The Mazda 2 1.5 DE is a surprising little car.
The Mazda brand is one that has won the hearts of many South Africans over they years. Decades ago, when currently middle aged people were younger, they raved over cars like the 323 and the 626. As a young person now, the brand to me has always been somewhat under the radar from a youth perspective. This is strange as their offering is quite good. Being that as it is, if I think small hatchback of course the first car that comes to mind is a Volkswagen Polo. That is why I was pleasantly surprised when I got behind the wheel of the Mazda 2 1.5 DE, a car with quite an interesting character.
What’s it up against?
First off I found it quite difficult to compare this car to anything in its segment, because there aren’t many small diesel hatchbacks that offer an automatic gearbox. If you don’t believe me, look at Volkswagen, Opel, Renault, Peugeot and Ford’s offerings. Between all of them, the choice of a diesel engine has been replaced by tiny three cylinder petrol engines with turbochargers. Volkswagen and Peugeot do offer diesels in their Polo and 208, but with manual gearboxes not automatics. So this revelation has made the Mazda 2 1.5 DE a unique car to drive and experience.
Does an automatic gearbox make it better than its competitors?
The automatic gearbox is a joy to have in the city. I felt this as I was stuck in traffic in Johannesburg CBD. Usually I would have wanted to scream bloody murder but because I had less work to do, I enjoyed my music. Speaking of music, this particular test unit had the MZD Connect system in it, which is a delight to have in terms of quality and features. Bluetooth and USB are included but the way the system works is what makes it a winner. Even the ergonomics of the system are very well designed, allowing you to navigate through options with minimal distraction.
Whilst on the topic of what’s inside the Mazda 2, I must mention how well built the cabin is too. Leather seats were fitted in this test unit and the seats are comfortable due to good bolstering. The only thing I would do without is the red striping on the seats, since the car I drove was metallic purple. If you buy a Mazda 2 with an exterior colour that would match the red striping, it could work. Space is adequate in the car, but the back seats can feel cramped depending on how tall your friends are.
How does the car drive?
The 1.5 litre turbo diesel engine fitted in the Mazda 2 produces 77 kW and 250 Nm. That torque is definitely what makes the driving experience of the car. The gearbox also works well with the engine, keeping you in the torque band with each shift. The only frustrating thing is that the car does suffer from turbo lag at times, leaving you waiting for the boost to kick in. As annoying as it can be, it doesn’t happen enough for it to ruin the driving experience. When in a rush, I found it best to keep the gearbox in manual mode and control the up shifts and down shifts myself. Overall, the feeling of a boosted diesel engine in a car that weighs very little is always a fun encounter, something I enjoyed about the Mazda 2 1.5 DE.
Is it value for money?
The Mazda 2 1.5 DE is the higher specification version of the Mazda 2 range. As a result, you will look at R259 000 for the car. For that price you do get a lot of car I must be honest. The Mazda’s competitors are similarly priced excluding the automatic gearbox, so one can say that Mazda has priced the vehicle fairly. Is it the car to choose against its competitors? That is totally up to you, all I can tell you is that the Mazda 2 1.5 DE is a good choice in its segment. The fact that in the diesel derivative, you will be looking at an average claimed fuel consumption of 4.4 l/100 km’s, definitely makes it a car to consider. If a diesel hatchback is what you desire and it must have an automatic gearbox, I guess you have no choice but to choose the Mazda 2 1.5 DE do you?