Review: 2015 Mazda 2 - Probably the best little car I’ve ever driven
The Mazda 2 is a nifty little car that offers a decent premium and sporty feel to the young driver. It definitely is not one the cheapest options out there, but if you don't mind spending a little bit, you might want to give this little hatchback a closer look.
2015 Mazda 2 Overview
Engine: 1.5L Skyactiv-G I4
Transmission: 6-speed automatic (Syactiv-Drive)
Drive train: Front Wheel Drive
What is SkyActiv-G?
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. It is an effort towards achieving efficiency.
The G in SkyActiv-G stands for gasoline. This is one of the gasoline engines with the highest ever compression ratio (14:1). Normal engines usually have a compression ratio of 10:1 or 11:1.
The downside of a longer stroke is higher tendency for engine knocking, and that leads us to the curious case of "high compression" of Mazda's SkyActiv gasoline engines and having to use high octane rating fuels...
SkyActiv-G is not actually high compression, so don't worry if you pump RON95 or RON 97
By timing the intake valve so that it closes later, the combustion chamber is only fully closed a few degrees after BDC in the compression stroke. Hence, the "high compression ratio" is more of a "high expansion ratio" since the compression stroke is technically shorter than the expansion stroke. Sounds familiar? That's because it is the Atkinson's cycle.
So you don't have to worry think too much about using RON95 or RON97. It is not a high compression engine. It is a high expansion engine.
Fancy gauge. Shows you your revs in case you want to go into paddle shift mode.
Benefits of longer engine stroke
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.
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.
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. Theseats are also good.
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.
Somewhat related: Review: 2015 Mazda CX-3 2.0L - A Fun Compact SUV
Cushion for your knee
The naturally-aspirated 1.5-litre engine is peppy. Throttle response is good, almost instantaneous response with a very linear programming on the electronic throttle.
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 and it felt steady - a good contender for the high beamer on the overtaking lane.
Fuel consumption is decent at 6.2 L/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.
Somewhat related: Review: 2017 Ford Fiesta EcoBoost - A 1.0L Engine Worth Checking Out
Features that I appreciate in the Mazda 2:
- 6-speed automatic gearbox
- Stable at high speeds
- Good throttle response
- Cushion for your knee
- I-stop (Good fuel economy)
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.
HUD that can only be seen from certain angles.
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. If you’re a Mazda 2 owner, do a thorough inspection on your car. Make sure you get the most out of the 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.
All round disc brakes
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 a good choice for a second hand car in the near future.