Well worth the awards

A few years ago when I was ready to buy a new car, I considered a variety of vehicles including a 2,0-litre Mazda6. That was until a senior journalist told me that Mazdas were common cars and that he thought them to be quite tacky.

I realised that his opinion wasn’t an educated one, but it did make me wonder if other people were similarly prejudicial about cars and I have discovered over the years that they unfortunately are.

If you read letters to editors of motoring magazines and car forums on the Internet, it’s surprising how many people are still anti-Japanese.

This puzzles me because the Japanese proved long ago just how capable and reliable most of their products are, and the fact that they are at the forefront of alternative fuel technology is not something to scoff at.

Let me further incense the short-sighted among us by saying that those of you thinking about buying a small hatchback would be downright daft if you didn’t have the Mazda2 on your list of cars to test-drive and investigate.

Not only has the Mazda2 1,5-litre won the 2008 South African Car of the Year competition (a first for Mazda), but it also won the World Car of the Year title beating vehicles such as the Ford Mondeo and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class.

Now before you get your knickers in a knot wondering how the Mazda2 could be chosen over more expensive, better-equipped vehicles, you should remember that cars are judged—in the local contest at least—according to class, so the Mazda2 is simply the best vehicle in it’s class, but it isn’t necessarily better than the vehicles it competes against.

I’m currently testing the top-of-the-range Mazda2 1,5-litre Individual and I’m pleased to say that it’s an impressively gutsy little thing. I was aware of the awards it has won and, as a result, I decided to drive it hard from day one.

Pushing the revs into the red zone, throwing it into corners with gusto and generally engaging in what I like to euphemistically term “enthusiastic driving”, the Mazda2 took the abuse with a smile on its perky face.

I don’t like to say that small cars feel like big cars because they hardly ever do, but the Mazda2 is as comfortable and composed as much bigger sedans and has ample space for four tall adults.

A feature that stands out on the 1,5 is the Smart Start keyless entry which means you can leave the key in your pocket, touch a button on the driver’s door to unlock the car and then start the car without the key leaving your pocket.

Other cool features include climate control, a six-disc front-loading shuttle and rain-sensitive wipers among other things, while safety features include ABS, side and curtain airbags, and electronic brakeforce distribution.

Fuel consumption is 5,9l/100km and the 76kW and 136Nm pushes this sporty go-getter to a top speed of 180kph.

Some people might say that the Mazda2 is more expensive (the 1,5 Individual is R158 990) than some of the vehicles it competes with in this segment.

That’s quite right, but when you compare the standard features, you’ll realise that you’re getting a lot more with the Mazda2 than any of its competitors.