I won’t be surprised if many of you may have already raised their pitchforks, but just in case many of you are not aware, I’m pretty sure many also agree with me. But first, let me discuss the car in question.
What we have here is the 2019 Mazda 2 1.5 S MT Sedan, which is the Japanese brand’s highly popular B-segment sedan that rivals the likes of the Honda Jazz, Toyota Vios, just to name a few. It’s a small sedan that skews towards offering a sporty driving experience, and that is something I’ve become accustomed to since I was already able to keep the Mazda 2 1.5 V+ Sedan for a week with me more than a year ago. It was a mid-level automatic variant, which I really had plenty of fun with during the entire time it was with me.
This time around, I got my hands on a manual-equipped S variant for the first time. The car I’m driving is one of the five units that Mazda Philippines recently donated for the Automobile Association Philippines’ (AAP) Motorsport Development Program (MSDP). Mazda Philippines does not have the marketing budget of many of its rivals, but the one thing that separates Mazda is its support for grassroots motorsports, where skill, passion, and grit are more important than how many followers you have or how much money you can set aside in order to establish your career.
“Mazda Philippines is a strong advocate of driver development and has been a long-time supporter of the AAP’s program to uplift the driving skills of future generations,” says Steven Tan, president, and CEO of BAP. “This is our favorite program because we believe motorsports is a really good place to start educating young drivers. We feel privileged to be associated with the AAP to educate the next generation of drivers in the motorsport arena.”
Tan adds, “Since 2015, the MSDP has made the Mazda2 the primary school car for teaching its students the rudiments of a higher form of driving. Its nimble and responsive package has contributed to honing the on-road driving skills of young drivers and future racers. Through our common focus in motorsports, AAP and Mazda aim to contribute toward a society where drivers put safety and road discipline above all else.”
The program’s first module was held last Saturday at the Megatent in Libis, Quezon City, and it was all about how to corner, accelerate, and brake smoothly. Suffice to say, I had pre-existing knowledge about the smooth operation of the vehicle, though it was something I really never became conscious of doing until now. The key is to never upset the car as you power in and out of a corner. Speed is an easy art to master, but keeping a car composed through the corners will always beat outright speed. This is the message that ten-time National Rally Champion Vip Isada has firmly established throughout the whole-day session of the first module.
A mix of classroom lectures and practice runs were made. As media participants, we were encouraged to use one of the five Mazda 2s that were just handed over at the beginning of the event.
This is my first time to take a manual Mazda 2 for a spin. With the Mazda MX-5 being the only Mazda that I drove with a stick, my expectations where that the MX-5’s slick manual transmission would simply be carried over to the Mazda 2 sedan, and boy was I right. The moment I stepped on the clutch to engage first gear, the clutch feel was just as spot-on as in the MX-5, though the feel when shifting is slightly different from the popular two-seater sportscar. This highlights the one thing I truly love about Mazda. It’s a brand that’s focused towards building the most fun and engaging cars in its segment, and with this Mazda 2 1.5 S MT, plus an open course with a set of slaloms and figure-of-eights, I do not remember having this much fun in a car for quite a long time.
With its 1.5-liter Skyactiv-G motor producing 108 hp and 139 Nm of torque, whilst carrying a svelte 1,032 kg curb weight, the Mazda 2 was as lively as a horse with its tail on fire. At its handling limits, the Mazda 2 does not have a strong tendency to understeer. Instead, its tail has a tendency to let itself loose, making the Mazda 2 an extremely fun car to toss around.
In a world where tires are getting wider and grippier (the all-new fourth generation BMW X5‘s tires are 302 mm wide at the rear for Pete’s sake), the Mazda 2 bucks that trend. It utilizes a set of Dunlop ENSAVE EC300+ with dimensions of 185/65 R15. These fuel-saving tires are not the widest or the grippiest out there. With the body’s playful nature, the Mazda 2’s limits of grip are quite easy to reach, and frankly, I quite like it. This set-up is not the most track-focused, and it’s the one set-up that separates a fast car and a fast driver.
Just like what a famous motoring hack has said when he reviewed a Fiat Panda on television, “It’s not actually about how much power you have. It’s about how much power you can use.” In the case of the Mazda 2, you can pretty much use all one hundred and eight of it on an autocross session. You see, I enjoy being in a hunkered-down supercar with a thousand horses as much as anyone else reading this, but these cars continue to push the envelope for offering the fastest 0-100 kph acceleration times, sustaining the most Gs when cornering, and having the shortest braking distance. These types of cars encourage you to push it to its limits, but with seriously unattainable performance numbers to achieve in most places here in the Philippines, what’s the point?
This is quite similar to what type of person a bully enjoys teasing. A bully would not make fun of a person with high self-esteem, because it would take a lot of energy and effort in order to reach that person’s limits. Meanwhile, a person with low self-esteem would be an easy target for a bully because it would require little effort and resources to break that person’s limits, and in the end, it’s where they get their short-lived happiness and satisfaction from.
It’s the same story with how I view cars nowadays. All the fun and thrill begins once you’ve reached a car’s handling and mechanical limits. The moment you hear those tires screech or when the tail has finally gotten loose, it’s a satisfying feeling all the time for any driving enthusiast. With supercars and hypercars, it would need insanely dangerous speeds just to reach its limits. It’s exactly the reason why cars like the Mazda MX-5 and Toyota 86 exist. These aren’t the most powerful cars in the world, and yet, they’re one of the most fun and enjoyable to drive for those exact reasons.
It’s the same story why I suddenly found love with a Mazda 2 fitted with a manual transmission.
It’s not the most powerful vehicle on Earth, nor is it the grippiest, but with its excellent tuning, precise steering, and playful nature, the Mazda 2 is a constant reminder that before you upgrade your car, you have to upgrade your skills first. The Mazda 2, as well as the AAP’s MSDP, reminds us that anyone can drive fast, but it takes a lot of skill to truly maximize your car’s potential.
Rather than bet on the next Filipino Lewis Hamilton by looking for drivers with the most number of likes or the highest capital, it’s about time that we look into those who truly have the skill to put the Philippines into the world map of motorsports.