- Grunty engine, sorted dynamics
- Impressive safety inclusions
- Strong value for money
- Not as practical as some rivals
- Basic rear seat accommodation
- No reversing camera on Neo
Mazda’s 2 has always been a very good choice for Australians looking for a light hatchback. It has always offered a good mix of practicality, solid driving dynamics, and the high level of build quality and reliability that Mazda are known for – a purchase you can make with both your head and your heart. That’s a reputation the brand is keen to uphold with this month’s mid-life update to the 2017 Mazda 2.
From the tall-boy first-generation model, the sleek second-generation, and through to the more mature but still fun third-generation, the Mazda 2 has always seen sales near the top of the light car class. Since the third-generation model was launched in Australia in November 2014, it has sold over 33,000 units or more than 1,000 per month, to comfortably sit in second place in the light car field sales race – and first overall, if you the discount fleet sales that make the Hyundai Accent the overall segment leader.
For 2017, the Mazda 2 has seen a light refresh with some small but important equipment additions that make it the safest car in the light car field, whilst also adding more than $1,000 to its value equation, or so Mazda Australia claims. Pricing remains unchanged, starting from $14,990 for the entry-level Neo six-speed manual, rising to $23,680 for the top-spec GT six-speed automatic, plus on-road costs.
New for 2017 includes the addition of Autonomous Emergency Braking (or Smart City Brake Support in Mazda speak) as standard equipment where it was previously a $400 option. Standard AEB means that almost all of Mazda’s Australian passenger car range now comes with the potentially life-saving technology as standard equipment, with the CX-3 due to be updated next month, one would make an educated guess in saying that it too will be blessed with AEB across the range, especially as the CX-3 is based on the Mazda 2.
Mazda have also revised the colours and trims available for the 2017 Mazda 2, removing some old hues and replacing them with a more mature set including deep blues, greys, and reds. The new 2 range also sees revised interior trims, a slim new steering wheel borrowed from the Mazda3, revised speedometer fonts, rear heater ducts under the front seats and more sound insulation added under the boot to lower road noise levels.
All of this adds up to a remarkably well-equipped light car that has never been such good value for money.
Mechanically, the 2017 Mazda 2 is almost identical to the 2016 model. Its overall position as one of the best-driving light cars you can buy has not changed. If anything, small improvements to the steering make the updated Mazda 2 better than it’s ever been.
Powering the Mazda 2 is a 1.5-litre Skyactiv four-cylinder engine with either a 79kW/139Nm tune in the Neo, or a perkier 81kW/141Nm tune through the rest of the range. The engine is paired to a sweet and precise six-speed manual, or a well-tuned six-speed automatic. Importantly for some, the manual is available across the range – something we appreciate. The manual is a particular highlight, channeling a lot of influence from the excellent MX-5 sports car.
The engine itself is a sweet and willing unit that has good low-down torque - ample for getting you around town. On the open road as well, the Mazda 2 also has enough grunt to keep you cruising at 110km/h in comfort with power in reserve in case it’s needed – something that cannot be said of some of its competitors.
The engine is grunty for its size but also economical - so far our Genki manual test car has averaged 6.8L/100km, up from its 5.2L/100km combined claim, but not bad for purely urban driving in a car that has less than 500km on it from new.
Mazda reports that the 2’s steering was revised for 2017, with a gear ratio of 14:7 translating to steering that is responsive to driver input, but also of reasonable feel and weight as well. The new larger steering wheel helps the driver as well, with a thinner rim making it more comfortable to hold.
The 2017 Mazda 2 also continues its reign as one of the most dynamic light cars you can buy. It simply devours corners and feels like a much larger and more mature car, such is the level of solidity and fun in the way it drives. It’s a very nimble car and feels light on its feet and paves the way for how all light cars should drive.
Few changes were needed in Mazda 2’s cabin - it has always been one of the classiest and highest-quality in the segment and the 2017 update is no different.
Even on the entry-level Neo, the plastics and trims used are high quality and feel built to last. The Neo comes with a urethane steering wheel with audio/cruise control buttons on the steering wheel and a rather basic 2DIN radio atop the dashboard, but regardless the features offered are above competitors for the price. The Neo features comfortable seats with revised seating trim, and this time around with good lumbar support for longer journeys.
The upgrade to the Maxx is well worth it however, the interior is upgraded significantly with a seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system with DAB+ digital radio and a reversing camera, as well as some gloss carbon trim on the dashboard that livens the cabin ambience further. The Genki and GT further enhance their cabins by adding a faux-leather strip on the dashboard, some gloss black and colour inserts around the air vents and in the case of the GT, white leather/black cloth trim on the hatchback, or black leather/black suede seats in the sedan.
The 2017 Mazda 2 also features less road noise, something of a typical Mazda bugbear - though it gets significantly better with every new generation of Mazda, as the CX-5 proves. The new 2 isn’t an all-new generation however, though more sound insulation in the boot and under the rear floor have improved noise levels noticeably, even at lower speeds around town.
The 2017 Mazda 2’s ride quality has remained unchanged with the update however, and remains cushy on the entry-level Neo and its 15-inch steel wheels, but firmer on the 16-inch wheels of the Genki we’re testing this week with slightly harsh bump rebound after larger bumps. Still, the Mazda 2 rides no worse than its competitor set, and the tradeoff of slightly firm ride quality in this case is some of the best dynamics in the light car segment.
