Mazda is in the midst of a major re-invention from top to bottom. For many years, there was a lot of influence from Ford. This could be seen in pretty much all of their products, save the beloved MX-5 Miata and the unique Mazda-only RX-8. You could find Ford stampings and part numbers on Mazda3 brake calipers, for example. The Mazda6 and Ford Fusion shared a lot of hardware, making them both fairly decent driver’s cars, with slight nuances coming from the brand identities themselves. The big CX-9 is also built on the 6/Fusion architecture. Lastly, the Mazda2 and Ford Fiesta also share the co-engineered DE platform.
As of this writing, all that remains today is the Mazda2 and CX-9 that are still on co-engineered platforms. Everything else has been completely re-designed in-house under the new SkyActiv program. The Mazda2 has been a long-time favourite for its focus on the typical Mazda zoom-zoom driving experience. The 2016 Mazda2 has just been announced, and like its bigger brothers, the 2 will now be an in-house design. With this in mind, would the outgoing 2 live in the shadow of obsolescence?
The 2 was introduced to the North American market in 2009, but was available in other markets from 2007. Seven years on one platform is a long time in the auto industry and it shows if you look in the right places. One of the criticisms of newer cars these days is how complicated they are, right down to the core. The Mazda2 harkens back to a slightly simpler era. Perhaps this is the reason why we like it so much.
The exterior styling language is one step behind that of Mazda’s latest models, so the big happy face dominating the front-end is still present. The same point that made the second-generation Mazda3 just a little polarizing is extended to the Mazda. The rest of the car is attractive enough, with wheels pushed out to the corners and relatively low sills that improve outward visibility. My GS-trim tester comes with added 16” aluminum wheels running 195-section all-season tires, as well as fog lights.
Inside, the Mazda 2 does remind you from time to time about its subcompact car roots. One of the first things I noticed is the lack of centre armrest. The seats are comfortable enough for commuting, but I think the centre armrest would be handy for longer trips. A friend of mine owns a similar 2, and has confirmed the availability of a third-party solution, so not all is lost. Moving around the interior, you notice a few more items associated to the current 2’s age: the steering wheel doesn’t telescope, nor is there Bluetooth available in any capacity. There is an auxiliary input for the stereo for music, however.
It is possible for prospective customers to pick up a base GX-level car that comes without air conditioning. I expect most base-level cars you’d find at a dealership to be equipped with the Convenience package which adds air conditioning, power windows, and power locks. The interior itself is functional and well put-together – folding down the rear seats dramatically expands the space you have available to carry stuff. I have also confirmed that one adult-size bicycle will fit with the rear seats folded down – just. The rear hatch doesn’t feature a grab handle, so you’ll have to paw around on the paint when you close it up.
Under the hood is a 1.5L four-cylinder gasoline engine, producing 100hp at 6000rpm and 98lb-ft of torque at 4000rpm. This engine doesn’t really employ any trick technologies like direct-injection or turbocharging, but it gets the job done on the basis of being simple. Newer competitors offer more horsepower and fancy technologies, but the 2’s simplicity doesn’t mean it’s missing anything in terms of the driving experience. My tester was equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission. In typical Mazda fashion, the clutch and shifter are super easy-to-use with a defined engagement point in the left-most pedal. The shifter itself is accurate – almost as good as the hardware in the new 3. A sixth-gear would be useful, but even with five gears, you’ll be rowing through them quite a bit to get up to speed. 100km/h on the highway will see the engine singing at almost 3000rpm.
The light weight of the Mazda2 allows for a very fun experience at almost any speed. I’ve long been a proponent of driving slow cars fast – the Mazda2 is part of a shrinking group of cars that will let you do this. Turn the steering wheel and response is almost instantaneous, aside from the slightly slow steering ratio – you’ll need some more turns to get from lock to lock. A set of sticky tires will really wake the Mazda2 up.
Mazda rates the 2 with the manual transmission at 6.8L/100km in the city and 5.6L/100km on the highway. I managed 7.2L/100km in mixed (mostly city) driving. This just about matches my results with the outgoing Honda Fit, but also matches my results with the larger and heavier (but high-tech) Mazda3. As mentioned before, this Mazda2 hails from a time when Ford Motor Company was still involved, and the SkyActiv program hadn’t trickled down as yet. The upcoming 2 is sure to benefit from the in-house engineering know-how that we have seen with the new Mazda6 and Mazda3.
Pricing for the Mazda2 is pretty straight-forward. You can get a base stripped-out GX model for $14,450. Adding an automatic transmission will set you back $1,150. Air conditioning (again, optional on the base trim) costs $1,195. The aforementioned Convenience Package adds a lot of creature comforts like keyless entry, steering wheel audio controls, and an exterior temperature gauge (!), among a few other things for $895. Or, you could get a fully-loaded GS model for $18,300. In terms of pricing, the straight dollar-value isn’t too bad, but the 2 is missing some features that a lot of its competitors are now including.
I went into this week knowing that the Mazda2 was overdue for replacement. The new 2016 model is right around the corner, and judging from what they’ve managed to do with the Mazda3, the new Mazda2 should be fantastic. This doesn’t make the outgoing 2 a poor choice, however. I expect dealers to offer them with generous incentives, making it a good value for a practical and fun set of wheels. At this time, we can only say farewell to the 2 – not many cars nowadays are created with such simplicity in mind.