2013 Mazda 2 Review

Pint sized hero

By Imthishan Giado

2012 Mazda 2

For a country that loves big thirsty SUVs and muscle cars, there are such a lot of small cars running around. And really, considering how small Dubai is a cheap nimble runabout makes a lot of sense – hence the ubiquity of the Toyota Yaris and other small cars of its ilk like the Suzuki Celerio.

2012 Mazda 2

But, to quote the immortal words of Master Yoda, there is another – even if it’s one you’re hardly seen on the roads.

In the UAE at least, the Mazda 2 is the forgotten supermini, the twin of the equally unloved Ford Fiesta. Believe it or not, the current generation has been on sale since 2007, although it only reached our dusty shores in the last few moments of the decade. It then proceeded to make no impact whatsoever on the local market, despite being available in a wide variety of fruity colours – a strategy that incidentally Nissan is also hoping will work in its new Micra.

So what gives? Why review an old car like the 2 that no one seems to be buying in any great numbers? Well, part of our job is to seek out and inform you about every car in the market, not just the popular ones. And in that regard the Mazda 2 is actually a bit of a winner.

Take the styling for instance. While the Yaris has traded its funky flavour in for a sober business suit in its latest incarnation, the blobby, aggressively cab forward styling of the 2 marks it out as a proper ‘youth’ car, not to mention that perky upturned boot. Clad in this eye-searing red paint, this is a city car that promises squirty fun in the back streets, not days of depressing motorway mileage. Even those tiny little 15-inch alloys are just the right style, sporting cheeky little knife edges rather than clean-me-easily hubcaps.

2012 Mazda 2

Smartly, the glasshouse is widest at the front so the driver gets an epic sweeping view of the road. Does that automatically mean a claustrophobic view for the rear passengers with the rising beltline. Not really. As small cars go, all that glass means that the 2 is a comfortable airy place to be although as you’ll find later, it has its drawbacks.

2012 Mazda 2If there’s one place the 2 shows its age, its in the interior. It’s oh-so-2007, when bulbous and pod-like instruments were all the rage, not to mention cheap-looking silver paint all over the console. Cute, but it lacks that grown-up feel that UAE buyers tend to prefer even in their spunky superminis.

More annoying is the plastics quality. Yes, it feels relatively robust and seems to have held up to abuse well even on this well-travelled 11,000km test car, but the problem is that it looks awful. The dashboard is so shiny that it threatens to blind you on a bright day and it feels pretty scratchy and nasty to boot. Not to mention, the houndstooth pattern Mazda has embedded into the surface picks up dust and dirt like no tomorrow.

Equipment? What equipment? While not as spartan as the infamous Renault Duster, this is still a very basic car with no more than the essentials. So you get power steering, electric windows and a single slot CD player with an AUX input but no standard Bluetooth. Want to change the head unit? No dice, since it’s custom moulded into the dash, so you’re stuck with its so-so sound quality. Steering wheels controls? Keyless Go? Don’t be ridiculous.

2012 Mazda 2

Though the seats look flatter than Kate Moss’s chest, the comfort levels are surprisingly high. Credit the well-padded cushions and headrests, which feel like a familiar sofa. True, they don’t grip particularly well during lateral cornering but it’s the right choice for a car that will pound the pavement all day long and needs to feel like an extension of your living room.

2012 Mazda 2

Which brings me neatly around to the best part of the Mazda 2: the driving experience. It may only have 100bhp under the hood courtesy of its 1.5-litre four cylinder engine but that’s 16bhp more than the Yaris, not to mention 10lb ft more torque as well. In a car that weights just over a ton, that’s enough juice to induce wheelspin off the line all the way into second gear.

Yes, the Mazda 2 is an absolute hoot to drive hard. The little engine spins up eagerly to 7000rpm but you don’t need to keep the revs in the stratosphere; there’s plenty of poke to get you up to cruising speeds of 100kph. You’ll also appreciate the keen feeling of the steering which feels perfectly weighted with a sharp turn and quick reflexes for cutting through city traffic. Of course you can expect plenty of body roll – this is only a little supermini after all – but there’s no surfeit of grip and if driven well and holding onto momentum, the little 2 may well surprise you with how many faster cars it can hang onto through the bends.

Unfortunately, the Mazda 2 has two big, big drawbacks. First, all the hooning around means the fuel economy is great and you’ll be lucky to break 400km on a tank – not good for a car that’s ostensibly all about saving you gas. Blame the low-geared four-speed transmission for that – a six-speed really should be standard in the class.

