It is hard to believe that Mazda and Ford have been divorced for three years. Since the split, Mazda’s product offering has grown in stature and quality.
Brian Joss – The current line-up consists of the Mazda2, Mazda3, CX-3, CX-5, MX-5 and the Mazda BT-50 (all reviewed), except the MX-5, which will be delivered to my doorstep in early November and will feature in the Gremlin soon thereafter.
I’ve also been able to put some of the vehicles through their paces on long haul round trips from Cape Town to Johannesburg. They were the CX-3, a bigger version of the Mazda2 and the 1.5 Mazda2 diesel, both fitted with automatic transmission.
Recently I had the upgraded 1.5 Mazda2 Individual Plus with a six speed automatic transmission to drive on the Peninsula’s highways and the byways and through some twisting mountain passes and it took everything in its stride. There’s not much to fault about the Mazda2, except for the small boot, 280 litres, which on balance is not much of a hardship, unless you have a large family. The seats have a 60/40 split to give you more luggage space if you need it.
The high spec compact comes with a host of new features. Not forgetting its tried and tested SkyActiv technology.
These include a heads-up display (HUD). Among others, it shows current speed and an icon displays the legal limit at which you should be driving.
This is particularly useful in Stellenbosch where “Big Brother” is always watching , even from a camera disguised as a small electric sub-station, on the way to Klapmuts.
You don’t have to take your eyes off the road and you can also adjust the height of the HUD to suit your eye-line. Another feature is the lane departure warning system (LDWS) which detects line marking on the road and it beeps if you cross it accidentally. Standard features on the Plus include cruise control, climate control, electric windows, electrically folding side mirrors and a rake and reach adjustable steering wheel, all plusses and nice-to-haves.
The Mazda2 has a naturally-aspirated engine that puts out 82 kW and 145 N.m of torque. It is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission which changes smoothly and there’s no hunting at all, or none that I could detect.
According to Mazda it can go from 0 to 100km/h in 10.4 secs, with a top speed of 184 km/h. So it isn’t exactly a pocket rocket.
Even though it’s automatic you can shift the gears manually through the paddles mounted on the steering wheel. You can also change it to “Sport”
mode by moving the switch in the centre console. However, if truth be told, I didn’t feel much difference in power. Mazda claims fuel consumption is 5.7 litres/100km. But again, that’s in the real world. The figures I recorded were closer to 7 litres/100km, which is good. And that was in all sorts of driving conditions.
The ride is comfortable, even on poorly surfaced, pot-holed roads, and it feels solidly planted on the tarmac. Once or twice, where there were no “Big Brothers” and I put my foot down, the engine seemed to battle a bit, but it soon regained its peppiness and all was well. If you want to drive like Speedy Gonzales then you’ll have to look elsewhere in this extremely competitive segment of the market. However, if the need for speed is not your priority, the Mazda2 fits the bill. Inside, the instrument panel has a sporty feel to it and the 7-inch touchscreen infotainment system can also be controlled using the dial in the centre console. It’s easy to use and the system can connect with your smartphone through Bluetooth. Standard are two USB ports and an auxiliary port. There are bottle holders on the doors and two cup holders as well, in the front. There is plenty of room in the front, and for average size passengers the rear is adequate, although taller people might find it a bit squashed.
The alphabet soup of safety features on the Plus include ABS with EBD, brake assist; six airbags and a reverse camera is also standard. Strangely, it doesn’t have electronic stability control (ESC).
I spent 10 days driving the Mazda2 and from the moment I climbed in I felt right at home. It was easy to find a comfortable driving position thanks to the adjustable steering wheel and seat. It’s an attractive looking vehicle thanks to its Kodo design language. The 1.5 Mazda2 Individual Plus with six speed automatic transmission has a price tag of R286 200 which represents good value for money. It includes a 3-year unlimited kilometre factory warranty, 3-year unlimited kilometre roadside assistance and 3-year unlimited kilometre service plan on passenger vehicles.