By Gerhard Horn
I used to fall off my motorcycle a lot.
I wish I could blame the various scars on the poor state of South African roads, or people in cages not having enough respect for those of us on two wheels, but that would be dishonest. Being a young man at university, I had a burning desire to look cool.
As such, I would try various stunts which I had hoped would look cool to everyone around me, but the results often had the opposite effect. One particular scar on my right leg serves as a constant reminder that braking on wet leaves in the hopes of inducing a wicked slide, is never a good idea.
I had said motorcycle for about six months before my parents took it away and gifted it to someone less fortunate than me. My parental units had taken my wheels and intended to lock me in a cage. (For those not familiar with biker lings, a cage is a car. My parents didn’t actually lock me in a cage).
After a few weeks of shopping around, we settled on a Nissan Micra. It would be mine, after which it would be handed over to my younger sibling and then eventually back to my parents.
It was a fancy little car back then. For R128 000, you got a CD player, air-conditioning, power steering and a dash that looked a little bit like a washing machine from 1985. Basically, it was a small car with big car luxuries, which inspired the motoring community to coin the term “supermini.”
These days, everyone sells a supermini and it’s not hard to see why. You get the latest gadgets and all the comfort you could reasonably expect, but packaged in a car that’s easy to park and cheap to run.
This Mazda 2 is a prime example of the breed, but I must admit that I almost fell out of my chair in a state of shock on the day I clicked on Mazda’s online price list. This little car – the smallest car Mazda sells in South Africa – retails for nearly R300 000.
Okay, so it’s the top-of-the-line model, but still. That’s what an MX-5 cost 10 years ago…
In perspective, the pricing isn’t actually that bad. After checking the competitor pricing, I realised that it’s pretty much what one might expect to pay for a supermini these days. At the bottom-end of the range you’re looking at around R200 000, while models with all the luxuries added are around R100 000 more.
For that princely sum, one should rightfully expect perfection, which means I was honestly looking forward to my drive home that afternoon. Having spent the last few years driving around in large 4x4s, I couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel of something you can fit into one of those tiny gated community garages.
At first the suspension felt too hard, but that’s something I can blame the government for. After the recent heavy downpours, the roads in and around Joburg are in a poor state. Driving home these days is about as bumpy as flying through a thunderstorm in a small aircraft.
Once you find yourself outside the confines of the city, the suspension setup makes a lot more sense. Mazda has given the world a host of legendary sporty vehicles over the last few decades, and some of that DNA is present in this little hatch. The suspension appears to be the perfect blend between firm and pliable, just as it should be. I don’t want to lose my dentures whenever I’m faced with a speed bump, but I also like to feel what’s going on underneath the car. The steering feel is also spot-on. It’s heavier than on the average supermini and the steering rack appears to be quicker, but, once again, I like it that way. It all comes together nicely to create a car that feels solid and predictable, but also more than happy to comply when you feel like pushing on a bit.
And, surprisingly, you’d want to push on in this particular model, even though it’s fuelled by diesel and is fitted with an automatic gearbox. The official figures supplied by Mazda are 77kW and 250Nm of torque, but it feels faster than that.
There’s a small amount of lag, but once the turbo starts doing its job, there’s not much (in the supermini segment at least) that can keep up with this. The Ford Fiesta EcoBoost and Suzuki Swift Sport spring to mind, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Mazda can outrun both.
I do know for a fact that it can easily beat both when it comes to fuel consumption. Mazda claims a figure of 4.4l/100km, I managed around 6l/100km. That’s a decent figure especially since I’m a firm believer that life is far too short to drive economically.
With comfort, performance and handling sorted, let’s move on to the second part that elevates a hatch to supermini stature – the features.
The 2 has more standard features than you could reasonably expect, including climate control, leather seat trim and satellite navigation. You also get two USB ports, satellite controls on the steering wheel, Bluetooth connectivity for music streaming and phone calls and a voice activation system than can actually understand a South African with an Afrikaans accent. Usually fancy cars have no idea what I’m on about, but this little Mazda did everything I asked it to do.
Most of all, I enjoyed the minimalist interior styling. This kind of interior is definitely the way forward, as can be seen on a few R1 million models these days.
Almost everything is controlled via a rotary dial mounted between the seats and a screen neatly mounted on top of the dash. It seems daunting, but if you understand how the average smartphone operates, you’ll get the idea within minutes.
The space is ample enough for a family of four, but you’d struggle to fit luggage for an extended holiday. For that you need a CX-3 and the road test of that particular model will conveniently be supplied next week.
Overall the Mazda 2 is a splendid effort and definitely worth a look if you’re in the market for a supermini for inner-city duties.
Also look at: Opel Corsa, Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Honda Jazz.