New Mazda2 styled to turn heads

The Mazda2’s automatic transmission is a smart-system that ‘reads’ the driver’s style.

In developing the new Mazda2, the designers felt obliged to adhere to their company creed, "Defy Convention".

So the new car is longer, has wider track front and rear but less interior room for rear-seat occupants and less front head and legroom.

The reason is the target market for the car globally: the buyer profile is 20-30 years old, mainly single and mainly female. That's why there's no high-performance variant of this fourth-generation sub-compact.

It's a reminder of the need to sharply focus automotive investment and production. This demographic doesn't need a hero car, as long as it's warm on a cold day, cool on a hot one, the music keeps playing, the phone keeps ringing and the exterior and interior colours are perfectly matched.

Mazda's styling theme is called the Soul of Motion, or "Koda" internally, and it's the reason the larger Mazdas - the 3, 6 and CX5 - all have an enviable reputation for turning heads, on the road as well as in the showroom.

The new Mazda2 will do the same.

Mazda had a couple of the pre-production cars available at the Tokachi speedway on the island of Hokkaido for a day and the promises made in the lengthy presentation were largely fulfilled.

A simulated suburban drive followed by a few laps of the track revealed multiple personalities, blending from commuter to a sporty flavour as nimble, precise and energised as the best from Europe.

Seating, steering-wheel position and dashboard design get you ready to enjoy motoring rather than just getting from A to B.

But if you closed your eyes and were placed in the car, you'd still notice the difference, as the driveline is developed on the same theme.

Two new engines are available with two variants of a four-cylinder petrol, both avoiding the necessity of turbos to boost torque and efficiency. Both feature ultra-high compression, electric- powered intake valves and a host of other advanced engine- management features that boost power and maximise fuel efficiency.

The automatic transmission is a smart-system that "reads" the driver's style and adjusts shifting accordingly. If you're in a hurry and enjoy more sporty performance, the transmission will follow suit.

But even though the outside appearance and driveability of the Mazda2 is impressive, the interior is the jewel in the crown and it is intensely focused on the driver. The slide adjustment for the seat is increased and the steering wheel now telescopes as well as tilts. The pedals are centralised and the extra legroom means you'll control the 2 with greater ease and comfort.

The dashboard is free of many of the switches and tumblers found on competitors and instead locates most controls on the steering wheel, with entertainment on a central touch screen. A touch- control device on the console is assisted by voice-command software for audio and navigation features.

The program manager for the fourth-generation Mazda2, Ayumi Doi, said it was intended to build the brand, as well as "accelerating globalisation and widening Mazda's production footprint across currency borders".

He also noted it was aimed at luring younger people to the brand. Even after a relatively short drive, it was clear the Mazda2 is right on target.

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