Review: 2020 Mazda 2 1.5 Hatchback - Drives well, but is it overpriced?
Shaun · Aug 20, 2020 10:52 AM
Earlier this year, the 2020 Mazda 2 1.5 Hatchback facelift with Mazda 2 skyactiv arrived on our shores. Being a fully-imported model from Thailand, it's priced at a rather heady RM 103,670 (OTR with SST). That makes it the most expensive B-segment hatchback in Malaysia.
There is only one spec available, both the hatchback and sedan have identical specifications and price. Sadly, airbag count remains at 2 despite the facelift.
Design changes on the facelift are more prominent from the front. The chrome bit that surrounds the front grille now goes underneath the revised headlamps. And the grille mesh gets a more sophisticated design, which also means a more difficult time cleaning.
The front fog lamps are no more, replaced by a pair of chrome strips. Wheels are 16-inch units as before albeit redesigned and tyres are still an odd size - 185/60 R16.
Changes at the rear are minor and if you squint hard enough, you'll notice the pair of chrome strips at the lower part of the rear bumper. The taillamps are subtly redesigned as well but I honestly couldn't tell the difference.
Panel gaps deviated by no more than 0.5 mm from each side, with no outliers. This would indicate above average build quality. Paint thickness consistently averaged in the 100s of µm.
Call me biased but again, I would put the interior design of the Mazda 2 ahead of all its rivals. Alright, perhaps the single rectangular air vent towards the passenger side of the dashboard triggers my OCD a little. But that's just me.
What I really like is how the interior wraps around you and how the design flows. Most of all, I like the driving position. The steering wheel is dead centre of my body at a comfortable angle, and it has a decent range of telescopic adjustment.
The pedals are perfectly positioned, so it feels just right when my left foot is placed on the blank foot rest and right foot on the throttle pedal. The floor-mounted pedal allows more precise throttle control and is more comfortable on longer journeys.
It's these little things that Mazda does so well and if you've experienced it, you'd know. Also part of the experience are the materials used. The soft leather on the middle part of the dashboard adds a touch of premium-ness and so does the suede material on the doors.
The plastics used throughout the cabin are hard but quality is good. No rough or scratchy plastics here. The blue/grey leather and suede combo on the seats feel pleasant to the touch.
When it comes to space and practicality though, it's not impressive. While the front doors have decently sized bins, the rears have none. There's no centre armrest either and nope, no USB ports. All the rear passengers get is a compartment on the centre console.
But let's forget about the rear passengers for a second (because I think Mazda 2 did) and move on to how it drives.
If you're expecting oodles amount of grip, flat cornering with extremely reactive steering, then you might be disappointed because the Mazda 2 is fine-tuned for a pleasant everyday drive.
Cohesiveness is the name of the game here. All controls are beautifully calibrated. The steering is ideally weighted and well-paced, not too quick that it feels nervous on highways and not too slow that it becomes a chore at lower speeds.
The brakes bite progressively, backed up by good pedal feel. And the throttle response is just perfect. Even without Sport mode engaged, the powertrain reacts according to your right foot. No delays, no hesitations, no second-guessing your intention, just flex your ankle and it goes.
Being the only naturally aspirated (NA) direct injection engine in its segment, with a ridiculously high compression ratio, Mazda 2 skyactiv pulls with the kind of strength no other 1.5-litre NA engines have. 0-100 km/h is done in 10.5 seconds, the reverse took 39.7 metres.
Complementing the engine performance is the 6-speed automatic transmission. Shifts are crisp and it feels more direct than its CVT rivals. It's also intuitive in its shift logic. For example, it holds on to a gear when going around corners, working hand-in-hand with the GVC+.
Speaking of GVC+, the system can be felt when it reduces the engine torque and tucks the car into its intended line. It makes turning a neater affair. Yes, body roll is present but it's well controlled.
The cohesiveness extends to the suspension tuning as well, matching the steering weight and response. So it's balanced in terms of pliancy and firmness.
Lumps and bumps in general are well cushioned. Only when the surface starts to get tricky, like road patches with mini craters littered all over, it gets a little crashy. But that's typical Mazda suspension tuning for you.
Front seats are average in terms of side and lumbar support. The rear seat lacks thigh support due to the relatively short seat bench, which suggest it won't be particularly comfortable on longer journeys.
Noise levels have improved over the facelift model, but it's still not quite at the level of the Toyota Yaris. At 110 km/h, the sound level meter recorded an average of 70 dB. For reference, the Toyota Yaris managed 68 dB while the Honda Jazz averaged 71 dB.
After a 93.9 km journey broken down to about 40% city and 60% highway, we've used 5.82 litres of fuel which give the Mazda 2 a fuel consumption figure of 6.2-litre/100 km. Which makes the Mazda 2 the most fuel-efficient B-segment hatchback we've tested so far.
At RM 103,670 (OTR with SST), the 2020 Mazda 2 is the most expensive B-segment hatchback currently on sale. And yet, it's not the most well-equipped, not the most spacious or practical, not even the most comfortable hatchback in its class.
But what the Mazda 2 does so well, above all its rivals, is in the driving department. The level of attention Mazda has put into the cohesiveness of the driving experience puts the Mazda 2 in its own league.
Plus, it has the best interior in terms of execution, design, and material selection. And the driving position is absolutely spot on.
Sure, the 2020 Mazda 2 is expensive, and there's only 2 airbags. But there's no other B-segment hatchback on the market right now that comes close to its driving involvement.
If you're looking to buy a B-segment hatchback and your priority happens to be driving experience, then the Mazda 2 is worth the premium over its rivals.
The quest for automotive knowledge began as soon as the earliest memories. Various sources information, even questionable ones, have been explored including video games, television, magazines, or even internet forums. Still stuck in that rabbit hole.