-5.0L/100km range on the freeway, before climbing back to the low sixes once we hit towns and traffic. For reference, Mazda claims a combined figure of 5.5L/100km. So, not too shabby, then.
Marika and I were well entertained for the two-hour journey too, thanks to a carefully selected Spotify playlist consisting of ’90s and ’00s pop classics, along with the odd Mariah Carey ballad – no, I'm not even ashamed about it.
We've complained about the Mazda's pretty basic infotainment system in the past, but once your device is connected, audio quality is good and skipping tracks is easy thanks to the buttons on the multi-function steering wheel.
Our bottoms were well catered for, too, thanks to the Mazda 2's supportive and comfortable front seats. We can't speak for the rear seats, though our luggage seemed to like the rear second row just fine!
We'd venture to say the Mazda 2 – even in base trim – challenges much more expensive cars for long-distance comfort and refinement, which is impressive considering its bargain-basement $16,990 price tag ($17,290 as tested).
The little Mazda really is a fantastic all-rounder. It handles the city streets with ease like a city-sized car should, and can handle grand touring – at least, for two people – where some competitors fall short.
Red Rocket continues to impress.
Click the photos tab for more images by James Wong.