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With COVID-19 still a very real threat to everyday workers, the need for social distancing remains high. Public utility vehicles have yet to be fully deployed, and just the long queues to get on PUVs expose people to the possibility of COVID-19 transmission and infection.

A lot of people who previously opted to commute find themselves in a dilemma: work from home, bike, risk getting infected while commuting, or finally buy their own new car?

For people who live far, outside of Metro Manila and from the nearby provinces around the Metro, biking is obviously out of the question. And since the typical Filipino household is very much extended in nature (i.e. multiple generations of families living in the same household), the best option is to buy their own first vehicle.

Mazda Philippines president and CEO Steven Tan presents the Mazda 2 during the media launch

Thankfully, Mazda’s latest 2 sedan fits the bill perfectly. First and foremost, the Mazda 2 is a real looker: the KODO design language is scaled down to size perfectly in a segment more known for weird and wacky shapes. As a first car for many, it’s got ABS-EBD brakes, traction/stability control, front dual-airbags, ISOFIX seat mounts of families transporting toddlers in car seats and more. For an entry-level vehicle range, it’s a very safe car.

The SkyActiv suite of efficient fuel-saving technologies is present, making the Mazda 2 a very cost-efficient vehicle to run. Coupled with Mazda’s excellent YOJIN3 PMS program wherein the first three years of regular PMS is inclusive of your purchase price, the Mazda 2 makes for a very enticing proposition. To make it even more attractive to today’s techie generation, the Mazda 2 also comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, making integration with your mobile device seamless and easy. Very handy especially when using Waze to navigate through traffic from the large 7-inch touchscreen LCD screen, with Spotify playing in the background through six speakers to make long journeys more relaxing. 

Getting in, the small Mazda feels very roomy inside, despite my large frame. I easily found a comfortable driving position made possible by the reach and rake adjustable steering column and height adjustable seats. Visibility in and out of the car is excellent, and a reverse camera makes it so much more easier to maneuver in and out of tight spaces. The 4.7-meter turning radius easily handles making u-turns and backing into tight spaces as well. There’s 440 liters of trunk space with the rear seats up, and drop the 60:40 bench down and you end up with even more. You feel comfortable and confident even when it’s your first time sitting inside and driving the Mazda 2, something not all cars project onto the driver.  

The engine is a 1.5-liter gasoline engine producing 108hp and 144 Newton-Meters of torque, driving the front wheels via a 6-speed automatic. The revised engine internals improve both fuel efficiency and engine responsiveness too, which also levels up the driving involvement and enjoyment. 

In the city, fuel efficiency was a very impressive 9.2km/liter considering my drive through traffic caused by checkpoints and the queueing it entailed. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to drive far outside of the Metro as travel restrictions were still in place in many provinces outside the capital so I opted to stay near home and office. 

Impressive specs aside, the Mazda 2 is perhaps the most refined small mass-market car I have ever driven: wind, road and tire noise was at a minimum, almost at a level you’d expect from cars costing far more, in the next higher category. Overall NVH refinement from outside noise such as honking vehicles, motorcycles whizzing by and pedestrians shouting was also very good: you feel very safe, cocooned, in a good way of course, riding inside the Mazda 2.  

Ride comfort is impressive, assuring comfort and compliance through bad roads taken at speed, with a refined, luxury car-esque feel. And yet, despite this impressive comfort and refinement levels, driving dynamics are equally excellent: sharp, responsive and encouraging to relish and enjoy the experience. No wonder Mazda is the vehicle of choice for the Automobile Association of the Philippine’s Motorsports Development Program where future driving talents are trained and honed on track using the Mazda 2. The steering is light, but offers very good feel absent in many cars in this segment, with class-leading accuracy, feedback and responsiveness. Ditto the brakes, which offer impressive pedal feel and modulation. Were it not for the various travel restrictions, I would have easily taken the car up to Tagaytay via the long way (through Calamba or via Talisay) to sample the Mazda’s grace and finesse on tight winding mountain passes. Perhaps save that for another time. On EDSA at least, the wake caused by big vehicles don’t affect the Mazda 2 sedan’s straight-line stability. While it makes for a good city car, I can see it being used on long drives easily. And yes, it can get up to Baguio and beyond just fine, in case many would-be first-time car buyers and drivers care to ask.   

Overall, the Mazda 2 feels light and lithe: the athleticism makes for an excellent project car base as well. Many enthusiasts are slowly starting to choose the Mazda 2 over a lot of other vehicles in the same segment, a sign that the Mazda brand is finally getting the recognition and the reputation it deserves on a new generation of car buyers. Enthusiasm like this is what will help keep the brand alive, youthful and vibrant. It’s a very easy companion to live with, making it a very ideal first car for new car buyers wanting personal mobility, and also to start learning the finer points of driving and become involved in the local car culture. It’s the perfect car to indoctrinate more people to the Jinba Ittai: horse and rider as one philosophy espoused by Mazda. And considering all the features you get, the P995,000 SRP suddenly seems like a bargain.