I've written a few Owner reviews for my last couple of cars, including a Fiesta ST and GH Mazda6. Now I've had a few before that, including a 2007 Mazda2 Maxx auto which was written off, which makes for an interesting comparison to my latest acquisition.
I lost my off street parking and am forced to fight the tight streets of the inner-East of Sydney. So the 6 had to go and I was on the hunt for something tiny, manual and under $10k. WS Zetec almost had me but you can't change the head unit. Yaris YRS just isn't comfortable enough and it's hard to find an FZ Swift that hasn't been owned by a p plater.
This left the humble DE Mazda2. I searched endlessly for a 2011+ model (Japan built) but settled on a 2010 Mazda2 Neo, fitted with a rear spoiler. With only 70k on the clock and in immaculate condition, it was an easy choice for $8k. Surprisingly, this is my favourite car I've owned. This year model Neo was a compromise to have stability control as opposed to 6 airbags in earlier model Genki's for the same $$.
Sure, it doesn't have a monster beneath the bonnet, but the 76kw 1.5L petrol is a perfect mate to the slick 5 speed gearbox. I've never driven anything with such an accurate throw and the spacing is spot on for urban driving. Corners can be taken in third that had the Fiesta ST crying for first (Off boost). Acceleration on flat roads is more than enough for my daily cross Sydney commute and what it lacks in outright grunt, it makes up for in spirit. The clutch is too light and it's a very easy car to stall, but it's a minor occurrence that only occurs due to driver laziness.
Average fuel consumption has settled on 6.88L/100km with loads of WOT, and can squeeze about 540kms from a tank. Common complaint with the DE 2 is the fuel range, but the manual suffers no such qualms with such good consumption. My auto 2 managed 7.8L/100km over its life.
The 2 is just so light and flickable that it's just so easy to manage around all kinds of roads, however be careful of cross winds as it will wander around the lane if you're not holding tight. It is very easy to push into under steer but I put this down to skinny 15inch steel wheels on cheapish front tyres.
Overall comfort is reasonable with enough space for 2 adults up front but that's about it. Over long drives, the lack of lumbar support becomes a killer and I usually put a folded towel at my lower back which helps. Also on long drives, the omission of cruise control makes it quite challenging to maintain speed at highway limits. At 110km/h, it revs around 3,100rpm and the slightest pedal adjustment urges you to keep going. Certainly not a bad thing for overtaking but not great for relaxed cruising.
The duco is not great. As per Mazda standard, it scratches from a light breeze and it's difficult to keep it looking new. However metro Grey has proven better than black and it looks sharp. The interior seat trim on this particular year and spec is also hideously plain and hard to keep clean, but you can't have everything in a base spec supermini. The gear knob sticker has also peeled off, with the glue leaving a residue on the gear knob itself - I've noticed this on another 2010 Neo so it may be common and something to look for on non-leather knobbed 2's.
In summary, the latest Mazda2 addresses pretty much everything above (no comment on the paint) and makes a remarkable improvement in safety, connectivity and economy. But my little 2 has well and truly won me over with its everyday willingness and ease of ownership. Can park it anywhere, chuck anything in it and it costs very little to run!
I'd highly recommend that for anyone looking to purchase a DE series Mazda2, try and find a 2012+ model Neo. It's got colour coded handles, cruise control, audio controls on the steering wheel, better interior trim and 6 airbags + traction control. A deservedly popular little tiddler that meets the needs of many markets (just make sure you get a manual!).