KNYSNA, Western Cape -Since Mazda’s solo ‘re-birth’ in South Africa – no longer a brand found under the umbrella of the Ford Motor Company – it now stands tall, strong and independent right around the globe.
In just a few months (September 2014) Mazda has re-entered the South African motoring market with three competitive models: the CX5, the new ‘3’ range and the flagship Mazda6.
Incidentally, that Mazda ‘3’ line-up is doing particularly well for this innovative and revitalised Japanese automaker. As an example to emphasise the brand’s popularity in South Africa it claims to outsell Ford’s Focus (January 2015) by a significant margin and the diesel-powered CX5 SUV resoundingly managed to better Honda CRV sales during the same period.
During the reveal of a fourth addition to the lineup – the latest Mazda2 – I couldn’t help but notice a feeling of real pride from the Mazda SA managing director David Hughes – a no-nonsense individual who was quick to acknowledge the hard work put in by the 50 or so Mazda dealers/service centres found countrywide in such a short period.
The timing for the SkyActiv* Mazda2 couldn’t have been better – only launched in Europe a month earlier – SA customers potentially get the chance to own one of the latest B segment models available anywhere in the world – and with prices starting from what appears to be a competitive R188 000 for the entry ‘Active’ model.
If I didn’t have your attention already, I suspect I do now!
There are six models in the all-new (fourth generation) Mazda2 lineup with a choice of two engines: 1.5-litre petrol (82kW/145Nm) and 77kW/250Nm in the case of the intercooled turbodiesel.
THREE MODELS TO DRIVE
There are four spec levels: Active (baseline), Dynamic, Individual and the flagship Hazumi Mazda2 – and thoughtfully there are automatic versions except in the case of the Hazumi TD derivative which comes with a six-speed auto box only.
Three of the top-specced models were made available this week (Feb 26/27) at the launch venue in an overcast Knysna Lagoon region… the all-round enjoyment of driving this newcomer proving anything but dull.
Good-looking from the front with more than a hint of a Mazda rotor design cue found in that grille area, the Mazda2 unashamedly mocks its siblings in profile – but there’s nothing wrong with that.
From the rear the newcomer does bear existing styling from the outgoing model – but cleverly ‘nipped and tucked’ this time around.
The four-door hatch (the only body style available right now) coped well with the occasional pothole [what is it with the writer’s infatuation with potholes, Ed.], the ride for me a little on the firm side but at the same time highlighting the excellent build-quality of this full Japanese import - no rattles or interior fittings trying to make a dash for freedom.
18cm TOUCH SCREEN
The cabin lacks for nothing in creature comfort with its soft-touch facia and classy switches and dials. Up front, across the range, can be found an 18cm touch screen that can also be operated by an intuitive controller switch (found alongside the handbrake), an ultra-modern system that allows downloading of specific apps – Apple or Android – along with internet radio – and of course popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.
Even on the entry-level Active there’s a whole raft of not-too-shabby creature comforts such as the above-mentioned touch screen, power-assisted steering/windows, aircon, a push-button start, tilt and telescoping (and multi-function) adjustable steering-wheel, trip-data computer, AM/FM tuner, single disc CD player and a pair of USB ports to permit the use of an iPod or similar device.
With a five-star NCap Euro safety rating, two crash-bags (driver and passenger) along with anti-lock brakes, the Mazda2 is certainly well-specced, I reckon.
True, the Active derivative possesses a set of steel wheel rims, but the elegant plastic hubcaps should always disguise that fact from your neighbour!
TOUCH OF CLASSY
Move up in the range (from R199 900) and there are, among other things, a handsome set of 16-inch alloy rims to complement the car, two-tone seats along with auto headlights. Navigation is optional (on all models, standard in the Hazuma).
All that’s required for this component to work is the (R3800) SD card, available exclusively from Mazda dealers. That’s about the same price as a good stick-on suction Bluetooth portable device but wouldn’t be as classy, methinks.
While diesel-powered models – no matter the brand – have in truth been slow to catch on with SA punters, Mazda has elected to bring to market a diesel derivative with the strange-sounding name Hazumi.
Kudos to them for this because the TD model may well account for only eight percent of projected Mazda2 sales – but in reality this particular model (R259 900) is a real peach to drive – and so quiet for diesel.
CHECK THE ADVANTAGE
Boasting torque of 250Nm from as low as 1500rpm and fuel consumption figures in the region of 4.4 litres/100km, this lively 1.5 flagship is definitely the pick of the bunch – with one proviso: diesel car ownership only makes sense if you rack up big mileages to cover the cost of purchase.
If you do less than 20 000km a year it could take you 10 years to recoup any advantage gained over its petrol-powered sibling based on purchase/running costs.
Mazda2 Active manual 1.5-litre (incl. VAT) R188 000
Mazda2 Dynamic manual 1.5-litre (incl. VAT) R199 900
Mazda2 Dynamic auto 1.5-litre (incl. VAT) R211 300
Mazda2 Individual manual 1.5-litre (incl. VAT) R211 400
Mazda2 Individual auto 1.5-litre (incl. VAT) R222 800
Mazda2 Hazumi TD 1.5-litre (incl. VAT) R259 900
The entire Mazda2 range is backed up by a four-year unlimited distance factory warranty. To provide complete peace-of-mind motoring a three-year roadside assistance and a three-year service plan are in place along with a five-year service plan. Servicing intervals 15 000km for both petrol and diesel derivatives.
*There are basically three components to Mazda’s unique SkyActiv technology, each helping towards the advancement of manufacturing better and safer cars: there’s high-compression engines (ie: 12:1, petrol 1.5-litre and 14:8 in the 1.5-litre turbodiesel) to achieve outstanding fuel consumption figures; combining the very best aspects to ensure the perfect transmission (variable and dual-clutch systems) to obtain smooth gear-changes; and the use of high- and ultra-strength steel in a chassis that maximises lightness and rigidity of the body design.
FLYING SOLO: Mazda has been re-born in South Africa after the company's split from auto giant Ford and the latest Mazda2 is one of the first products to re-arrive here. Image: DAVE FALL