The arrival of the second-generation Mazda 2, in September 2007, marked a big change for the Japanese carmaker’s smallest offering. Gone was frumpy, high-roof, mini-MPV formula of its predecessor, replaced by a sportier compact hatchback – and short-lived sedan – with a more upmarket spin pitched more widely at the young and young at heart.
Bucking almost unilateral motoring trends, the DE Mazda 2, or ‘Demio’ as it’s known in its homeland, was smaller than model it replaced.
The new 2 embodied a fresh change at Mazda, its ranges unifying the new ‘kodo’ look for stronger family identity and a mantra of big style for not a lot of dough, particularly in its smallest range that kicked off from just $15,750 for the entry Neo five-speed manual…as a three-door.
Wisely, Mazda also offered what would prove to be a vastly more popular five-door version at nominal upcharge in any of the three variant grades – Neo, mid-range Maxx, high-spec Genki – as well as an automatic version that makes do with just four speeds. For a city runabout, as intended, that’s all many owners would want for.
All versions were powered by a naturally aspirated 1.5-litre four, though at modest 82kW and 141Nm ‘power’ isn’t exactly the unit’s highlight. This generation of Mazda 2 is renowned for an engine that’s gruff at idle and strained – and fairly thirsty – when asked for anything more than casual driving.
The manuals did have the more frugal fuel claim (6.4L against the auto’s 6.8L), on a cheapo 91RON minimum, and on balance are perhaps a little fun to pedal hard, though unsurprisingly the compact hatch’s glove fit role as My First Car meant the vast majority sold were self-shifting autos.
On that, inexperienced prospective owner/drivers should really sniff out version of the Neo and Maxx fitted with the optional Safety Pack that ran at about a thousand bucks. Dual airbags and ABS were par for the 2 course across the board, though you needed to plonk for the later-build Genkis or pay for the Safety Pack to get access to features such side and curtain airbags, while stability and traction control. This gen-II model range has a four-star ANCAP rating.
The initial Series I had a number of running changes, notably the change from a frowning to ‘smiley face’ front bumper restyle arriving in mid-2010, which also brought some mild suspension enhancement and tweaks to specification, such as standard ESP. It’s right here that outputs for the 1.5 dropped to 76kW/135Nm (with no affect to advertised fuel economy) and the short-lived, unloved four-door sedan version was introduced, only to be sold in Oz for just nine months…
Series II arrived in October 2011 for MY12, the model now sourced from Japan rather than Thailand. The later versions are considered to be better built, but the blink-and-you-miss-them updates still didn’t include now basic niceties such as Bluetooth or USB connectivity. Still, the top-shelf Genki does bring 16-inch alloys and sweeteners such as climate and cruise control. Despite the fairly low-tech approach, the DE Mazda 2 remained a top-seller in segment until its all-new third generation replacement arrived in 2014.
On the plus side, the Mazda 2, particularly the five-door, brings effective and quite friendly packaging for city grocery-getter, topped with style and underpinned with an accomplished chassis. The downsides are the small 250-litre boot, the gruff and thirsty powertrains and a fair bit of noise on the move – they’re not the most refined options out there, even for the most coin they now command used.