Drive Road Test: Mazda 2 sedan 1.3 Active

From A to B

By Kyle Stone

I was rather surprised when a Mazda 2 sedan arrived at the office for a road test, Drive’s track record with Mazda’s is after all less than brilliant. Another harsh review for a Mazda would surely nail that particular coffin irreversibly shut, so it was with a sense of apprehension I approached the Mazda 2. But approach it I did, because my other options were a Renault Laguna with no fuel in it, a Hyundai Sonata with no fuel in it, or a Chevy Spark. The Spark was brim full of fuel for sure, but was parked further away. What I have discovered then is that there really is nothing wrong or broken with the Mazda 2, it isn’t an inspiring drive at all, that however isn’t the point for a volume seller anyway. In fact, any and all criticisms I can level at the Mazda 2, the meagre power for example, can easily be countered by the fact that this segment cannot be expected to provide punchy engines.

Some details though, we had the very bottom of the range engine Mazda 2 Sedan 1.3 Active for review, but it was the sedan boot model making it marginally more expensive than the bottom hatch with the same engine. Prices start at R168, 740, which was for me the only gripe I had with this car that couldn’t be dismissed by the unavoidable characteristics of the segment. The prettier Mazda 2 hatch for instance is cheaper, and whilst the boot in the sedan is justifiably huge for this segment, the hatch is hardly short of boot space. And then basically the same car, but with a more powerful 1.4L engine and even prettier still, the Ford Fiesta hatch is cheaper as well. Even notoriously over-priced VAG offer the 1.4L Polo Comfortline for R169, 180, essentially the same price, with the same equipment level. The Polo however comes with superior mechanical grip, a more powerful 1.4L engine with a better torque curve (helps with fuel economy thanks to not requiring endless revving) and much better build quality. In summary, if you want a Mazda 2, get the hatch, the booted one isn’t strong for those of you counting the rands and cents.

So maybe the price isn’t quite right, but what Mazda have nailed on the head is the ease of driving the Mazda 2. Let’s not beat about the bush, no matter what TV adverts from every manufacturer may claim, small city cars do not offer sporty performance and fun experiences. They’re cheap, economical transport. And this is what the Mazda 2 is built for, the driving experience is just about the easiest and most uneventful drive possible, an absolutely positive characteristic for a car of this nature. The clutch gearbox combination for instance, well it couldn’t possibly be any easier to operate. The five speed manual is well gated and slides the cogs in and out as smooth as you like. The clutch is light and requires no effort at all to master, it isn’t an on-off switch like so many others Drive has comes across. Anyone can hop in and instantly master gear shifts in the Mazda 2, something that cannot be said for every car in this segment.

Almost every feedback avenue of the Mazda 2 continues this trend, lightness and ease of use. The steering of course is as a result dead when it comes to feel, but is light and thus makes the sedan manoeuvrable and comfortably navigates city traffic. Furthermore the cabin is as quiet as you could expect, despite generous use of plastic materials road noise is a minimum and there were no squeaks or rattles to bother me. The engine noise is also at a minimum, in fact at idle it is inaudible. The brakes deserve a mention as well for their measured approach with no deadzone anywhere. Once again, as was the case with clutch, anyone can hop in an be instantly adjusted to the Mazda 2’s brakes no matter what they were previously driving. Sitting in the Mazda 2 then is a pleasant enough experience, although by no means equipped to the nines there are all the little things that really should be standard in this price range are. Air-con, mp3 sound system, auxiliary connection, and of course electric windows,it’s all there as standard. So the interior is comfortable enough, put together well and has all the basic equipment you’ll need and expect as opposed to just want.

I was somewhat disappointed by the engine, although it must be said it performed its primary function just fine. That is, it pedalled the Mazda around without consuming too much fuel. Claimed fuel consumption is 5.8L/100km, which is very good but does require you keeping a keen eye on the revs. In terms of power though, it is found a little wanting. The figures are fine, 63kW @ 6,000 rpm, as this is only marginally lower than equivalents such as the Fiesta. Torque is similarly just down on the Fiesta with the Mazda 2 able to muster 122Nm @ 3,500 rpm. The problem certainly seems to be how these numbers are delivered, not the maximum figures themselves. If you’re in the wrong gear in the Mazda with low revs there is virtually no hope of going anywhere. I found myself frequently slipping the clutch a little just to keep rpm up near the top, or downshifting of course, and this worked fine but the Mazda could definitely do with a wider torque band. Nevertheless, the engine isn’t a bad one, or a significant problem, just not the best either.

So there you have it, as an all-round mass market vehicle the Mazda 2 sedan doesn’t stumble significantly at any of its critical hurdles. I’ve got to be honest though, you shouldn’t buy the sedan, go for the hatch instead. The styling of the Mazda 2 was envisioned from the beginning as a hatch and the booted one seems at odds with itself. The hatch is cheaper anyway. Regardless of which variant you choose, the little 2 will get the job done with no fuss, quietly and efficiently. The warranty and service plan are decent in this regard, the warranty has you covered for 4 years/120, 000km, and the service plan runs 4 years/60,000km with service intervals being 15,000km long. If you want more than all this out of a car, well then you’re shopping the wrong segment.

Vital Statistics

Engine: In- line four cylinder naturally aspirated

Capacity (cc): 1349

Power (kW): 63 @ 6,000 rpm

Torque (Nm): 122 @ 3,500 rpm

Vehicle Tare Mass (kg): 995

Driven Wheels: Front

Transmission: 5 speed manual

Wheel/Tyre Dimensions: 175/65R14 82H

Price (base): R168, 740

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