Want to get noticed everywhere you drive, but don’t want to pay the earth for a car? Want a car that’s stylish, funky, easy to park and drive as well as having plenty of get up and go? If it’s a yes to these requirements then the new Mazda2 needs to be on your short list, especially in the colour which Mazda has named “spirited green”. We test-drove the 5-speed manual Mazda2 Maxx (in spirited green) for a week and it ticked all of the boxes above and more.

Bucking the trend of most car makers where new models tend to increase in size (e.g. the Corolla is about the same size as what the Camry was back in the 90s), the new Mazda2 is 40mm shorter than the model it preceded. Like most small cars, the Mazda2 sits tall on a long wheelbase to provide maximum room for people and gear in minimal space. The wheels are stretched so far to the corners that the rear overhang is barely more than the thickness of the bumper.

Although the 2’s face retains strong Mazda family proportions, with large headlamps flanking the front of the car, the shape is less angular and more organic than that of the 3 and far more graceful than the 2’s awkward predecessor. Mazda’s signature raised front bonnet sweeps up cleanly into the A-pillars, and the aggressive front bumper bulge then plunges down into body lines which shoot up the sides of the car to the tail lamps, perched just below a high and tight rear window – and most of us love a tight rear.

On the inside, the 2 has a somewhat unconventional layout that is centred on the high-mounted gear stick. The combination of analogue dials and digital displays gives the instrument cluster a unique look that’s different from the usual small-car norms.

New standard features include an anti-lock braking system (ABS) with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and emergency brake assist (EBA), remote locking, driver’s seat height adjustment, a centre rear headrest and an AUX jack that enables any MP3 player (including an iPod) to be played through the car’s stereo. Air-conditioning, power windows and mirrors and an MP3 compatible CD player with four speakers are also part of the package.

Lightness is key to making modern cars use less fuel and reduce emissions. The new 2 is more advanced than ever, but it’s actually lighter than the vehicle it replaces by 100kg, a huge amount in a vehicle of this size. By reducing the weight of the car, Mazda was able to make other things lighter, such as the smaller, lighter brakes and the less powerful engine. This enables the 2 to be more efficient as well, something that’s absolutely critical for small car buyers. For instance, a Mazda2 with the 1.5-litre engine uses just 6.4L/100km, which allows it to get around using less fuel and produce less carbon dioxide than almost all of its competitors.

The 2’s low centre of gravity, zippy 1.5-litre engine, and broad torque easily haul around a car load of four six-foot adults. Hills are a little bit of a struggle for the engine, but then again it’s a small car. The new Mazda2’s lightweight body offers great handling in a car which has no body roll considering its height. Its performance pulls you away from the lights surprising quickly with its fuel-efficient 1.5-litre engine. All this makes Mazda2 an affordable alternative to the European small car options on the market.

AUTO FACTS

Price: $16,500-$22,495

Engine: 1.5-litre four

Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic

Fuel: 6.4L/100km

Good: Funky styling, great ride, fuel efficient

Bad: curved boot, decreasing boot space a little

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