Second and more importantly where we live, the A/C is  in my well-worn test car proved barely adequate for keeping that big glassy cabin cool in the worst of our summer weather. In near-50 degree heat, the 2 can just about maintain a cool – not cold – temperature if you’re on the highway, but in the city it really struggles amidst the life-sapping heat being emitted by neighbouring traffic. And if you’ve left it outdoors? Forget it. Even after 45 minutes on the road, I was still sweating.

Granted, this was a demo car with 11,000 hard kilometres, and Mazdas I’ve owned in the past have had better A/Cs, but they’ve never been quite up to the mark of the HVAC units from Toyota and Nissan – level with Honda at best.

Verdict

Should poor A/C write off the Mazda 2? Almost, but not quite. The little red Mazda really is so much fun to drive and so comfortable that it very nearly makes for its lack of cooling BTUs. Much like its Yaris rival, this is the epitome of the old adage, ‘slow cars are more fun to drive fast than vice versa’. What’s more, it’s spacious, practical, comfortable and bereft of any of the weird styling touches like the motorcycle gauges you get in the Sonic. It’s just a simple fun little car that leaves a big grin in your face every time you exit it.

Not to mention, sweat stains on your shirt.

Specs

Price: AED49,000($13, 340)
Engine: 1.5-litre four-cylinder, 100bhp @ 6000rpm, 98lb ft @ 4000rpm
Performance: 0-100kph 10.0 seconds (est)
Transmission: four-speed auto, front-wheel drive, 7.5L/100km
Weight: 1073kg

6 responses to “2013 Mazda 2 Review”

  1. Ronman says:

    Lived with this car for three years in Lebanon, and I wouldn’t mind going back to it… it’s peppy, corners nicely (it could do with wider tires though) looks good and if driven logically turns a good mileage (yes it could be better with a 6 speeder but then the weight would suffer).

    Plastics on the inside in our MY09 were much more practical and looked better than the 10 and 11 MYs… those had a lot of painted silver and shiny black… seats are comfy and the Aux input was quite unique at the time, neither the Jazz or any other close competitor offered it then, but in today’s world, yesterday’s in can quickly seem inadequate or not good enough.

    the 2 was also the first car in its class to get electric power steering, and its lightweight design – sub 1 ton – made all the difference in the performance department, and the brakes were so over the top that you didn’t mind the rear drums at all, and the OEM tires, though wanting in the wet performed superbly in the dry.

    I never thought the A/C would under-deliver in this market, i remember it was absolutely freezing even in the height of Lebanon’s 3 Summers with temps in the high 40s and it was parked outside 98% of the time. perhaps the cooling issue is particular to that test car you had…

    My only issue with that car was the coarseness of the engine, it always sounded like a diesel clacking it’s way about when cold, sounded terrible especially in the winter, until the engine warmed up, then it got marginally better… the rear trunk was spacious for the segment, but not the biggest, that’s the only area where the Jazz/Fit won over this car outright. but it still did fit by Baby’s full size push chair and good bit of shopping.

  2. shah says:

    Have been driving it for a year now and A/C performance is good. I am surprised to read your comments on A/C…

  3. Khalfan sayed says:

    I am planning to buy this car for my son and have already taken a test drive. The car is fantastic and have checked with two colleagues in my office who have no complaints at all not even A/C but only problem is that Service centre is in Deira which is far from where i live (DSO).

  4. Azaan says:

    Imthishan, you surely are right about the driving pleasure of the Mazda 2. Regularly drove a rented Mazda 2 through the back roads in Dallas and had loads of fun maneuvering the corners. I am quite a fan of the sporty fun that Mazda packs into its cars.

    Brought the same car in the UAE, couple of months ago and haven’t been disappointed. I love the young appeal and spirit of the compact and my car is as cool as ever. Am on the roads most of the time and have driven around extensively without any woes. The car is cool and has kept me cool. I would say it’s a small car with a big personality.

    You completely nailed it, “It’s a simple fun little car that leaves a big grin on your face every time you exit it.”

  5. Azaan says:

    Hi Khalfan,

    Go ahead with the car. I drop mine at the Sheikh Zayed Road showroom for servicing and pick it up from the same showroom. The turn around time is short. Servicing is excellent. Post every servicing, I have received a call from the customer service to check my satisfaction with the service. I would say both in terms of the product and the after-service, Mazda 2 delivers beyond its price tag.

  6. admin says:

    I’m convinced the cooling issues were endemic to the car I had on test so I’ve updated the text slightly to reflect the fact, although Mazda A/Cs have never really impressed me in the worst heat of the summer.

    Memories of driving to Abu Dhabi in 50 degrees with my tiny MX-5 A/C desperately trying to cool down the cabin don’t fade easily!

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