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2016 MAZDA 2 (DEMIO)

By Mark Stevenson

The first subcompact to join Club Kodo, the Mazda 2 (better known as Mazda Demio in Africa) was on display at the 2015 Montreal International Auto Show.

While not all details were released about Mazda’s newest small car, the Mazda2 will go from a two-trim to a three-trim strategy – GX, GS, and GT – like its bigger brother Mazda3, with the top trim getting options not available in other subcompact offerings. For starters, GT models can be had with a head-up display, something unheard of in the subcompact segment. Also, a tyre pressure monitoring system is standard equipment on all trims, adding a small bit of insurance to your daily commute. Available LED headlights with auto-levelling also add premium flair to the new subcompact.

The Mazda2 fully bathes in the SkyActiv philosophy of light weighting and efficiency, equipped with a new light, compact transmission and other significant advancements. Sending power to the new transmission is a 1.5L SkyActiv-G four-cylinder engine achieving some 20-percent better fuel economy over its predecessor. Making sure the car responds as it should is a quicker steering rack along with revised front disc/rear drum brakes.

Improving ride quality will be an 80 mm increase in wheelbase with the four tires sent to the furthest corners of the car and a new set of 15- and 16-inch wheels will set off the rest of the Mazda2′s design.

The newest addition to the Mazda lineup will go on sale in late summer of this year with a yet undisclosed starting price.

Hatchback fans rejoice, the all-new Mazda2 has been officially announced. Production has begun at Mazda’s Hofu plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, targeting an autumn launch in that market.

Rebuilt from the ground up, the Mazda2 sports an aggressive new exterior – the bright and cheerful smile of the older generation is out; the signature Kodō grille design is in and ready to stare down small animals and timid drivers alike. While interior dimensions haven’t been released, the new Mazda2 sees a modest 11 cm increase in length, and a 2.4 cm increase in height.

If these curves evoke a sense of déjà vu, it’s because the Hazumi concept unveiled in March has been translated, virtually unaltered, into the Mazda2. The previous generation shared a platform with the Ford Fiesta, while this generation’s underpinnings were to be borrowed by the Toyota Yaris – until it showed up first.

The unifying motto of jinba ittai (“rider and horse as one”) requires your riders to want to spend time in the saddle. Subcompacts have traditionally held a reputation for being utilitarian boxes best suited to short jaunts around the city. Mazda set out to shatter this stereotype with the Mazda2, with a focus to enhance the experience of the long drive, starting with the powertrain.

With the new Mazda2, Mazda now offers SkyActiv engines on over half its North American range. Included in the worldwide announcement were 1.3L and 1.5L SkyActiv-G gasoline engines, as well as a 1.5L SkyActiv-D diesel. These will be paired with either a six-speed manual or automatic, in front wheel– or all-wheel–drive configurations. Before you rush out with cash in hand, we must regretfully inform you that only the 1.5L gasoline engine has been confirmed for Canada. Is it too early to start a petition to bring the diesel over? No, it is not.

On the bright side, the 1.5L I4 promises better performance than the outgoing model, as we expect it to match the 1.5 in the JDM Mazda3, rated at 110 hp at 6,000 rpm and 106 lb-ft at 3,500 rpm (compared to 100 hp & 98 lb-ft in the Mazda2 now), and better fuel economy besides, as with all SkyActiv products. (Of course, the diesel engine gets nearly twice the torque, but you know, disappointment builds character.)

Inside, the dashboard has received a minimalist makeover, with the seven-inch Mazda Connect display front and centre. The placement of the screen above the rest of the dashboard is intentional – the higher the display, the smaller the distance the driver’s eyes have to travel, while the dashboard itself is kept low to maximize cabin space. Media controls and other infotainment functions can be performed via the touchscreen or conducted via the steering wheel and a small console next to the handbrake. (Curiously, the touchscreen function is locked out when the vehicle is in motion, leaving passengers to reach over the handbrake to use the HMI cluster, a less-than-ideal arrangement.) A series of honest-to-goodness knobs control the HVAC system. Materials look to be soft-touch plastic, with a faux stitching effect along the bottom lip of the dashboard. The overall impression is strongly reminiscent of the just-updated Mazda3. Mind you, all of the interior information is based off of the right-hand-drive Japanese reveal, with no indication of trim level, so these details are still subject to change.

There is also speculation regarding the complement of i-ActivSense safety features available to the Mazda2. Lane departure warning and rear vehicle monitoring technologies are expected, along with adaptive lighting and automatic high-beams. Further safety considerations include a head-up display showing speed and navigation instructions, as well as laser-based smart braking and acceleration control. This list has been extrapolated by comparison to its stablemates, so you might want to hold out for concrete details closer to launch.

There was no mention today of the long-rumoured SUV/crossover variant that would hearken back to the heady days of the original RAV4. Anything is possible though, with Mazda’s Mexico plant set to hit its stride this when the engine machining factory comes online, further consolidating manufacturing for the market.

What is clear, however, is that Mazda is investing major effort into connecting with drivers at an emotional level. These concepts manifest themselves in the stark lines of the exterior, the bright, airy space of the interior, and performance, we’ll postpone judgment till the first drive and the outcome of that diesel petition.