Mazda 2 Sedan

Finally, a good reason to put the boot in

BYRON MATHIOUDAKIS

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

LAST YEAR Wheels tested four baby sedans – Honda City, Holden Barina, Hyundai Accent and Mitsubishi Mirage – and all were found wanting.

It was a puzzle why people wouldn’t just choose their prettier and lighter hatchback counterparts instead.

Now Mazda reckons it’s cracked the code with the 2 sedan. With a swoopy, scaled-down 3-style silhouette instead of the lumbering bull-ant look of most rivals, we’re actually paying attention.

Except for the obvious (a 440-litre boot trumps the hatchback’s 250L compartment), little separates sedan from hatch inside. The same funky dash, intelligent control layout, excellent driving position and supportive front seats apply, save for minor trim-pattern alterations.

While some road noise is evident riding in the back (in roomy and comfy surroundings), the four-door isn’t too loud. This alone might sway some fencesitters to think outside the 2-box.

Two 1.5-litre direct-injection four-pot petrol engine choices lurk at the pointy end, with the base Neo using the 79kW/139Nm V-P5, while the mid-spec Maxx scores a higher-compression 81kW/141Nm F-P5 with idle-stop.

Better fuel economy aside, the latter’s differences are miniscule; both rev sweetly, pull hard past the 6200rpm redline and imbue the smallest Mazda with a lively spirit, aided by one of the most delicious manual shifters around.

Also notable is the slick sixspeed auto, particularly in ‘Sport’ mode, which holds ratios when needs dictate.

Happily, the hatch’s (electric) steering and (strut front/torsion beam rear) suspension smarts also make the transition intact.

And contained overhangs, a lower roof, less ground clearance, and weight rises of only 10-15kg keep the sedan feeling equally as sharp and composed, as sampled through the at-times interesting tucks and turns of the Adelaide Hills test route.

Besides its dorky design, one reason why the previous 2 sedan (available only in 2010/11) flopped was because of a hefty $20K opening gambit. Now Mazda has aligned prices for the successor with the Neo ($14,990) and Maxx ($17,690) hatch variants.

Maxx sedan and hatch models now cost $700 more, but that’s because they gain the larger MZD Connect multimedia touchscreen and reversing camera in both body styles. Better still, cruise and rear sensors are now included range-wide, with Autonomous Emergency Braking adding $400.

Lower prices, higher spec and a whole lot better look – the 2 sedan finally delivers a three-box baby that speaks to us. And, we’re confident, to you as well. ually

PLUS & MINUS

Some road noise; tiny and ugly tacho; the hatch still looks sassier Integrated styling; massive boot; sporty dynamics, strong value Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Kerb weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mazda 2 Neo sedan 1496cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v 79kW @ 6000rpm 139Nm @ 4000rpm 6-speed automatic 1059kg 10.7sec (estimated) 5.5L/100km $16,990 Now

Slimmer’s cheat sheet

DEVELOPED concurrently with the hatchback in Japan, designer Shigeki Nakamura believes the 2 sedan’s styling succeeds where rivals fail because of the ‘cab-rearward’ approach, which calls for a long bonnet, short boot, extended wheelbase and more steeply raked windscreen pillars than the daggier previous-gen iteration. Bulk-relieving side feature lines, horizontal tail-lights that taper into the bootlid, and a numberplate valance that is free of extraneous trim also help.