17 April 2015
Dave Leggett | Waikato Times
The latest edition of Mazda's supermini comes on to the market with one of the biggest selections of hitech features in its segment, writes Dave Leggett.
There's always been a trickle down of technical advances from the luxury cars into the smaller mainstream vehicles.
So push button starters, first introduced in upmarket models, eventually replaced the crank handle in the mass market. And other features came down the chain as production costs dropped with economies of scale and customer demand forced manufacturers to offer features that made motoring easier.
It was the same with in-car entertainment and safety features. These days, car makers just would not be able to sell a vehicle, even at the bottom end of the market, without airbags or anti-lock braking - or carpets and a halfway decent audio system.
The technological features now available in an ordinary five-door family hatch would have been incomprehensible even 30 years ago. Now they are virtually taken for granted.
Take the latest generation Mazda2, which the Japanese car maker launched here last December.
The small five-door sits at the bottom of the Mazda range and the highest spec model, the Mazda2 Limited, is priced at just over $27,500. Yet this supermini family runabout has technical Continued page 6
Small car with big car features Continued from page 5 features that were unlikely to have be found in most prestige models less than 10 years ago, such is the speed of technical progress in the auto industry.
The Mazda2 uses the latest version of what the Japanese car maker calls its I-ActiveSense suite of electronic safety features. The system debuted in the latest Mazda6, more than two years ago, and then came down to the compact Mazda 3 18 months ago before its use in the Mazda2 .
It uses radar and cameras to alert the driver to potential hazards and then allows them to take action to prevent the accident.
There is Blind Spot Monitoring which detects vehicles approaching from the blind spot areas at the sides and rear of the car and Rear Cross Traffic Alert which tells the driver of vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists approaching from either side when the driver is reversing out of a garage or parking space.
The High Beam Control System automatically switches between the headlight's high and low beams, while the Lane Departure Warning System tells the driver when he or she has edged out of their lane to go off the road or into the path of other traffic.
And then there is Smart City Brake Support, designed to stop low speed nose to tail crashes, or at least reduce the damage, by automatically braking the car if the driver doesn't.
All these features are on top of the stability and traction control systems, which have featured in virtually all cars, big and small, for the past decade. These are linked to the car's anti lock braking system and use electronic sensors to improve car control in abnormal situations.
Add features like daytime LED running lights, and the car's stronger and more rigid body the underbody and sides of the new Mazda2 are around 15 per cent stronger than the last model - as well as traditional safety features like the six airbags and seatbelt pretensioners and it all helps make the Mazda2 safer and more driver friendly.
So too does the heads up display, a first for a car in the Mazda2's segment, which puts the vehicle's speed right in front of the driver's eyes, along with navigation details.
The navigation system is part of the Mazda2's MZD Connect connectivity system. This is similar to the system used in the Mazda 3, further evidence of the technology coming down the range. It also connects the car with social media and external entertainment systems, all displayed on a 7-inch fasciamounted screen, just like the bigger Mazda models.
It helps make the Mazda2's interior look very similar to that in the Mazda 3. And that helps make this new model feel a much bigger car than its predecessor. It is considerably larger - some 16cm longer and with a 8cm longer wheelbase - and it feels it.
Those extra dimensions give the Mazda2 its big car feeling similar to its larger Mazda 3 brother. It no longer feels like a small car, its solid ride and good behaviour helping with the big car feel.
Even the electric power assisted steering helps that impression. This new model gets a quicker steering gear ratio as well as a different mounting system. It seems to have worked and the car now has instant driver appeal and an agility that suggests a more sporting character than the last model.
This is helped by the cabin design with its emphasis on black and red - red stitching and black panels, red stripes on the black sports style seats. It's a far cry from the plain, plastic look of some offerings in this segment.
Like all the Mazda2 models, power comes through a new direct injection 1.5-litre petrol engine matched to a six speed automatic transmission.
It's a good performer with a very reasonable 81kW and 141Nm produced. It's not road-ripping performance but it's plenty from that size of engine and it never feels underpowered. A sports mode on the transmission also helps make the gear changes more aggressive and holds the gears longer. which also improves driver appeal.
Mazda says the auto car will do an admirable 4.9 litres per 100km, but not if the driver pushes it.
However, on the other side of the ledger a stop-start feature that turns the engine off at lights and intersections when the car comes to a standstill helps with its economy.
The new Mazda2's extra size is only felt in the front of the car.
The rear seat room is still tight, especially with the front seats pushed back. And the boot, a similar sized space to the previous model, is nowhere near the size of Mazda 3's boot. In its normal configuration, it holds 250 litres although this can be extended by dropping the seat backs.
Perhaps that's all deliberate.
Mazda wouldn't want this new model to take too many sales off the very successful Mazda 3.
At a glance Technical details: 1496cc, four cylinder direct injection petrol.
81kW/6000rpm, 141Nm/ 4000rpm. 44-litre fuel tank. Six speed automatic transmission.
MacPherson strut front suspension with torsion beam at rear. Electric power assist steering. Ventilated disc brakes at front with drums at rear. ABS, EBD, EBA, traction and stability control.
Dimensions: Length 4060mm, width 1695mm, height 1495mm, wheelbase 2570mm. Kerb weight 1047kg.
Price: $28,595 Points out of ten: styling 8, comfort 7, handling 7, performance 7.
Pluses: Striking looks and very well spec-ed Minuses: Tight rear leg space and small boot