Can the New Mazda2 Dart, Dash, and Dance to Segment Supremacy?

Source: Mazda
Source: Mazda

Mazda has been busy raking in the accolades and hardware from vehicles like the Mazda6 and Mazda3, but the company also has a smaller, yet just as formidable project in the works: the all-new Mazda2. Though the initial concept was shown a year ago at the Geneva Auto Show, Mazda is finally getting ready to unveil the car’s new redesign, due out for the 2016 model year.

Initially announced as the HAZUMI concept last year, Mazda’s new and only subcompact car is getting ready to hit the market, and with a new facelift for the first time since the its third-generation was launched eight years ago, in 2007. There will be a number of new options, and the new Mazda2 will be loaded with features, including MAZDA CONNECT and i-ACTIVSENSE safety technology.

But that’s not all, the Mazda2 will also be equipped with new engine options. Drivers will be able to choose between a SKYACTIV-G 1.3-liter gasoline engine and a SKYACTIV-D 1.5-liter clean diesel engine, according to a Mazda press release. The release says that these options will be available to consumers in the Japanese market, and that options will be determined for other markets at a later time. The Mazda2 is Japan’s top-selling vehicle, so it makes sense that the company would focus on that segment. American drivers will probably see both options as well, as Mazda attempts to keep pace with an increasingly-competitive market for small cars and works out the kinks to bring its diesel Mazda6 to the States.

“Mazda HAZUMI indicates the exciting direction of Mazda’s products which, with no exception, will deliver Mazda’s unique driving pleasure,” said Masamichi Kogai, Mazda’s representative director, president, and CEO. “We hope that they will enrich people’s lives, and help build a strong and lasting bond between Mazda and our customers.”

Source: Mazda
Source: Mazda

Though details for the U.S. version of the Mazda2 are still scant, Mazda did show the car off in January at the Montreal Auto Show. Automobile Magazine reported that in Montreal, only one engine option was shown — the 1.5-liter four-cylinder. That engine is rated at between 33 and 34 miles per gallon combined by the EPA, making it around 20% more efficient than the third-generation model the 2016 redesign is replacing.

Aesthetically speaking, the new Mazda2 does look a whole lot similar to its corporate siblings, particularly the fairly popular Mazda3 and Mazda6. Both of those cars have evidently struck a chord with consumers, and have been critically-acclaimed not only for their design, but for dependability and engineering advances. Mazda is likely trying to capitalize on the victories of those two cars to strengthen its foothold in the subcompact segment.

The rehashed Mazda2 has plenty of ground to make up against a big slate of competitors. It hasn’t been a particularly strong time for subcompact sales in general of late, as GoodCarBadCar says that numbers from competitors like the Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, and Kia Rio have seen considerable downturns. There have, however, been some significant gains by others, like the Honda Fit, Hyundai Accent, and Nissan Versa.

But the numbers are clear: The Mazda2 is in desperate need of some help. Sales in January dropped an incredible 87.7% from January of 2014, while the Honda Fit, on the other hand, has seen sales increase by nearly 86% over the same time period. In fact, according to GoodCarBadCar’s calculations, Mazda sold only 907 Mazda2 cars for the entire year of 2014 in the United States. That’s the smallest amount in the entire segment by a long shot, with the exception of the Toyota Yaris, which sold just over 1,000.

Clearly, there’s a big hole for Mazda to climb out of in the subcompact segment. With cheaper oil prices really throwing a wrench in sales trends from the past several years, American buyers may still be more apt to go for larger vehicles — like pickups and SUVs — while gas is relatively inexpensive. Of course, that won’t last forever, so though small car sales may be taking a beating currently, there is reason to believe that the numbers should improve with time.

Either way, the Mazda2 redesign for 2016 is long-overdue, and judging by the sales numbers, completely necessary. Now, the only question is whether or not buyers will go for it.

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