2016 Mazda Demio / Mazda2. Click image to enlarge
Article by Andy Lin, photos courtesy Mazda Canada
Hatchback fans rejoice, the all-new Mazda2 has been officially announced in Canada. Production has begun at Mazda’s Hofu plant in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan, targeting an autumn launch in that market. Press materials for North America list the four-door subcompact hatch for the 2016 model year, but sales are expected to begin in 2015.
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. (And with such smooth lines, coincidence?)
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.
2016 Mazda Demio / Mazda2 dashboard & cabin. Click image to enlarge
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.
2016 Mazda Demio / Mazda2 HUD, Mazda Connect touchscreen, HMI cluster. Click image to enlarge
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. (Or to the more recent, but equally heady Nissan Juke.) Anything is possible though, with Mazda’s Mexico plant set to hit its stride this October when the engine machining factory comes online, further consolidating manufacturing for the North American market.
What is clear, however, is that Mazda is investing major effort into connecting with drivers at an emotional level. You can see it in the names: hazumi “jump/impulse”, kodō “soul of motion”, and of course jinba ittai “rider and horse as one”. These concepts manifest themselves in the stark lines of the exterior, the bright, airy space of the interior, and performance, well, we’ll postpone judgment till the first drive (and the outcome of that diesel petition).
Pricing and availability have yet to be finalized, but needless to say, this is a horse you can bet on.
2016 Mazda Demio / Mazda2 trim differences. Click image to enlarge