“Car of the Year” is an honor not bestowed on just any car. It takes something quite special to elevate a car from being just “good” to being “extraordinary”. See, it’s actually hard to find a bad car nowadays. Sure, there are some cars that are better than others, but for the most part, any modern automobile is better than anything being cranked out five years ago. Such is the playing field the Mazda2 had to overcome to win not just one, but two car of the year trophies—one in Japan and, more importantly, here in the Philippines. The question is: does it deserve the title?
Oh, you bet.
The magic formula starts out with the looks. Though there’s a strong resemblance to other current Mazda vehicles, it’s not simply a case of design cut-and-paste. Given the smaller footprint designers had to work with, they exaggerated the entire KODO theme on the 2 without making it look like a bad caricature. The resulting sub-compact is taut and muscular with well-defined lines and nice proportions. It doesn’t play on the long hood, cab rearward design as seen on larger Mazda vehicles that the hatchback edges the sedan in terms of aesthetics. That’s not to say the sedan’s ugly though. It’s also nice, but the proportions just work better on the five-door. The Speed variant, exclusive on the five-door, adds some look faster parts like front and rear chins, a roof spoiler, and red detailing. It works most of the time with the only offending part being the red detailing which looks too ricer.
The Mazda2’s strong DNA continues inside where it has the same driver-focused interior. Apart from the sharply raked roofline that causes you to hit your head getting in and out some times, there’s little else to complain about. The driving position is naturally ergonomic and perfectly positioned with all the driving controls where you expect them. Mazda engineers, in particular, have made a big fuss about the pedals, placing them naturally towards the body’s central line (unlike other sub-compacts where they’re slightly offset) and this contributes greatly to making the 2 feels like a properly engineered car. It also alleviates fatigue and stress, especially on longer drives.
Fit and finish is still pretty good, but they’re not in the same league as the 6 or even the 3. On the V model tested, the A-pillar trim was already popping out and no amount of pushing would get it back in. It wasn’t contributing to any rattles or squeaks (the interior is pretty solid in that regard), but it was more of a visual annoyance. In addition, though the V models feel well-equipped already, the higher trim R and Speed models feel more special thanks to the unique instrument cluster, heads-up display, Mazda Connect infotainment system, and the off-white leather seats. The last bit is certainly concerning especially those wanting to keep their seats free from dirt, so Mazda might have just answered your prayers with the new Midnight Edition which swaps them for black cow hide.
For those who’re familiar with the new Skyactiv generation of vehicles, they’ll know that interior space isn’t exactly a strong suit and the same adjective applies to the Mazda2 as well. The driver and front passenger won’t know the difference since the front thrones are easily the best in its class, but those in the back will experience knee brushing against the front seatbacks. And the person sitting in the middle won’t exactly find riding on the “bump” to be a comfortable experience. Luggage is quite average whether it’s the hatchback or sedan, and swallowing two suitcases side-by-side is possible; however, there aren’t much storage spaces to speak of. Variants without the Mazda Connect system gain a space for their wallet/toll card/iPhone where the controller usually resides.
While the Mazda2 isn’t exactly the most practical sub-compact out there, it does stand out above the rest with just how fun it is on the road. Now, normally small cars and fun-to-drive aren’t muttered in the same breath, but Mazda does weave its magic beautifully here.
There’s only one powertrain across the entire range and that’s the 1.5-liter Skyactiv-G engine producing 108 horsepower and 139 Nm of torque. The paper figures aren’t really extraordinary, but how it’s tweaked and tuned to match the six-speed automatic that grabs the headlines. Unlike other sub-compacts which tend to fake a sense of power thanks to a sensitive throttle, the Mazda2 features a more linear delivery. This means it’s far easier to drive because it doesn’t surge needlessly when you don’t want it to. Fuel consumption is limited to just 8.62 km/L, but that’s because the average speed didn’t push up beyond 13 km/h.
On the open road, drivers can enjoy extra oomph thanks to a toggle switch located just below the shifter. Labeled, “Sport”, it increases the throttle sensitivity and keeps the revs up. This makes the Mazda2 different from all other sub-compacts in that it makes overtaking entertaining. The engine note may not be memorable, but at least the rev happy nature makes it a great companion to drives up to places like Baguio.
Apart from the powertrain, the chassis tuning is equally stellar. It drives like a bigger car not because it lacks agility or maneuverability (the proportions and driving position easily make it one of the sweetest cars to drive in traffic), but in that it doesn’t compromise long distance comfort or high speed stability. The steering, for instance, gives a predictable motion that removes the need to seesaw the wheel especially during hard cornering. There may be some degree of understeer, but nothing that’ll cause drivers to complain. Next, the suspension is firm, but is able to absorb potholes and road cracks with ease even with the tire pressure pumped up to the recommended 36 PSI! And even the brakes are a part of the class act offering excellent modulation with a solid pedal feel and confident stopping power.
The Mazda2 isn’t for everyone. If you’re keen on driving a car with zero personality, then you won’t enjoy it. Mazda has engineered the 2 to feel like the 3 or the 6—and that’s evident in all of the touch points from the aesthetics to the on-road feel and dynamics. In other words, this is a driver’s sub-compact in the same way the Mazda3 is a driver’s compact. It may not be as roomy as the competition, but that’s not the reason why you’ll fall in love with it. It’s great because it rewards the driver for actually choosing a car that’s heart above the mind. If you consider driving fun to be the priority in your sub-compact, then the Mazda2 makes for a really solid argument. Car of the year? The Mazda2 rests its case.
2016 Mazda2 V Sedan & Speed Hatchback
|Ownership||2016 Mazda2 V 1.5 Skyactiv Sedan||2016 Mazda2 1.5 Skyactiv Speed Hatchback|
|Body Type||4-door sedan||5-door hatchback|
|Engine / Drive||F/F||F/F|
|Under the Hood|
|Aspiration||Normally Aspirated, Direct Injection||Normally Aspirated, Direct Injection|
|Layout / # of Cylinders||I4||I4|
|BHP @ rpm||108 @ 6,000||108 @ 6,000|
|Nm @ rpm||139 @ 4,000||139 @ 4,000|
|Fuel / Min. Octane||Gasoline / 91~||Gasoline / 91~|
|Transmission||6 AT||6 AT|
|Dimensions and Weights|
|Curb Weight (kg)||1,043||1,025|
|Suspension and Tires|
|Front Suspension||Independent, MacPherson Strut||Independent, MacPherson Strut|
|Rear Suspension||Torsion Beam Axle||Torsion Beam Axle|
|Front Brakes||Vented Disc||Vented Disc|
|Rear Brakes||Solid Disc||Solid Disc|
|Tires||Dunlop Enasave EC300+ 185/65 R 15 T (f & r)||Dunlop Enasave EC300+ 185/60 R 16 H (f & r)|
|Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS)||Yes||Yes|
|Traction / Stability Control||Yes||Yes|
|Parking Sensors||Yes, Rear||Yes, Rear|
|Steering Wheel Adjustment||Tilt/Telescopic||Tilt/Telescopic|
|Steering Wheel Material||Urethane||Leather|
|Folding Rear Seat||Yes, 60/40||Yes, 60/40|
|Power Door Locks||Yes||Yes|
|No. of Speakers||4||6|
|Steering Wheel Controls||Yes||Yes|