The Midlands Motor Mouth
by Gordon Hall
Be mine: 2017 Mazda2 Individual Plus 1.5 automatic
Bounding with big dogs
The fourth-generation Mazda2, called Demio (mine) in its home market, has been around since early 2015 so it’s time for a refresh. What better way to do so than by introducing a new derivative and adding features – some across the range and others to just the top models?
The newcomer is named Individual Plus, meaning Mazda added some goodies to the existing top-of-petrol-range Individual version. First, it borrows three items from the top ranking Hazumi diesel – satnav, half-leather upholstery and automatic climate control.
Second, how about a foxy new shade of body paint called Eternal Blue Mica that’s offered across the range. Also new are a shark fin antenna, automatically folding mirrors and rear parking sensors while other additions fall into the realm of safety kit. That’s four more airbags, a backup camera, heads-up display (HUD) and lane departure warning. Dynamic stability control and blind spot monitoring are available only on Hazumi, unfortunately.
Something old, or remaining the same, is the sophisticated MZD Connect music centre with 7” touchscreen aided by an easy to use rotary command controller. As expected it delivers Bluetooth phone coupling, auxiliary and USB playback with WM4 capability, satellite radio, text message receiving with caller ID and six speakers rather than four.
Also unchanged are the 1.5-litre petrol engine that delivers a useful 82 kilowatts with 145 Newton metres of torque and Mazda’s in-house SkyActiv-Drive automatic transmission. Not completely happy with twin-clutch technology yet, the company opted to re-design the conventional six-speed automatic. They did that by relieving the torque converter of some of its work, using an integrated multi-plate clutch to keep it disengaged most of the time. The result is better lock-up and increased efficiency.
The ‘box works almost intuitively; making best use of the engine’s somewhat limited power to keep the little pup bounding along happily with the big dogs. Manual override is via the usual stick action or, new to this year’s model, shift paddles.
In line with Mazda’s sporting philosophy a single, large, white-on-black dial – a rev counter naturally – dominates the instrument panel. Speed is shown digitally within it and is repeated on the adjustable HUD that also shows relevant road signs and satnav directions.
Ride quality is firm enough to inspire confidence without being uncomfortable. Controls, with the possible exception of the LHD oriented parking brake, are well placed and the overall feeling is of solid build with excellent fit and finish. The car is easy to drive and park thanks to electrical assistance and its 9.4-metre turning circle, while tall users will appreciate loads of headroom and seat rails that allow for almost too much rearward adjustment.
A blemish, common to all new cars with industry standard four-door coupé styling, is narrow side windows and a small rear screen that restrict one’s view outward.
Because Mazda2 is a sub-compact, the cargo bin is fairly deep (17 centimetres) and wider than it is long, front to rear. There are no intrusions and the jack is kept behind a clip-off panel on the right. The spare is an equivalently sized steel wheel with 165/65 R14 rubberware. The seatback splits 60:40 with release catches easily accessed from behind.
Despite the car’s limited size, fully-grown adults will find adequate head-, knee and foot room in the back seat that’s fitted with three full belts and head restraints. Storage space consists of a single pocket behind the front passenger’s seat. There are no door bins or cup holders – those are limited to the front.
From being a major player back when choices were limited, Mazda is now almost a niche brand sitting at around number seven on the sales charts. Its golden time as a maker of solid, well-equipped and desirable cars appears to have been forgotten by all but those with inside information. That’s a pity because Mazda is, and deserves, much better. (Test unit from Mazda SA press fleet)
Price: R286 200
Engine: 1496 cc, DOHC 16-valve, four-cylinder naturally aspirated
Power: 82 kW at 6000 rpm
Torque: 145 Nm at 4000 rpm
Zero to 100 km/h: 9.6 seconds
Maximum speed: 184 km/h
Real life fuel consumption: About 6.8 l/100 km
Tank: 44 litres
Luggage: 250 – 787 litres
Ground clearance: 143 mm
The power of three:
3 years unlimited km warranty, 3 years roadside assistance and 3 years unlimited km service plan. Services at 15 000 km intervals