The newest member to the B-segment has issued an alert to the establishment - watch out Toyota Yaris, don't get too comfortable Volkswagen Polo, the Mazda2 has you in its sights.
Easily the most adorable of the Mazda range, Mazda2 is now available in South Africa just months after its global unveiling at the Geneva Motor Show in March.
And it has a key role to play for Mazda in the local automotive landscape, filling the gaping hole in the bottom end of the price spectrum left by the demise of the 323.
Thank the stars for "zoom-zoom" since the Mazda2 is infinitely more good-looking than the 323 could ever dream of being.
It certainly attracts a great deal of envious glances, whether by its fresh styling or interesting mix of 12 vibrant colours.
But Mazda2's styling is probably its most distinctive quality. Following through with the styling ideology currently seen across the Mazda range, the baby of the bunch's flowing curves, pert rear and wheel-at-each-corner stance just yell "Look at me!".
Designed to appeal to younger buyers, styling is energetic and fresh, especially considering Mazda2's compact dimensions. Mazda does claim it too be practically 100 kg than its predecessor, the Demio.
However, the Mazda suits are convinced that the car's fun personality, handling and performance will give it an edge in the market place.
No MPS, yet...
Five derivatives are offered in South Africa with a choice of two powerplants.
The 1.3-litre has a maximum power output of 62 kW at 6 000 r/min and peak torque figure of 121 Nm at 3 500 r/min while the 1.5-litre with sequential valve timing produces 76 kW and 136 Nm at 6 000 and 4 000 r/min, respectively.
Mazda officials from Japan been involved in the project from its conception stages confirmed that only two engines have been developed for the little newcomer. We'd like to think that could change in the future... Imagine a little 2MPS!
Until then, available cars have 42.8l fuel tanks with quoted consumption of 5.4 l/100 km for the 1.3 and 5.9 l/100 km for the 1.5 - figures claimed as being best in class.
And while journos on the launch were not too concerned with achieving those claimed consumption figures, I can report that the 1.3-litre is quite the lively performer. We had the four-cylinder happily thrumming along and easily keeping pace with Cape Town's mid-afternoon traffic melee.
Moving up a tier, the 1.5-litre also impressed with its great acceleration off the line and easy cruising abilities.
Mechanically identical, both cars ride on a McPherson strut and torsion beam arrangement that allows them to be very agile handlers. It really bites into corners with terrier-like gusto - and grips like an errant munchkin's bubblegum to said terrier's coat.
Steering feedback on a car this size is superb too, allowing placement with the greatest accuracy. Happy happy!
Not that you'd always feel the need to be in a hurry in this car. The space inside the cabin is humongous (when compared with the exterior proportions) and it could, to some people, create the impression that they are carting their favourite sofa around with them.
Also, the high roofline and clear uncluttered facia contribute to the feeling of wide open spaces. I found the hang-down console, with its pod-like arrangement for the audio and air-conditioning controls to be particularly neat.
Seat positioning is good too, and seats are adjustable for height.
With the exception of the entry-level 1.3 Original (which is not available at launch), all models are equipped with air conditioning.
Big car nice-to-haves like power folding mirrors, power mirrors, rear fog lamps, an MP3 compatible radio/CD player, auxiliary input jack, dual front airbags, ABS with EBD, remote central locking and keyless entry are some of the standard features across the entire range.
At the other end of the spectrum, the range-topping 1.5 Individual also adds items like climate control, power windows all round, rain sensing wipers, six-CD shuttle, side and curtain airbags and keyless entry to its list of features.
The Mazda Sport Appearance Pack comes with front fog lamps, alloy wheels, a rer spoiler and different grille and is offered as standard on the 1.3 and 1.5 Dynamic and the 1.5 Individual, helping to set these models apart.
1.3 Active - R124 990
1.3 Dynamic - R137 990
1.5 Dynamic - R145 990
1.5 Individual - R158 990
1.3 Original - R116 990 not available at launch
All cars come with a 15 000 km service interval. A four-year/60 000 km service plan and three-year/100 000 km warranty are included in the price.