If I'd known it was going to consume so much brain power, I’d have quashed the thought as soon as it entered my mind.
But I didn’t. And now I’m bitter, twisted and confused, all over six seemingly innocent words: “Should I buy a new car?”
The question arrived as I was washing my beloved Mk5 Golf GTI, prompted by a terrible realisation – I couldn’t remember the last time I took my personal hot hatch for a proper drive. Between supplied test cars and long-termers, the Golf had faded into obscurity, forcing me to consider a hard truth: I should sell it.
Integrated central air vent is a beautiful design touch, as are Mazda’s tactile, quality-feel climate control dials.
But what to buy? I decided it should be something old, interesting and oozing with character, like an original Mk1 Golf GTI, an Alfa Spider or a VW Kombi, but then my wife muddied the waters even further by suggesting the Mazda 2.
Our red Genki goes back to Mazda next week, meaning that after three months it’s time to level the only question that matters at the end of a long-term test: Would I buy it? The answer, which mercifully could put an end to my night-time detective work, is a full-bodied and resounding ‘Yes!’.
It would have to be a Genki – I love my long-termer’s premium interior and sharper-looking alloys too much to slum it in a Maxx or base Neo – and I’d definitely option the $420 reversing camera and the six-speed manual ’box, but Mazda’s SkyActiv city car has won me over.
Key to this bond has been the 2’s 1.5-litre engine, which has not only been efficient (my three-month average of 5.8L/100km, mostly in city traffic, is impressively close to Mazda’s 5.2 claim) but oozes personality. Yes, its incredible tractability means it’s happy to slip effortlessly through city traffic with minimal gearchanges, but throw the 2 some revs and the drivetrain can also be engaging. The little unit pulls hard and cleanly while emitting an endearing whine that, high in the rev range, makes it sound supercharged. It’s a drivetrain that, like the 2’s polished interior, gives it a sense of solidity and, unlike some of its rivals, means it never feels like a car built to a price.
Even the cabin has character, with bright red stripes on the seats and a head-up display system that, thanks to sharp moulded triangles on the dash, makes the 2’s instrument cluster feel like a fighter jet’s.
The one stumbling block is the 2’s image. Almost everyone in my social circle has said, “but isn’t that a girl’s car?” Admittedly this is a criticism I myself applied to the previous Mazda 2, and technically my mates are right; Mazda says 76 percent of 2 buyers will be female. But surely no one could label my Genki’s pumped-up, muscular styling and angular grille as feminine? Imagine how good it would look in bitch black, or stark white, with a slightly lower ride height and some BBS wheels.
After three months together, I’ve bonded with the little car from Hiroshima. Girl’s car or not, it’s a city car I’d buy in a heartbeat.
At the start of every fill, the 2’s fuel tank feels like a never-ending packet of Tim Tams. For the first 200km, the fuel gauge resolutely reads full, making the driver think the entire tank will last… forever. Of course, this is a cruel trick. Each quarter of the tank is split into three bars and once that first one drops, the rest of the bars disappear quickly. The furthest I travelled on a tank was 644km on the freeway, meaning each of the remaining bars lasted just 40km.
This article was originally published in Wheels August 2015.
Click here to read the full range review on the Mazda 2.