The latest generation of Mazdas also feature really solid ergonomics – the long-term comfort factors that make a car great to live with and drive every day. All the controls are within close reach, are easy to understand, and easy to use. Mazda’s MZD Connect infotainment system (on Maxx models upward) is one of the best in the business as well - it may need a graphics upgrade and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone integration is nowhere to be seen, but it is definitely the easiest to understand and control. Between the front seats is a BMW iDrive-style rotary dial that controls the unit, and it features shortcuts to the entertainment, home and navigation menus for further ease of use.
If you’re after a small hatch like the Mazda 2, it’s likely that the simple-to-park size and easy driving dynamics in the city will be high on the list of priorities. However, having a usable back seat and a bit of room in the boot is also important for those road trips to the beach over summer. So, does the Mazda 2 stack up? On first glance, it looks too small and sleek to offer much interior space – but you’d be surprised.
The front seat is no Skoda Fabia for storage solutions but it does feature some reasonable-sized door bins with bottle holders, some large cupholders in the centre console with further spots to put wallets and keys, a large glovebox and a storage tray underneath the air-conditioning controls. The front seat is also quite roomy, providing acres of legroom and even sufficient headroom for six-plus footers like myself.
The rear is a bit less convincing however, with only one pseudo-bottle holder, one map pocket and that’s about it. There’s no charging point (as you get in a Kia Rio), no door bins or cupholders and while headroom is quite sufficient thanks to the Mazda 2’s high roofline, rear legroom is lacking and even fitting four adults could be touch depending on their size. The bootspace is one of the smaller in the segment, at 250-litres of space. The boot floor is a long way down from the bootlip, and when the rear seats are folded, there’s a significant step in the floor, making it hard to store longer items. The boot itself also doesn’t feature any hooks or tie-down points, unlike Skoda’s Fabia.
VALUE FOR MONEY
The 2017 Mazda 2 is better value than ever before with the addition of Autonomous Emergency Braking across the range, something that only the Skoda Fabia can claim to in the light car segment. The Volkswagen Polo and Toyota Yaris are the only competitors to even offer it as an option, otherwise it’s unavailable across the whole segment. The addition of AEB and Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control dynamics assistance across the range comes at no extra cost, and each level of the Mazda 2 range also gains further equipment to add value - up to $1,000, according to Mazda Australia.
The Mazda 2 Neo ($14,990 manual, $16,990 auto - hatch and sedan) has also gained electric-folding mirrors in addition to its solid equipment list including air-conditioning, electric mirrors and windows, cruise control, rear parking sensors, auto-off headlights, 15-inch wheels with hubcaps, 60:40 split rear seat, Bluetooth calling and audio streaming, as well as a four-speaker sound system with a 2DIN radio atop the dashboard.
We’d recommend stepping up to the Mazda 2 Maxx ($17,690 manual, $19,690 auto - hatch and sedan) however, because in addition to its 15-inch alloy wheels, six-speaker sound system, seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a reversing camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel/gearknob/handbrake and some gloss carbon interior trim, the 2017 update has given the Maxx AEB in reverse (a potentially life-saving feature) and a DAB+ digital radio.
The Mazda 2 Genki ($20,690 manual, $22,690 auto, hatch only) is full of fruit. Its 2017 additions of a colour heads-up display, blind-spot monitoring and rear traffic alert are segment exclusive features, and in addition to auto-folding mirrors, 16-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation with speed limit information, automatic LED headlights with LED daytime running lights, LED foglamps, rain-sensing wipers, climate control air-conditioning and faux-leather dash trim with high-gloss door inserts.
Finally, the Mazda 2 GT ($21,680 manual, $23,680 auto - hatch and sedan) adds to the Genki’s extensive equipment list with half-leather/cloth seating in white/black in the hatchback and all-black in the sedan as well as a brown interior strip for the sedan and bright finished alloy wheels on both bodystyles.
In all, the 2017 Mazda 2 update features better value than the Mazda 2 has ever seen before and doesn’t want for much. A lack of a reversing camera/touchscreen infotainment system on the base Neo is a bit mean, but as Mazda executives pointed out, by the time you add it to a Neo it’s almost at Maxx pricing.
The light car field is better than it’s ever been before, with genuinely polished entrants competing for the light car sales pie.
The Mazda 2’s toughest competitor lies in the Volkswagen Polo, which even at the end of its current life, is still the best light car you can buy today. It features punchy turbocharged engines, a good amount of available technology like optional AEB and the usual high-quality Volkswagen feel.
Based on the same platform as the Polo is the Skoda Fabia, which combines even better value for money, standard AEB and more personality and practicality than either the Polo or Mazda 2. It offers a strong ownership proposition, with a five-year warranty and six-year capped price servicing.
Also worthy of consideration are the incredibly practical Honda Jazz, the newly launched Kia Rio and ever-reliable Toyota Yaris.
|Power||81kW at 6,000rpm|
|Torque||141Nm at 4,000rpm|
|Power to weight ratio||78kW / tonne|
|Fuel consumption (combined)||5.2L/100km|
|Average range||846 kilometres|
Transmission and Drivetrain
|Drivetrain||Front wheel drive|
Dimensions and Weights
|Unoccupied weight||1,038 kilograms|
|Cargo space (seats up)||250L|
|Cargo space (seats down)||Not listed|