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September 7, 2020

Review: 2020 Mazda2 1.5 Elite Sedan

In case you missed it, Mazda has been undergoing a premium transformation. While the movement is still anchored pretty much on their award-winning design, they’ve also managed to level up in terms of trim and standard equipment. Having said that, a handful of their cars got stuck in no land’s land—neither premium nor affordable. One such vehicle is the 2020 Mazda2.

It’s been five full years since the launch of Mazda’s latest gen sub-compact hatchback/sedan. Throughout that time, it’s undergone a slow, gradual increase in spec aligning it towards the brand’s so-called “Mazda Premium.” Late last year was supposed to bring the Mazda2’s biggest update yet; instead, it became a reminder, that for the brand, the sub-compact segment doesn’t fit that well with their new positioning. Instead, with just a single variant, Elite and two body styles, a hatchback and a sedan, it’s become more for market presence than anything else. 

Outside, the 2020 Mazda2 gets its biggest makeover yet. The front clip is supposed to evoke the brand’s “Evolved KODO” design—something already seen in the carmaker’s so-called seventh-generation models with the CX-30 and Mazda3. This brings design cues such as the simplified LED lighting elements, a large wing grille, and re-sculpted bumpers to the smallest member of the Mazda family. In theory, it’s supposed to modernize the design, but unlike Mazda’s execution in the larger Mazda6, the elements don’t look as harmonized here. It looks unproportioned, and dare we say it, grafted on.

Inside, the Mazda2 successfully builds on its formula for creating a driver-oriented space. Not only is the pedal positioning perfect—aligned to the body’s center line and the steering wheel providing both tilt and telescopic adjustment, but the new seats provide excellent support. The driving position is low yet comfortable, similar in feel to a sporty compact rather than a budget sub-compact—the exact feel Mazda is going for.

Despite all the nice changes though, there’s one quirky thing that’s still present in the Mazda2; one that hasn’t withstood the test of time: the digital tachometer. Not only does it look like an afterthought, but it washes out in direct sunlight making it almost impossible to read. Readers with sharp memories will remember that Mazda offered a center-mounted tach on higher-trim models before, alas that didn’t make it to the 2020 update.

The “entry-level” tach serves as a preamble to what’s in store for the rest of the 2020 package. Frankly, this is where the Mazda2 falters as it doesn’t feel as premium as it should be. Filipinos are increasingly value conscious, and instead of keeping or adding features to its sub-compact, Mazda opted to actually reduce them. It’s as if their product planners wanted to dial up the features, only to turn it back down when they realized they’ll be priced off market.

True enough, this single Elite variant is an amalgam of the previous mid-trim V+ and top-trim R models. Oh, and despite being priced P 20,000 more than the R (P 995,000 for either the sedan or hatchback), you won’t find the heads-up display, leather seats, padded dashboard and knee bolsters, and 6 airbags. However, it does get LED headlights, 16-inch alloy wheels, and standard Apple Carplay/Android Auto. Oh, and the seats are finished in a two-tone black and brown fabric, if you like that sort of thing.

Thankfully though, as a driving machine, the Mazda2 still delivers. For 2020, engineers have extracted an additional 2 horsepower and 2 Nm of torque (110 horsepower and 141 Nm). In the greater scheme of things, they don’t mean much, and so the on-road performance is pretty much the same as before. Straight line performance won’t knock your socks off, but it’s lively enough for every day driving. The engine note is throaty with hints of MX-5 for good measure. Besides the easy-to-modulate throttle, the 6-speed automatic is far more engaging than any of its CVT-equipped rivals. Paddle shifters and a Sport are standard, and they can be particularly useful during overtakes. Opting for a torque converter automatic for fun instead of drone-y slipping belts means that fuel consumption does take a slight hit, but doing 11.1 km/L at 18 km/h is still pretty solid.

Mazda says they’ve worked on new noise-fighting measures here, and it’s evident with more controlled levels of road and tire noise. However, the roof and glass still betray the Mazda2’s budget car positioning, amplifying rain drops or actually allowing you hearing the dialogue of motorcycle riders parked beside you. Once or twice, you’ll actually think you left a side window open.

For all of the Mazda2’s spec deficiencies, at least it’s still one sweet little car to drive. It’s particularly lovely to drive in city traffic with its excellent agility and visibility. The ride quality is well-balanced, re-tuned for a smoother, more comfortable ride. It rides better through any road imperfection, though this has seemed to compromised its handling somewhat. Despite the fitment of G-Vectoring Plus, which applies brake force to the outer wheels for greater stability, it does tend to tip into understeer more now. Plus, there’s more noticeable brake dive too. Regardless, its feeling of stability and capability are still unmatched in the segment.

With Mazda’s upmarket push, the 2020 Mazda2 feels left out of the party. It put one foot into the Mazda Premium party, only to stay satisfied grooving from afar. While its driving dynamics are unquestionably still the best in its segment, it’s let down by its lack of luxury amenities even when compared to its predecessor. Filipinos are spoilt for value, and seeing the Mazda2’s price go up, while its equipment go down will surely affect the small buyer base who actually remember that this choice exist outside of the usual Toyota or Honda suspects. As things stand, Mazda must find a way to make the Mazda2 drink the Mazda Premium Kool-Aid, or bow out of the sub-compact segment altogether with such a Franken-car offering.

2020 Mazda2 1.5 Elite
Ownership 2020 Mazda2 1.5 Elite
Year Introduced 2015 (Refreshed: 2017, 2020)
Vehicle Classification Sub-compact Sedan
Warranty 3 years / 100,000 kilometers
The Basic
Body Type 4-door Sedan
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 1.5
Aspiration Normally Aspirated
Fuel Delivery Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 110 @ 6,000
Nm @ rpm 141 @ 4,000
Fuel / Min. Octane Gasoline / 91~
Transmission 6 AT
Cruise Control No
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 11.1 km/L @ 18 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,340
Width (mm) 1,695
Height (mm) 1,485
Wheelbase (mm) 2,570
Curb Weight (kg) 1,068
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Torsion Beam Axle
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Dunlop Enasave EC300+ 185/60 R 16 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 2
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Rear with Camera
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 3
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps No
Auto Lights No
Rain-sensing Wipers No
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Manual, 6-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Manual, 4-way
Seating Surface Fabric
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Yes
Audio System Stereo
Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes


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