Probably the Most Fun Little Car I’ve Ever Driven – 2015 Mazda 2 Review

Engine: 1.5L Skyactiv-G I4

Year: 2015

Drive train: Front Wheel Drive

Transmission: 6-speed Syactiv-drive automatic

Second hand value (2017): ~RM7X,000


What the hell is SkyActiv?


Unlike traditional Protons and Mitsubishis, notice that the intake manifold is infront instead of the exhaust manifold

No skies are involved and it is certainly not magic. Skyactiv is just a brand name by Mazda for a series of technologies to improve efficiency and engine output. I would call it an effort towards achieving efficiency.


SkyActiv-G is what they call the engine in the Mazda 2 and the G stands for gasoline. Based on the Mazda website, this is one of the gasoline engines with the highest ever compression ratio (14:1). Conventional 4 cylinder inline engines usually have a compression ratio of 10:1 or 11:1. 14:1 is quite a big jump from the conventional design.


*Compression ratio is the ratio of volume in the combustion chamber at BDC (Bottom Dead Center) to the volume at TDC (Top Dead Center)


What is the benefit of having a longer stroke? One cycle (compression, ignition, expansion, and exhaust) takes longer to complete. Hence there is more time to produce a complete combustion in the combustion chamber. This produces higher efficiency which is what SkyActiv is trying to achieve.


The downside of a longer stroke is higher tendency for engine knocking, but Mazda has found ways around this problem. You can refer to their website for this information, it actually offers some rather detailed explanation. Detailed enough to satisfy car geeks like me.


Engines with a longer stroke to bore ratio also have a smaller total surface area that is in contact with the combustion/fire. This creates less area for in-cylinder heat transfer, hence improving the thermal efficiency of the engine. This is also inline with what SkyActiv is trying to achieve.


*Thermal efficiency = fraction of energy added by heat that is converted to net work output.


Longer strokes also mean better leverage at the crankshaft, creating an overall better torque performance for the engine.


The SkyActiv-G engine/system goes all the way up to the exhaust tip. They have specifically chosen a 4-2-1 exhaust pipe configuration to prevent hot exhaust air from re-entering the combustion chamber at the end of the exhaust stroke. So don’t go messing around with aftermarket exhaust systems for the Mazda 2. Unless Mazdaspeed or some other certified tuner provides an aftermarket exhaust, I wouldn’t recommend one for a SkyActiv-G powered car. Straight piping especially, might just ruin this little car for you.


 


What is it like to drive?


The interior is rather driver oriented. The way that the lines flow make you feel like you’re in a cockpit, even up to the door trims. Pretty good. I was expecting just a little bit more upgrade from say a Honda City, but it did provide more than expected and gave some attention to detail that I could appreciate. The semi bucket seats are also good. Better than the Naza 206 in an earlier review.


It even has this cushion by your left knee so that you have something to lean on in high speed corners. It could definitely use more padding, but cheers to the effort. I think some 90s Subaru Impreza had this sort of thing as well.


Cushion for your knee

It isn’t turbocharged or anything like that but it felt pretty good. Throttle response was good. I’ve only driven mostly Protons and Peroduas in the past, and this electronic throttle was actually decent. Lay your foot gently and you get city cruising. Press it a little and you get instantaneous response – something I don’t get from my daily driven 2007 Proton Persona.  It feels like there’s three stops for the throttle sensor. 1- Calm city driving, 2 – hey, I need some power, 3 – let’s go all out.


You also get a tiptronic gearbox with paddle shifters (this was a first time for me with paddle shifters) but the 6-speed automatic is already quite intelligent so you don’t really have to bother with the shifting. The electronic power steering is also weighted rather well.


I say, for a car with this many driver oriented features, it is a waste of money if you just use this to go to work. Go on road trips, or a Sunday Morning Ulu Yam – Genting drive if you have this. It stays steady at fair enough high speeds and is quite responsive. We took it up to 156km/h but the owner claimed to have gone even faster at 180+ km/h. We didn’t have a chance to reach 180 but it was a good contender for the high beamer on the overtaking lane. I was expecting this kind of fun from the Naza 206 (blame this on video games), but instead I found it in the Mazda 2.


Fuel consumption is decent at 6.2L/100km. Even after some rather aggressive driving and being stuck in traffic. We could probably credit this to the I-stop feature that turns off your engine when you come to a complete stop.


Features that I appreciate:

  1. 6-speed automatic gearbox
  2. Stable at high speeds
  3. Good throttle response
  4. Cushion for your knee
  5. I-stop (Good fuel economy)


Features I could do without:

  1. Infotainment system
  2. Paddle shifters
  3. Push start button. The button is quite hidden. Not very intuitive for first time user.
  4. It doesn’t show much info anyway. If the speedo was more obvious in the gauge area, you wouldn’t actually need the HUD.
  5. It also comes with sports mode but we didn’t test that out thoroughly.


Good aftersales service (3 Year Warranty)

Service is actually free. Even for parts. During the 3 year warranty period of course. This information was given to me by the owner himself. For a tiny car that costs around RM80k brand new, you do expect to get a lot. And hearing that fact sounds rather comforting.


The owner has had the absorber bearing, the throttle body, and even the steering shaft replaced by Mazda at absolutely no cost. Standard servicing is also free. He even got 2 free Mazda T-shirts just by asking for them. Of course, major part replacements like that would need thorough verification, but hey, it’s all free of charge within the warranty period. Obviously you can’t modify your car since that would void the warranty. If you’re a Mazda 2 owner, do a thorough inspection on your car. Make sure you get the most out of this warranty period.


Having to have the steering shaft and throttle body does sound worrying to me. Hopefully this is not the case for most Mazda 2s. A lot of this will soon be available in the 2nd hand market and these parts better still be good. In the near future if I’m looking for a used compact, I might actually consider getting this second hand.


Some Pictures for You to See


Gear knob is similar to the 2015 Honda City in a sense that you could use your middle finger to push the safety lock down.



HUD that can only be seen from certain angles.



Infotainment System. It doesn’t stow away. It just sticks out like that.



Fancy gauge. Shows you your revs in case you want to go into paddle shift mode.



An option to turn the I-stop off. Also ESC?



A floor mounted accelerator pedal



The push start button is quite hidden behind the wiper stalk



A seat mounted three-point seat belt for the rear center passenger. Also headrests for everybody. 



All round disc brakes


Conclusion

This was my first time driving a Mazda. I was quite impressed. Although covered by the warranty, the fact that the steering shaft and the throttle body had to be replaced sound worrying. (Mazda even replaced them FOC so they really were defective). It is a fun car to drive with good throttle response and a 6-speed automatic gearbox. Might be (just might be) a good choice for a second hand car in the near future. No one usually modifies a car within its warranty period, and with the hefty price tag, it isn’t really accessible to the reckless youth. You do actually have a chance of finding a 2nd hand Mazda 2 in decent condition.


Until then


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