October 12, 2011

Review: Mazda 2 / Mazda Demio

A brave little engine with a exceptionally high compression ratio packs a punch in this very cute and very frugal gas sipper.

CelloMom's friend Kumiko spent a few weeks in Japan this summer so CelloMom asked her what car was surrounded by the biggest buzz in Japan. The answer came back almost instantaneously: the Mazda Demio. There must have been quite a media campaign surrounding the launch in June 2011 of the Demio with SkyActiv engine.

In the US this car is known as the Mazda2; it has the same platform as the Ford Fiesta. You can vary the trim levels on the Mazda2: Sport and Touring, but both come with a 1.5L DOHC engine with an actual combined cty/hwy mileage of 35 mpg for the 5-speed manual version. The official mileage for this engine is 17.8km/L (42mpg) according to the Japanese JC08 standard. (The auto transmission gets 33mpg average in real life).

Japanese buyers of this car are mostly young single women, if you go by the photos on the Demio site. The Demio owner is an independent type, who enjoys trekking along the highways and byways on her weekend off. One suitcase and a beauty case fit in the back. Or her shopping bags and such. Not a sign of a baby carriage on this website. Her cello (if any) would have to go on the back seat. Or she could fold down those back seats (in a 40-60 configuration) - but they don't go down flat, this is not a cargo hauler.

If this young person lives among the tea plantations on the flanks of Mount Fuji, she might need oomph under the hood. But if she stays mostly in the flat-terrain Tokyo-Osaka corridor she won't need the 1.5L, or even the 1.35L engine; instead, she might opt for the new 1.30L engine with the SkyActiv-G designation.

What's special about this engine is that is has an unusually high compression ratio: inside an engine's cylinder, during one firing cycle the piston moves from the maximum-volume position at the end of the cylinder, to the minimum-volume position at the head of the cylinder, where the fuel is ignited and drives the piston out again. In many car engines, the maximum volume is larger than the minimum volume by a factor, called the compression ratio, close to 10; in the SkyActiv engine that compression ratio is nearly 15. CelloMom figures this gets the fuel/oxygen mix closer to the optimal point, similar to turbocharging, and results in better fuel economy.

The official fuel economy is 25 km/L (59mpg); CelloMom estimates that the actual real-life mileage is around 45mpg. That is not bad, considering this is not a diesel engine, and doesn't need a turbocharger. Note the persistently blue theme for the Demio site: blue is the new green!

For CelloMom, who is neither young nor independent, the Demio or Mazda2 is a bit too small. CelloMom needs to move a family, plus a cello. Pity. Perhaps later, when it's just CelloMom and CelloDad, and no cello, this will work out.


Mazda2 / Mazda Demio.

Mazda2 (US) Mazda Demio (JP)
Type 1.5 Sport 1.3 SkyActiv-G
Year 2011 2011
Emissions rating ULEV2
MRSP US $14,180 ¥ 114,9000 ($15,000)
Fuel Efficiency:  
City/Hwy quoted 29/35
avg. quoted 25km/ L (59mpg) (JC08)
avg actual, l/100km(mpg) 35mpg (DOE) est. 45 mpg
CO2 quoted, g/km 135 93
Engine 1.5L DOCH 4cyl 1.3L DOCH DISI
Power 100HP @ 6000rpm 84HP @5400rpm
Gears 5-spd manual Auto CVT
Fuel Unleaded
Length, mm(in) (156in) 3.96m 3.900m
Width, mm(in) (69in) 1.75m 1.695m
Height, mm(in) (58in) 1.47m 1.475m
Weight, kg(lbs) (2306 lbs) 1046 kg 1010kg
Trunk volume, liters(cuft) (13 / 28 cuft)
Turning radius, m(ft) (32ft)
Top speed, kph(mph)

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