MAZDA'S success streak seems to know no bounds.
Not content with having the top-selling car in Australia last year with the Mazda3, it has backed up with the top seller in the small car class, the Mazda2.
- IN A WORD
- Make: Mazda
- Model: Mazda2 Genki
- Price: From $20,495
- Road test: JOHN PARRY
That's impressive, considering the rivalry in the small-car class and for a car approaching its fifth birthday and available in hatch only after the sedan was dropped last year.
Competitors are many and include the Hyundai Getz and i20, Toyota Yaris, Suzuki Swift, Ford Fiesta, Nissan Micra and Holden Barina.
Mazda2 sales were up 18 per cent last year in a light-car market that shrank by 4.4 per cent.
There is however a twist to this "who's on top" tale. Hyundai replaced the leader, the Getz, with the i20 and sold the two alongside each other last year. Adding them together would have allowed Hyundai to claim it had sold the most light cars.
Pedantics aside, the Mazda2's key attributes are its savvy styling, nippy performance, agile handling and a cheerful and reasonably spacious interior, bolstered by regular facelifts and a solid reputation for reliability and retained value.
The latest upgrade came with the reintroduction of the top-of-the-range Genki last year after a six-month absence. The Genki gained climate control, a trip computer and automatic wipers as standard equipment, and the price dropped $445 to $20,495 (auto $22,145), helped by the strength of the Australian dollar.
You need to be a car freak to pick the minimal cosmetic changes - a chrome exhaust tip, revised alloy wheels and subtle changes to the front bumper.
Engine output remains at 76kW and 137Nm from 1.5 litres, which combines with a light body to produce lively performance and decent pull from low engine speeds.
The four-speed automatic transmission (on test) is generally smooth and disciplined, but can be snappy on kickdown and asks for plenty of engine revs under load. There are "second" and "low"-gear slots, but no sequential manual shift mode.
Not the most frugal in its class, fuel use on the combined cycle is 6.8 litres/100km in the automatic, and 6.4 litres/100km in the manual.
However, a new direct-injection 1.3-litre petrol engine claiming as little as 3.3 litres/100km has been released in Japan and will make it here.
With an emphasis on fun, the suspension favours handling over ride with crisp turn-in, minimal body roll and confident grip. Ride is firm and well controlled on smooth surfaces, but it can be fidgety over bumpy roads and rough edges.
The cheeky exterior styling is carried over in the bright and bubbly interior, and all the controls are easy to master.
It has a height-adjustable driver's seat, low waistline for good visibility and a gearshift and handbrake placed close to the driver.
Front seats are well padded and supportive and suit most frames, even though the steering wheel adjusts for rake only and not reach. Leg room is adequate in the rear seat, but headroom is tight for lanky frames.
Storage is mediocre and includes a two-level glovebox, a single cup holder and door bins for small bottles.
Load space in the deep boot is adequate for this class and the rear seats split fold, but not to the same level as the floor of the boot, under which rests a space saver spare wheel.
Noise levels are average for this class with noticeable but not intrusive engine and road noise and some thump from the Genki's wider 16-inch tyres.
Equipment includes stability control, six airbags, a six-CD four-speaker audio system with MP3, but no Bluetooth or USB connection. There are also steering wheel audio controls, cloth seats and power windows.