A Note from the Editor: A stock image has been supplied with this review.
Once upon a time, I found myself sitting at a bus stop on the side of the road, staring off into the distance dreaming about one day owning a V8 Commodore. The next car that stopped in front of me was not only far from it, but almost as far away as you could possibly get – a 2008 Mazda 2 hatchback.
I remember locking my gaze for only the amount of time I needed to confirm to myself that I did not like the physical look of this car. It reminded me a little of an animated ant from A Bug’s Life. I thought little more about the newly updated baby Mazda and decided to move on.
It strikes me then that here I sit today, looking out my window at the 2008 Mazda 2 hatch I drive daily. Not only has its physical appearance grown on me, but I will proudly say I love it, and here’s why:
1. Small is the new big. Well, sort of. While SUVs and 4x4 utes have become increasingly popular, small-car sales make up a huge part of the Australian market. What used to be 'girly' is now smart, efficient, enjoyable to drive, safe and practical, all in one tiny little four-wheeled package.
As our population grows, so does the density of our cities. Small cars have a huge future considering how effortlessly they fit right into our carports, allow us to park where our SUV-driving friends can’t, and not cry on your way out of the petrol station (no, I haven’t done that yet).
2. It goes! For a lot of drivers, performance is key. While 76kW is not much, the Mazda 2 is lightweight and direct. Like any small engine, all you need is to test its rev range (ie, keep your foot down) and you’ll soon discover that you moved quite swiftly. I rarely have passengers in mine as I have the three-door option (not my choice, but it's always good to have options), but when I do, although it is felt, the car has little trouble carting us all around.
The steering and suspension feel are worth a mention too. Not once have I felt the car go anywhere near its grip limit, even in the wet. The steering wheel feels so responsive and direct that I’m filled with confidence every single time I drive. I feel that is quite important. I remember my first few Commodores as a teenager, and they certainly didn’t always feel safe on a rainy day.
3. Everybody wins! If I was talking about drag races, then that statement would be a lie. I mean winning in the way of saving money on fuel, insurance costs, repairs/maintenance and reducing emissions. Before I got involved with this particular Mazda, my girlfriend had really put it through its paces. The poor thing had been in two major accidents, a few carpark scrapes, not washed once for about five years and only serviced about once or twice in that space of time.
Now I certainly don’t condone the lack of maintenance, but for what it’s worth, I just wouldn’t know it unless I was told. Nothing is broken or has ever failed, the engine purrs effortlessly, the brakes stop firmly and the clutch functions perfectly. To my surprise, this car drives as if it has been maintained by the book and never in a serious incident.
Overall, I am thoroughly impressed. I had owned two early 2000s Mazda 323s that stood up to some serious tests, so I am not surprised that the 2008 Mazda 2 follows suit. If I had to criticize one thing, it would be the slightly lazy throttle response, but for a 1.5-litre engine with a fly-by-wire accelerator I can’t really expect much more.
So, even though I still won’t be putting it forward to win any design awards, I happily recommend it, lend it, drive it and own it.