In an SUV-mad market it’s now mildly surprising when a small car gets a sedan variant and more surprising still when a carmaker goes through the aggro of getting it ready for sale in Australia.
The Mazda2 sedan doesn’t have a lot of competition but when the small sedan segment is tiny to start with, the Japanese company will want the sedan to fire.
The 2 Neo sedan kicks off at a very competitive $14,990 for the six-speed manual, which was our car for the week.
It rolls on fifteen-inch steel wheels, has a four speaker stereo with USB and Bluetooth, cloth interior, air-conditioning, reversing sensors, cruise control, hill holder, power mirrors and windows, keyless start and remote central locking and a space saver spare.
Options are limited to $200 Soul Red paint and what Mazda calls Smart City Brake Support for $400.
Mazda2 sedan is, as the name suggests, a sedan version of the ‘2 hatch. Everything is pretty much the same from the B-pillar forward, with a quite successful lengthening of the rear section to add 26 centimetres. The boot is 440L versus 250L for the five-door hatchback and a very useful shape. The boot opens high and wide, meaning easy access.
The sheetmetal is a smidge dumpy, but when you’re working with these proportions, it’s never easy to get it bang on. It looks a bit bare from the back, too, the lights marooned in an expanse of flat metal.
The rear seats, which have good head and shoulder room for under six-footers, also split fold to increase the load space. Leg room is a bit tight, however, if you’re approaching six feet tall. A middle passenger won’t be particularly happy no matter how tall they are unless the outboard passengers are slight of build.
While the interior is trimmed with tremendously hard plastics, they all look great and the only let-down is the very silly dashboard – one single circular dial is flanked by wing-like ancillary screens that are tiny and hard to read.
The Mazda2 Neo has six airbags, ABS, traction and stability control, brake force distribution and pretensioned / load-limited seatbelts up front.
Being a basic car, basic is what you get. There’s a single line LCD screen attached to the dash, with big easy to read figures. Your four-speaker stereo does a perfectly adequate job with radio or your music and pairs easily with smartphones.
ENGINE / TRANSMISSION
Under the bonnet is a 1.5-litre naturally-aspirated four-cylinder mated to a six-speed manual transmission. The engine spins out 79 kW and 129 Nm while using a claimed 5.4 litres per 100 kilometres. The manual misses out on stop-start, with the automatics faring slightly better on the official figure with the fuel-saving technology. Our exclusively city-driven time with the ‘2 saw us average just on 8.0L/100km.
A 0-100km/h is not supplied and, if you think about it, fairly irrelevant.
It came as no surprise to find that the little Mazda is great fun to drive, even in this most basic form. It won’t be winning traffic light races any time soon, but the fluid chassis and (mostly) excellent ride inherited from the hatch means this car won’t disappoint drivers or passengers.
The drive-by-wire throttle is tuned to a good middle ground, giving the feeling of excellent off-the-line performance (okay, “zoomy”) where it counts around the city and suburbs.
You do have to rev it to get to the torque, though, which explains our fuel average. Once you’re moving and in the zone, momentum is easy to maintain unless you’re fully loaded and pointed up a hill.
The steering is more of the same, with a good progressive feel and excellent work has been done on the electric-assisted rack to give it a more natural feel.
The gearshift is light and easy and it takes talent to grab the wrong gear. Often carmakers like to go with a clutch that feels like it’s attached to a super-weak rubber band leaving you wondering where the bite point is, but again there’s just the right level of weight and feel to make driving the manual a pleasure rather than a chore.
Wind and road noise are present but aren’t intrusive until you get up to highway speed, leaving the four speaker stereo with a little work to do to cover what’s there.
For such a small car, it does feel a size bigger, despite its 1035kg kerb weight, another big plus and a contributor to how much fun it is to drive. If it had better tyres, it would be a proper hoot.
SUMMING UP 3.5/5
The thing about the Mazda2 sedan is that it’s vastly better than its obvious competition from Mitsubishi and Honda. The Mirage sedan looks pretty silly and isn’t finished to anywhere near the standard of the ‘2 and as a driving experience is unforgettable for the wrong reasons. Honda’s City is perfectly competent but pretty dull, with some suspect trim finishes. All three are built in Thailand, but the Mazda is by far the best.
The ‘2 scores on all fronts – price, equipment, safety, dynamics and space. Like its hatch sibling, its right at the top of its class. In sedan form, it’s way ahead of anything else.
Likes: Good interior space, fun drive, excellent engine and transmission
Dislikes: Plastics feel cheap in places, few options, ride a big fidgety in the back