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Mazda2’s one-gram strategy

/ 03:47 AM April 20, 2011

WHILE OTHER carmakers in the Philippines have been quiet lately (waiting, as they have explained, for further announcements from their mother companies to address the motoring public’s concerns on vehicle and/or auto supplies coming from Japan), Mazda Philippines, through its marketing and sales director Glen Dasig, was confident enough to say that the company had adequate stocks for, and enough units of, the Mazda2.

THE SMALLEST Mazda feels just light. Just test drive one. The main design for Mazda2 revolves around the ‘one-gram’ strategy. The die-cast model pictured here, however, takes lightness to the extreme.

So, with that, the zippiness must go on.

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The company that joined the Ford family knew that it couldn’t be tied down. Who adopts a logo that looks like a wing poised to fly, and isn’t actually inspired to do so? And so it did, and by the time it gained a strong measure of independence from Ford (when the automotive giant’s ownership of the company was reduced to a measly 3.5 percent last year), Mazda Motor Corp was “zoom-zooming” its way to 21st century dynamism.

Perhaps nothing else can symbolize joyful independence for Mazda than its smallest vehicle the subcompact Mazda2. Mazda2 flitted about worldwide, gathering heavy credentials such as being the World Car of the Year before it was introduced in the Philippines in 2009.

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BIG CLUB, SMALL CAR. Two-month-old Mazda2ners belongs to the umbrella organization Mazdatech Philippines.

Now, two years into the market, the enormity of its presence is magnified further by the pressing issues of the day. Suddenly, small vehicles such as the Mazda2 aren’t just for the fun of driving.

Inquirer Motoring recently took for a spin the bigger engine variant of the Mazda2—a 1.5-liter five-door automatic transmission (the other being the 1.3-liter)—and also got the feedback of several Mazda2 owners, who said that the vehicle was relatively thrifty on city runs.

My own combined city and highway run yielded fuel efficiencies ranging from 7 to 12 km per liter. On straight highway runs at an average speed of 65 kph, I got 17.70 km/liter. At an output of 103PS@6,000 rpm and 135Nm@4,000 rpm (lower than that of sibling rival Ford Fiesta), the Mazda2 feels surprisingly peppy and quick on its feet. Interestingly, it manages to do this even with an “archaic” 4-speed transmission. Archaic because, in the real world, the choice of gear ratios definitely isn’t anything to complain about in delivering that fair balance of responsiveness and fuel economy.

Shaving off weight

At 1054kg, Mazda2 is lighter than the 1.6-liter Fiesta. Plus, the response is zippier. The lighter weight was explained by Dasig: “The way the Mazda2 is designed, it doesn’t need expensive transmission technology. (Looking at it in terms of) power-to-weight ratio, the car is light. The main design for Mazda2 revolves around the ‘one-gram’ strategy. The engineers at Mazda looked at how to reduce the car’s weight, considering that it was not lightweight since there were high-tensile strength materials.”

He explained further that the “one-gram” strategy was “Mazda’s iterative process of shaving off weight through the extensive use of lightweight materials with stronger properties.

“Every gram of weight saved counts, because when you put them all together, the impact to the driving experience is tremendous—from fuel economy to the agility and nimbleness of Mazda2—customers will surely understand what the ‘zoom-zoom’ is all about. And we’re doing this on fewer emissions, less use of fossil fuel and more environment-friendly materials,” he said.

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HANDSOMELY peppy from any profile angle. Photos by Tessa R. Salazar

Mazda2 owners’ take

Since Mazda2 has been around for quite a while, it already has its own fan base. The definitive club that any prospective Mazda2 owner should consider checking out is 2-month-old Mazda2ners.

A sub-group under the umbrella organization Mazdatech Philippines (an 11-year-old club for all Mazda and Mazda-based models), Mazda2ners was co-founded by Carlo Constantino Carlos, 30, and Noriel “Yeng” Mendoza, 32, head and member of the board of trustees of the group and VP for the north sector of Mazdatech, respectively. Mazda2ners’ members, whose ages range from 20 to 35, come from varied backgrounds and are predominantly male (90 percent).

Inquirer Motoring gathered Mazda2ners’ collective thoughts on their showcase car:

Great looks

Mazda2ners members are unanimous in their verdict of the Mazda2 as a great looker, with remarks such as “good flowing looks exterior-wise, quirky design inside.” Other positive feedback about Mazda2 are its good fuel consumption (Carlos says he is getting a respectable 11 to 12 km per liter on his everyday drive), and the “fun” aspect of the drive experience. Carlos probably utters the ultimate compliment: “I sold my 3-year-old Honda Jazz so I can get a Mazda2.”

Another member, Jason Arboleda, visited dealerships March last year. With P800,000 in his pocket, he was on the lookout for a car that was fuel-efficient, comfortable, and had a spacious trunk. After doing the rounds of the various car dealerships, Jason’s choices were trimmed to just two: The small and light Mazda2 and the big, heavy Ford Focus.

“In the end, the Mazda2 won me over because, for the price, we were getting a 1.5-liter engine and on an automatic transmission—so the performance would be better than the 1.3-liter subcompacts and would be more convenient than manual transmissions. The stock 4-piece sound system was great and the aux-in was in a convenient, accessible place. The light curb weight (~1,000 kg) assured better fuel economy, especially compared to the 1,200-1,400 kg compacts Focus, Chevy Cruze and Toyota Altis; and the trunk is big, similar to the Honda City’s,” Jason explains.

And besides, the Mazda2 literally brought a smile on Jason’s face when he first drove it. “I had never driven such a car with light and direct steering,” he gushed.

Jonathan Lorenzo Choi feels no need to utter specifics: “Popularity contests? Always preferred niche to mainstream. Everyone I know turns into this giddy little kid when behind the wheel of their Mazda2, and no amount of votes or awards (or lack thereof) can change that.”

Fast sprinter

Ken Lopez says: “I said before that the M2 would be like the Honda hatch before…pinakamasarap mag mods (It’s the best to modify)!”

Mark Vina quips: “Looks awesome, fast sprinter for a small car, excellent handling! Good price tag! Enough said!”

But no car can be perfect. And Mazda2ners members do note some aspects of Mazda2 they feel need improvement.
“Most have (developed) front suspension knocks where we reported to our respective casas. The glove compartment design, based on research, is a slot good for magazines but was instead made to place stuffed toys in by our members. And the interior looks ‘plasticky’,” says Carlo.

Mazda2ners holds forum at http://www.mazdatech.org. It also has its Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/?ref=home#!/home .php?sk=group_1069424160 51866&ap=1.

The Mazda Philippines website is www.mazda.com.ph.

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