Even looking at their bread-and-butter models geared at the mass-market, there seems to be an element of fun – demonstrating that the drivers needn’t relinquish excitement when opting for an economical hatchback or sedan.
And the dainty Mazda 2 is no different: despite its size and budget price-tag, the little hatchback manages to entertain behind the wheel, delivering on the promise of a spirited “Zoom-Zoom” experience we’re given a taste of in Mazda’s advertisements.
Parked in my drive-way, the Mazda 2 cuts an athletic profile from the front. Large headlamps give the little Mazda a somewhat surprised expression on its countenance – like that of a puppy’s. It seems Mazda’s designers have a bit of fun when designing the front-end of their cars, as we’ve seen with the smiley-faced Mazda 3.
Inside, the Mazda employs a simple layout. It’s nothing complicated; you’ve got your radio and air-conditioning controls in the centre and two air-ventilation slots on either side for driver and passenger. For the driver, everything falls to hand – the gearlever for example, is just below the air-conditioning controls. A three-spoke steering wheel adds to the sporty ambience – you might think you’re behind the wheel of an MX-5. While the Mazda’s 1.3 powerplant is peppy and eager to perform, but it certainly won’t blow your hair back when you’re accelerating away from a set of lights.
With that said, driving the Mazda is heaps of fun. On the road, the little car renders a taut, composed feel. It has a nimble handling character, and one can chuck it into pieces of twisty tarmac with confidence. Gear-shifts are direct, slick – one feels connected to the mechanical ballet of shifting cogs in the gearbox. A certain American automotive publication even have plans to use a Mazda 2 as part of a campaign to teach U.S motorists to drive manual and develop a greater appreciation for the three-pedal transmission, in a country where automatic is the popular choice.
But refinement is where the Mazda scores less: the cabin isn’t as well insulated against road noise during highway speeds as one would like it to be. One feels all the bumps and imperfections on the road – depending on your mood, you might find this contributing to the fun driving experience, or a downright nuisance.
If you can tolerate this, the Mazda is a cool little car to live with. It’s certainly a vehicle that affirms that platitude “Less is more” – although it might be simplistic, being behind the wheel of the Mazda 2 is an enjoyable experience that one won’t grow tired of – that is, until one has the fiscal means to move up the Mazda hierarchy, into an MX-5 or Mazdaspeed 3.
Those seeking extra practicality can explore the sedan variant of the 2, which made its foray into the South African market recently. Expect to pay between R164 380 for the Mazda 2 1.3 Active 5 Door and R207 500 for the Mazda2 1.5 Individual 5 Door.