Mazda2 facelift road test and review: a safe bet
WHEN you're on a winner, back it like Winx.
The payout is only going to be marginal but you're still at the top of the field.
That's the approach taken with the facelifted Mazda2, bringing welcome safety updates to what is the second best-selling light car in the country (watch out, Hyundai Accent) and the most popular privately bought car in the segment. Exterior changes are barely worth mentioning - will anyone spot the shark-fin antenna on the roof of higher-spec models?
Mazda has fitted more kit, headlined by 30kmh city-speed autonomous emergency braking on all versions, and tried to reduce noise intrusion with improved glass and sound deadening in key areas.
In this segment only the Skoda Fabia can match the Mazda for standard AEB and Mazda says the likes of blind spot and rear cross-traffic alert are a first for the class.
More importantly, given the price-conscious nature of the light car segment, prices are unchanged from the previous version.
Drive-away prices start at $16,990 for the Neo hatch or sedan, rise to $19,690 for the Maxx, $22,690 for the hatch-only Genki and top out at $23,680 for the GT in four or five-door guise.
Not that Mazda is discounting the whole pack mentality approach - the advertising campaign for the update is tagged "2Tribe" in a bid to encourage young women to feel part of a network.
Mazda Australia boss Vinesh Bhindi says the "overwhelming majority" of buyers are young women, with a smattering of males and empty nesters making up the mix.
The entry level Neo will account for almost half of Mazda2 sales, despite having an engine that is about 0.5L/100km less fuel efficient and with marginally less power than the next three grades.
It is still the only version to make do with sensors rather than a reversing camera.
About 80% of buyers will pay an extra $2000 for a six-speed auto and the hatch is tipped to account for 74 per cent of all Mazda2 sales.
The CD player has been deleted across the range as yet another indication this car is for smartphone-equipped millennials with downloaded tunes and apps for music-streaming.
As was the case previously, of the eight-hued palette, only Mazda's "soul red metallic" paint costs extra, at $300.
ON THE ROAD
Mazda says the facelifted 2 is quieter than its predecessor. I'd need a back-to-back drive or a sound engineer to discern the differences.
Plant the right foot - you need to, because the non-turbo 2 needs to have revs on board to do its best work - and the 1.5-litre engine cranks up the volume along with the pace. Semi-trailers blasting alongside likewise intrude on the cabin ambience.
The Mazda2 is far less vocal when driven in city environs and the steering and throttle are on par with the best in the class.
If carrying gear is part of the routine, the sedan is the pick with 440L of cargo space to the hatch's 250L. Otherwise, the smaller hatch is a smarter look and smaller car to park.
VERDICT 4.5 Stars
It's a mild makeover but Mazda really didn't need to do much to keep the '2 at the top of the charts.
Active safety should tick the boxes for ANCAP and buyers alike.
PRICE: From $16,990 drive-away
SAFETY: 5 stars, 6 airbags
WARRANTY: 3 years/unlimited km
CAPPED SERVICING: $886 for 3 years/ 30,000km
SERVICE INTERVALS: 12 months/10,000km
ENGINE: 1.5-litre 4-cyl, 79kW/139Nm (Neo), 81kW/141Nm
TRANSMISSION: 6-speed man, 6-speed auto; FWD
DIMENSIONS: 4060mm, sedan 4320mm (L), 1695mm (W), 1495mm, sedan 1470mm (H), 2570mm (WB)
NEO Forward city-speed autonomous emergency braking, cruise control, keyless start, torque-vectoring cornering, rear parking sensors, 15-inch steel wheels.
MAXX Alloys, digital radio, six speakers, seven-inch touchscreen, reversing camera, reverse city-speed AEB.
GENKI LED headlamps, fog lamps and daytime running lamps, auto lights and wipers, 16-inch alloys, satnav, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic alert.
GT Leather-accented upholstery.