Mazda 2

Three letters spell a safer, more refined baby

CAMERON KIRBY

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

THE MOTTO at Mazda HQ in Hiroshima seems to be that three-letter abbreviations improve everything. The Japanese automaker has thrown a bevy of TLAs at its light hatch in an effort to sweeten the package.

Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and the handling-enhancing G-Vectoring Control (GVC) systems are now standard across the range, as is improved Noise Vibration and Harshness (NVH) suppression.

A digital radio tuner (DAB+) now features from Maxx up.

The most important of these additions is the first. The Skoda Fabia pioneered standard AEB in this segment, but Mazda sells significantly more units that its Czech counterpart, which means many more drivers will benefit from the bingle-avoiding tech.

Thereís more buyer choice in the showroom, too. Joining the three existing variants Ė Neo, Maxx, and Genki Ė is a new flagship, the $21,680 GT. Prices otherwise remain unchanged, starting from $14,990 for the entry-level Neo fitted with a six-speed manual gearbox. Want an auto? Thatís an extra $2000.

The GVC system provides a subtle power reduction during turn-in to sharpen steering response, building on the 2ís fundamental handling talent. It gels with the uprated suspension and a recalibrated electromechanical power steering system.

Revised dampers allow the chassis to soak up most undulations while dealing well with potentially jarring bumps and potholes.

Mazda has made big strides in quelling NVH. Coarse-chip tyre noise Ė a previous Mazda 2 Achilles heel Ė is now much less intrusive, hushed to acceptable levels via extra sound deadening for the luggage and engine compartments. Improved suspension bushings, meanwhile, reduce road vibes and harshness, and a noise-insulating windscreen cuts wind noise.

All Mazda 2 variants use the same 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine in one of two states of tune; 79kW/139Nm for the Neo, and 81kW/141Nm for the others.

In both iterations it is a perky unit, with plenty of mid-range and a revvy yet tractable personality.

Both the transmission options are gems. The three-pedal versionís precise shift action adds to the driving enjoyment, though choosing the six-speed torque-converter automatic wonít ruin the fun.

The Maxx looks to be the sweet spot. Its $3000 premium over the Neo nets the slightly more powerful engine tune with a fuelsaving idle-stop function, a larger touchscreen with an intuitive controller dial, a reversing camera, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and 15-inch alloys in place of plastic-capped steelies. s nít et lr ra, l

PLUS & MINUS

Truncated rear vision in sedan; still no reversing camera in base Neo AEB now standard; improved NVH; dynamic cohesion; manual

Smart safety

Slick updated wheel and instruments feature inside along with new trims headlined by the GT sedanís black leather and faux suede. As well as standard low-speed AEB (4-30km/h), the new 2 is the first in the segment to offer blind-spot monitoring and rear crosstraffic alert systems, which come standard in the Genki and GT. Maxx versions add a reversing AEB system that works between 2-8km/h.

Model Engine Max power Max torque Transmission Weight 0-100km/h Economy Price On sale Mazda 2 GT 1496cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v 81kW @ 6000rpm 141Nm @ 4000rpm 6-speed manual 1038kg 10.5sec (estimated) 5.2L/100km $21,680 Now