The Mazda 2 Sedan is probably the best little notchback you can buy today. It is smartly designed, surprisingly spacious despite its compactness and, most importantly, drives exceedingly well.
As for build quality, this Thai- made model passes with flying colours. Put it next to its Japan-made siblings and you will be hard put to spot any discrepancy.
The car measures 4,320mm by 1,695mm by 1,470mm, making it slightly smaller than the Toyota Vios. But it does not look it on the road, partly because its design makes it appear bigger than it is.
Its wind-swept silhouette is very sporty and drippingly sexy. The way its roof slopes all the way back to meet the boot lid makes it look almost like a sleek fastback.
In Mazda's deep gloss red and shod with 16-inch alloys (in Deluxe variant), the car is convincingly premium. In fact, it makes all other Asian-made compact sedans look just plain dowdy.
That is not the best part about the car. That comes when you get in and start up the engine, via a keyless system no less.
SPECS/MAZDA 2 1.5 SEDAN
Price: From $89,888 with COE
Engine: 1,496cc 16-valve inline-4
Transmission: Six-speed automatic with manual select
Power: 115bhp at 6,000rpm
Torque: 148Nm at 4,000rpm
0-100kmh: 9.9 seconds
Top speed: 187kmh
Fuel consumption: 5.2 litres/ 100km
Agent: Trans Eurokars Mazda
Like its hatchback twin, the car is powered by a 1.5-litre high- compression engine paired with a six-speed transmission.
This pairing alone puts the Mazda a notch above its Asian-made rivals, which all have nondescript engines with either four-speed or continuously variable transmissions.
And this is obvious in the outcome too. The Mazda outperforms its rivals by a huge margin. At the wheel, the notchback is zippy and breezy, with a responsiveness that makes you think there is a turbo lurking under its bonnet.
It delivers flawless take-offs and brilliant mid-flight acceleration. Whether driven leisurely or enthusiastically, the Mazda is engaging and fun. Its engine piles on the revs smoothly, without complaining and almost relentlessly. For a 1.5-litre normally aspirated unit, it deserves nothing but praise.
In fact, the car feels livelier and silkier than the hatchback, which is made in Japan. It is as if Mazda had refined the engine further.
On paper, the sedan clocks a 9.9-second century sprint - 0.1 seconds quicker than the hatch. Top speed is 3kmh higher at 187kmh.
The latter could be attributed to the sedan's aerodynamics, but what accounts for the superior acceleration in a car that weighs 19kg more?
It matters not. On the road, the superiority is obvious. The sedan not only feels breezier and stouter when extended, it also has a finer handling balance. This could be because of its boot, which gives it a better weight distribution.
The car takes corners and curves like a properly sorted German car, with a meaty and communicative steering adding to the feel-good factor. And it is efficient too, with a real-life average of 6 litres/100km.
As a passenger carrier, the car is adequately roomy, pampering occupants with a cushy yet supportive ride, and with plenty of onboard amenities. Highlights include a tablet-style infotainment screen, steering-mounted controls, automatic air-conditioning and drive mode selection.
Okay, the last two are more for the driver, but you know, the car's immense driveability - more than its sharp styling and competitive pricing - is what sets it apart from its peers.