Canada serves as host for the North American premiere of the all-new Mazda2 at the Montreal International Auto Show today. But we got a sneak peek at the Mexican-built subcompact at a media event last night.
The Mazda2 is gearing up to pull the same trick in the growing sub-compact class as its stylish, award-winning Mazda3 sibling did to its compact rivals. That is, to offer unprecedented levels of style, equipment, refinement and simple driving joy at a thoroughly competitive price.
Introducing the new Mazda2 in Montreal is a natural for the carmaker, given the Québec market’s great and long-standing fondness for small cars. It also makes perfect sense for Mazda since subcompact cars are on a roll in Canada, with a sales increase of 12% over the past year and a market share that now stands at 15% for the country as a whole.
This is the fourth generation of the Mazda2 since 1996 globally and it's the little car’s second coming to Canada where it first landed as a whole new model for the 2008 model year. Freshly minted as the World Car of the Year, it nonetheless faced stiff opposition from rivals such as the genetically-related Ford Fiesta but also the Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent and Toyota Yaris.
The situation is likely to change when the 2016 Mazda2 goes on sale in Canada this fall. Mazda’s new subcompact effectively brings the precepts of the company's’s Kodo styling language and the sound principles of its SkyActiv engineering philosophy to a smaller car.
It has already been launched in several other countries, including Japan where it is named Demio and has garnered the Japanese Car of the Year award.
The new Mazda2 will be offered strictly as a four-door hatchback - no ‘three-door’ version in the cards. While it is longer than its predecessor by 110 mm and taller by 25 mm, with width unchanged, the key is fact is that its front wheels were pushed 80 mm to the front and the A-pillars were pushed back 80 mm.
The result is a longer, sleeker profile and short front overhang, reinforced by the Kodo style’s familiar wide and low-mounted grille, flanked by pointy headlights that combine projector-type and parabolic LED lamps, a first for Mazda.
All of which set the new Mazda2 clearly apart from its forebear and its competitors. Much like its Mazda3 sibling did in the compact class.
In textbook fashion for a modern car aiming for swift handling and agility, the Mazda2 has larger 185/60 tires mounted on 16-inch wheels that are pushed as far as possible to the corners. Yet, engineers were nonetheless able to achieve the same 4.7-metre turning radius as the outgoing model to preserve manoeuvrability in city driving.
A vital part of the new Mazda2’s appeal is an all-new interior that reaches new heights in terms of equipment, quality and sophistication for this class, much like the Mazda3 did, once more. The Mazda2 even gets the same connectivity elements and the HMI control interface that combines a centre-mounted screen and a console-mounted knob.
That system is well-designed, intuitive and works surprisingly well in the Mazda3. One of its neatest features is a small, translucent screen that flips up in front of the driver, atop the instrument binnacle, to offer heads-up display of various data. All simple, useful and effective technology that will be entirely new to the subcompact category.
As in the Mazda3, interior fit and finish is a notch above, with materials and textures not usually seen in subcompacts, including satin chrome, piano black lacquered surfaces and glossy colour panels. In many ways, the Mazda3 feels like a small luxury car inside and the Mazda2 will not be far off that mark. It will even come with a push-start button and a navigation system as standard items.
1.5-litre SkyActiv engine
On the mechanical side of the equation, power for the Mazda2 will be provided by an all-new 1.5-litre, four-cylinder SkyActiv-G (for gasoline) engine that promises sprightlier performance and better fuel economy, teamed with your choice of a manual or automatic transmission, both with 6 speeds.
All of these components were designed according to SkyActiv engineering principles that have proven their worth in other Mazda vehicles, especially the big-brother Mazda3.
To the question: “no diesel engine?” Mazda spokesperson Sandra Lemaitre replied “not yet”. The Mazda2 and Demio are indeed offered in other countries with the SkyActiv-D (for diesel) engine. We can only hope that Mazda Canada will find a way to bring in such a version, with its hybrid-beating fuel economy it should provide.
That said, Mazda is keeping mum for the moment about horsepower, fuel consumption and performance numbers, as well as pricing. Presenters did confirm that the Mazda2 will be offered in the carmaker’s familiar GS, GX and GT trims and that it will indeed be covered by Mazda’s new 3-year/unlimited mileage warranty.
Although we have yet to drive and fully assess the new Mazda2, it is a more than fair assumption that this stylish new subcompact is set to make much bigger waves than its predecessor in this country. Quite possibly, it will set new standards for small and affordable cars – a trait that seems to run in the family, nowadays.