Launched in January 2007, the Mazda 2 has been a big success here in Australia. Not only is it one of the most popular cars in its segment, but it's a car that's very hard to fault.
First off, the majority of the Mazda 2's success can be attributed to its slick styling. The corporate Mazda “family face” styling makes the Mazda 2 seem imposing and a looker without being cutesy. The rear features a solid stance accompanied by an appealing tail light design and subtle boot release button. But it's the side design that really makes the 2 more upper-class than it actually is. With a rising high-waisted window line, and frame less door designs, the 2 exhibits a level of luxury and class with a masculine and visually sporty stance.
Inside, the interior really is all about the driver's perspective. Sitting in the driver's seat, you're surrounded by an array of soft and comfortable plastics accompanied by a black piano design on the centre console, giving the Mazda 2 a more premium feel. The 2 also has user friendly centre console ergonomics, within reach for both driver and the front passenger neat design features such as a side door water bottle holders and neat red interior lighting
Although design is Mazda's core selling point, it doesn't work in all areas of the car. The most notable area of issue is the treatment of back seat passengers. Although front seats are durable and prove comfortable for short trips around town, back seat passengers are short-changed style over comfort. Because of the 2's swoopy styling design, it means the back seat headroom is cramped compromising human comfort. Although bearable for the average sized person, tall people like myself (I'm 6”2) means I just scraped in which is sufficient for short trips, but not for long trips. In addition, the width of the rear seat is quite small, proving a challenge for three adults to sit in comfort with knees up legroom. Visibility in the 2 suffers too, attributed to a small rear window and small glasshouse.
As I began to drive the Mazda 2 Neo, the first thing I immediately noticed is how good the steering is. While it may not sound like a deal breaker, coming from a 2001 car's steering to the Mazda 2 is a revelation. The 2 steers extremely well and power steering makes turning a breeze. The steering is precise and well balanced, without being too sensitive to the changing road conditions and provides a fun and sporty feeling with speeds of up to 100km/h. The use of 15-inch tyres also provide the Mazda with a solid stance reducing the vulnerability when overcoming bumps and potholes.
With only 76kW and 135Nm to play with, the performance of the Mazda 2 looks average at best on paper. In reality it's another story. Behind the wheel, the 2 proves to be eager and nimble, awaiting what to do next. Straight line performance of the 2 is downright fast, mainly attributed to its light 1,025kg gross weight proving agile and responsive to the driver. The Mazda 2 also battle hills with little if any trouble at all and the manual transmission works a treat. Although being dash mounted and therefore only needing half the gear change movement, the transition between gears is seamless and smooth, with the clutch intake notable for being slightly touchy. I found the NVH (Noise, Vibration, and Harshness) to be exceptionally quiet in the 2, almost too quiet that I had trouble knowing when to change gears. Coarse road surfaces are somewhat noticeable in the cabin and even then, the cabin ambiance is near whisper quiet.
Overall, I was blown away with the Mazda 2 Neo. Never driven a Mazda 2 before, I didn't know what I was getting myself into. Its styling is slick and is easy on the eye for all ages. The interior is versatile, ergonomic and efficient while backseat comfort, headroom and visibility prove to be its biggest downfall. The short downfalls of the interior are erased by the brilliant engine. The engine itself is zippy, fast and responsive with the excellent steering proving to be the cherry on the cake. The level of detail and accuracy gone into the Mazda 2 Neo is exceptional and it's paid off, just look at its sales. Forget it being eight years old, the Mazda 2 is a very worthy consideration if you're looking for a used car.