Shopping for a new trolley

City car stakes a claim for residency

ALEX INWOOD

IF IíD known it was going to consume so much brain power, Iíd have quashed the thought as soon as it entered my mind.

But I didnít. And now Iím bitter, twisted and confused, all over six seemingly innocent words: ďShould I buy a new car?Ē

The question arrived as I was washing my beloved Mk5 Golf GTI, prompted by a terrible realisation Ė I couldnít remember the last time I took my personal hot hatch for a proper drive. Between supplied test cars and long-termers, the Golf had faded into obscurity, forcing me to consider a hard truth: I should sell it.

But what to buy? I decided it should be something old, interesting and oozing with character, like an original Mk1 Golf GTI, an Alfa Spider or a VW Kombi, but then my wife muddied the waters even further by suggesting the Mazda 2.

Our red Genki goes back to Mazda next week, meaning that after three months itís time to level the only question that matters at the end of a long-term test: Would I buy it? The answer, which mercifully could put an end to my night-time detective work, is a full-bodied and resounding ĎYes!í.

It would have to be a Genki Ė I love my long-termerís premium interior and sharperlooking alloys too much to slum it in a Maxx or base Neo Ė and Iíd definitely option the $420 reversing camera and the six-speed manual íbox, but Mazdaís SkyActiv city car has won me over.

Key to this bond has been the 2ís 1.5-litre engine, which has not only been efficient (my three-month average of 5.8L/100km, mostly in city traffic, is impressively close to Mazdaís 5.2 claim) but oozes personality. Yes, its incredible tractability (see breakout above) means itís happy to slip effortlessly through city traffic with minimal gearchanges, but Stretch and flex Stretch and flex IíVE been banging on about it for months, but to prove just how tractable the 2ís little 1.5-litre atmo four is, I developed a game on the many roundabouts and speed humps near my home. The goal was simple: to use the highest gear, at the lowest speed, and with the least revs possible to see when the 2 would begin to shudder in protest. Astonishingly, the 2 not only climbed the obstacles in third and fourth with ease, but even pulled cleanly from 700rpm at 19km/h in fifth! Yes, really!

OurGarage

throw the 2 some revs and the drivetrain can also be engaging. The little unit pulls hard and cleanly while emitting an endearing whine that, high in the rev range, makes it sound supercharged. Itís a drivetrain that, like the 2ís polished interior, gives it a sense of solidity and, unlike some of its rivals, means it never feels like a car built to a price.

Even the cabin has character, with bright red stripes on the seats and a head-up display system that, thanks to sharp moulded triangles on the dash, makes the 2ís instrument cluster feel like a fighter jetís.

The one stumbling block is the 2ís image.

Almost everyone in my social circle has said, ďbut isnít that a girlís car?Ē Admittedly this is a criticism I myself applied to the previous Mazda 2, and technically my mates are right; Mazda says 76 percent of 2 buyers will be female. But surely no one could label my Genkiís pumped-up, muscular styling and angular grille as feminine? Imagine how good it would look in bitch black, or stark white, with a slightly lower ride height and some BBS wheels.

After three months together, Iíve bonded with the little car from Hiroshima. Girlís car or not, itís a city car Iíd buy in a heartbeat.

STEAK AND SIZZLE

Integrated central air vent is a beautiful design touch, as are Mazdaís tactile, quality-feel climate control dials

Gauge rage

AT THE start of every fill, the 2ís fuel tank feels like a neverending packet of Tim Tams. For the first 200km, the fuel gauge resolutely reads full, making the driver think the entire tank will lastÖ forever. Of course, this is a cruel trick. Each quarter of the tank is split into three bars and once that first one drops, the rest of the bars disappear quickly. The furthest I travelled on a tank was 644km on the freeway, meaning each of the remaining bars lasted just 40km.

MAZDA 2 GENKI

Date acquired: February 2015 Price as tested: $20,190 This month: 1163km @ 6.1L/100km Overall: 3997km @ 5.8L/100km