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Small car buyers have yet another stylish new vehicle to choose from with the release of the Mazda2, the replacement for the 121 Metro. With a host of new competitors in the class, such as the Honda Jazz, Citroen C3 and VW Polo (to name just a few), the new Mazda faces some stiff opposition. As the bar continues to be raised with each new model, consumers continue to benefit from significantly improved motor vehicles that provide a better driving experience.
Like the 121 Metro, the Mazda2 is available in just one body configuration, a five-door hatchback. However, the body of the 2 is much more stylish than the boxy Metro and is larger in every dimension. The car's basic body structure and suspension set-up is based on Ford's latest European-built Fiesta platform that is not expected in Australia until 2004. Despite the common underpinnings, the appearance of the Mazda2 is unique, having been styled by Mazda in Japan, where it is built. Styling highlights include Mazda's latest five-point grille and slim headlights (' la Mazda6) that clearly identify the 2 as belonging to the Mazda family of vehicles.
There are three variants of Mazda2 available, curiously named Neo, Maxx and Genki (although no models actually carry any identification badges). All models are powered by an all-aluminium 1.5 litre 16 valve double-overhead-camshaft engine that produces a very healthy 82 kW (an increase of almost 28 per cent over Mazda's superseded 1.5 litre engine) at 6000 rpm. All versions are available with a five-speed-manual gearbox or a four-speed electronically-controlled automatic.
Mazda2 pricing starts at $17,790 for the Neo, with the mid-range Maxx from $20,570 and the Genki starting at $22,195. On-road costs are in addition to the above quoted prices and optioning the Mazda2 with an automatic transmission will cost an additional $1750.
The entry level Neo receives airconditioning, dual stage driver and front passenger airbags, power steering, central locking, tilt adjustable steering, engine immobiliser and an AM/FM stereo with single CD player as standard equipment.
Mazda expects the mid-spec Maxx (evaluated for this report) to account for more than 50 per cent of Mazda2 sales. In addition to the Neo's standard features, it also receives alloy wheels, remote central locking, power windows and mirrors, a six-stack CD changer, rear roof spoiler, height adjustable driver's seat and steering wheel audio controls. Genki buyers also receive anti-lock brakes, comprehensive body kit and front fog lamps.
The Mazda2 has terrific interior space for its size and a very versatile rear seating arrangement. Rear seat options include 100 mm of fore/aft movement, a double folding 50/50 split and the backrests may be fully reclined. The interior is fresh and modern, with all controls within easy reach. The light coloured interior trim may look bright, but it will mark quite easily.
The Mazda2 is an enjoyable and easy vehicle to drive. The windows are quite tall and offer excellent all-round vision. The new 1.5 litre engine is a lively performer, producing significantly more power than the old engine, but it does need quite a few revs on board before it really gets going. The engine's lack of low down pulling power was a bit disappointing. The manual transmission is pleasant enough to use and all the controls are light and easy to operate.
The Mazda's suspension set-up provides a particularly good combination of ride comfort and handling, and the cabin is well insulated from road noise (even at highway speeds). Nicely weighted steering gives the driver a good feel for the road, while large diameter brakes provide effective stopping power.
The new Mazda2 is a more stylish and versatile replacement for the 121 Metro. Bigger in every dimension, the 2 offers excellent interior space, significantly improved performance and good ride comfort that combine to make it a practical and pleasant vehicle to drive.
Test vehicle supplied by Mazda Australia Pty Limited.
|Body type||5-door hatchback|
|Country of manufacture||Japan|
|Warranty||Three years, unlimited km|
Neo - manual & auto
$17,790 - Neo
|Number of cylinders||4|
|Engine size||1.5 L|
|Induction||Electronic fuel injection|
|Claimed max power (kW)||82 kW @ 6000 rpm|
|Claimed max torque (Nm)||141 Nm @ 4000 rpm|
|Wheel size||15 "|
|Spare tyre type||Space saver|
|Type||Power assisted rack and pinion|
|Turns to lock||2.7 m|
|Width (including mirrors)||1680 mm|
|Fuel capacity||45 litres|
|Max towed mass (trailer plus load)||700 kg|
NRMA Theft Rating
|Points on scale 0 - 120 (high score is best)||84|
Acceleration - Test results
|50 - 80km/h||6.5 secs|
|60 - 100km/h||8.8 secs|
|0 - 80km/h||7.6 secs|
|0 - 100km/h||12.1 secs|
|Best recorded during testing||7.1 L/100km|
|Worst recorded during testing||9.0 L/100km|
|Average on test||8.3 L/100km|
|Distance to stop (from 80km/h)||30.5 metres|
|Interior noise at constant 80km/h||69 dB(A)|