Mazda Neo sedan a high quality and engaging light car at an entry-level price
The Mazda2 sedan has returned, returning in its second generation, after a less than successful attempt with the previous model which simply looked like the hatch with a large rump tacked on at the rear.
The new version is a smoother and more cohesive design that mimics the Mazda2’s bigger brothers the Mazda3 and Mazda6, while still sharing a number of key components with the Mazda2 hatch.
Sedans are a rare sight in this corner of the market with key rival Ford killing off its Fiesta sedan and Toyota’s Yaris sedan lags a generation behind the hatch. Hyundai’s Accent sedan is another rival. Volkswagen once had a Polo sedan, but that is also long gone.
Therefore, this allows the Mazda2 Neo sedan to potentially have a nice chunk of the market to itself, luring buyers who want a quality light car, but with the cargo space of a medium one.
What we like:
- Punchy engine and smooth auto
- Excellent quality
- Cabin will seat four with relative ease
- Handling and dynamics
Not so much:
- Ride can be unsettled and choppy
- Road noise at freeway speeds
- Rear brakes are drums only
- Sparse interior storage
Price and Equipment
The Mazda2 sedan range is fairly simple and consists of the base Mazda2 Neo – which we’re testing here – and the more upmarket Mazda2 Maxx. A 1.5 litre four-cylinder motor is the only powerplant available and it can be had with either a six-speed manual or automatic.
Standard equipment on the Neo includes power windows, air conditioning, Bluetooth audio, push button start, anti-lock brakes, a host of airbags and rear parking sensors.
Prices start at $14,990 plus on roads for the manual and $16,990 for the auto as tested.
To learn more about the full Mazda2 range, click here.
Mazda designers cleverly thought out the Mazda2 sedan’s interior. That unusual asymmetrical dashboard is generally unobtrusive, and the placement of the ventilation outlets allow for highly effective airflow.
Use of plastics is excellent, everything is tactile and solid and belies that car’s affordable price tag. What does look cheap, however, are the controls for the infotainment system perched atop the dash. In more expensive models one can expect to find a large colour screen, but in the Neo there is a small black and white LCD screen with a cluster of buttons, which aren’t necessarily easy to use.
The stereo is powerful and delivers good sound quality though, and the buttons on the steering wheel fall under the thumb quite comfortably.
The front seats are also comfortable and the front passengers never feel cramped or boxed in – there’s more than enough room for the two up front. This could partially be attributed to the absence of a centre console or any true oddment storage between the front seats, which can be frustrating as items can roll around whilst driving, but may pose as a security issue if wanting one is wanting to hide belongings from prying eyes.
This practice is relatively common with this class and price point, with rivals such as the Suzuki Swift fitted with similar arrangements.
Still, the Mazda has a nifty section that holds one’s smartphone upright and from bouncing around.
Rear seat passengers may be surprised to find that the pew they’re sitting on is not only quite well padded and supportive, but they have a generous – for a car of this size – amount of legroom. Headroom isn’t as accommodating, as passengers over six feet tall may find their heads pressed up against the roof, just as yours truly did.
Boot space is a not-too-shabby 440 litres, 190 more than the hatch.
Engine and Transmission
The 1.5 litre engine that powers the Mazda2 range develops 79kW @ 6000rpm and 139Nm @ 4000rpm. The motor incorporates Mazda’s SKYACTIV technology to increase efficiency, without detracting from driveability.
Performance is energetic and perky, with the engine making the most of its capacity and outputs, and the little 2 never felt sluggish during out test week. Perhaps the only main drawback of engine is that it likes to make itself heard inside the cabin, and can be a little harsh at the mid to high end of the rev range.
The six-speed auto is creamy smooth shifting through its ratios and it never felt ruffled, regardless of driving conditions or driver input. We’d avoid the “Sport” mode though, as it doesn’t feel like it’s making shifts more aggressive per se, rather it feels as if its unnecessarily labouring the engine.
Combined fuel consumption was around 7.2 litres per 100 kilometres, notably higher than Mazda’s claimed 5.5 litres.
On The Road
The Mazda2 sedan’s road manners are solid, stable, predictable and actually rather enjoyable. The steering feel has a nice crispness to it and the handling well poised when cornering. In short, it’s a small sedan that feels like a much larger one, sans the bulkiness.
Perhaps the biggest two criticisms of the Mazda2’s on road behaviour are the road noise and ride quality. We found that there was far too much tyre roar filtering through to the cabin at freeway speeds and the ride can become choppy and bouncy depending on the road surface. It can teeter on uncomfortable at times, and Mazda could take a leaf out of Hyundai’s book and look to tuning its cars for Australia’s unique conditions.
Overall, a nice drive though.
Mazda has fitted dual front, side and head airbags, anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution, stability and traction control as standard safety equipment on the Mazda2 Neo. Drum brakes at the rear disappoint slightly, but the little Mazda does score a five star safety rating from ANCAP.
All Mazdas are covered by a three year unlimited kilometre warranty.
Mazda2 Neo Sedan Specs
Make and model: Mazda2 Neo
Engine type: 1496cc, inline four-cylinder petrol engine, with DOHC and variable valve timing. Power: 79kW @ 6000rpm
Torque: 139Nm @ 4000rpm
Transmission: six-speed automatic, front-wheel drive
Fuel consumption: 5.5 litres (combined)
Dimensions: 4320mm long, 1695mm wide, 1470mm high and 2570mm wheelbase
Steering: Electrically assisted Rack and pinion
Suspension: Front: MacPherson Strut Rear: Torsion Beam Country of Origin: Thailand
Options: Soul Red metallic paint, $200