Mazda 2 vs Toyota Yaris (2010)
I regret getting my Toyota Yaris. There, I said it. Even after two and a half years of painless ownership, the moment I stepped into the Mazda2, I immediately felt the urge to hang a ‘for sale’ sign on my Yaris. The baby of the Mazda line certainly had a magic hold on me and frankly, made me fell in love with driving in traffic. Instead of taking the short cuts and detours on the way home, the 2’s fun-to-drive attitude put a smile on my face each time I carved my way between all the jeepneys and buses.
If the Mazda2’s so great, why am I pitting it against the Toyota Yaris you may ask? First has to do with their respective specifications. Both of these cars are sold with a single powertrain option with less than 110 horsepower, regular (non-sport suspension), rear drum brakes, 15-inch alloys, a four speaker system and are priced below P 800,000. Comparatively, the Honda Jazz has a more powerful motor, four-wheel disc brakes, sport (read: crashy) suspension, a fancier audio system and more doodads for a trickle below P 830,000. So, if the Mazda2 were to take on the Honda, it wouldn’t be a fair fight—it’s like telling Ken Block to take on Jenson Button. You’re not exactly highlighting the proper strengths and weaknesses in each man, or car for that matter. Secondly, and a much more important fact: the Toyota Yaris beat out the Honda Jazz in our last comparison, so think of this match-up as ‘winner takes all’.
With that out of the way, let’s get this show on the road and get on with the titular fight for the ‘best sub-compact hatch’ your money can buy.
The egg-like profile of the Toyota Yaris isn’t sporty in anyone’s book and no amount of alloy wheels and body kits can change that. Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms about how the Yaris looks; it’s still better than anything the Koreans can dish out in this price range, but it’s just getting dated. Seeing it next to the Mazda2 is like putting Lois Lane anywhere near Wonder Woman. Sure, they’re both brunettes, but who wouldn’t go ‘hubba-hubba’ to someone wearing an American flag leotard. Plus, the recent facelift of the Yaris has ruined its otherwise straightforward design. The ‘poked-in-the-ass’ headlamps (which I’ve come to love) have been re-shaped leaving an indescribably odd shape, the walrus-like tusks on the front bumper have been shown the door and replaced by hideous protective strips and the alloys—god even the alloys had its sportiness factor reduced ten fold. In short, if you thought the Toyota Yaris looked invisible before, now, it exists in negative space.
Meanwhile, the Mazda2 sits comfortably on the other end of the design spectrum, proving that sub-compact cars need not be dull. I mean, just look at it: even in the most subtle of shades, won’t you be caught by the 2’s glowing smile? Awww…just staring at it makes all your troubles go away. And the large grin’s just the start as the rest of the car is just as attractive. The 2 looks almost like a Mazda caricature, like a super-deformed CX-7. This exaggeration masks the Mazda2’s size which is actually proportionately close to the Yaris. In fact, both have the same width, though the Yaris is taller while the Mazda2’s slightly longer. From end to end, the 2’s filled with Mazda’s trademark cues and it actually sits well with the car from the bicycle fenders to the rising shoulder crease on the side. There are also some premium styling bits that would make a compact car blush like the built-in sports kit (front airdam, side skirts, rear spoiler), smoke headlamps and get this, even a electronic push-button release for the rear hatch.
Some will argue that the Mazda2 looks somewhat busy and fussy. And it is. But looking subtle isn’t the point, especially in a car of this class. You’re already in the most basic form of acceptable everyday transportation (trust me, micro cars won’t be your cup of tea when you hit the highways), so why not make yourself look different? Why not add a bit of style and pizzazz? The Mazda2’s the winner here the moment my plain-as-vanilla white Yaris was mistakenly flag downed as a taxi.
Exterior Winner: Mazda2
Score: Mazda2 (1) / Toyota Yaris (0)
As I mentioned, this segment’s on the basic end of motoring and having said that, don’t expect luxury features befitting a Rolls-Royce. No sir. There are no soft-touch plastics or Nappa leather in here; instead, it’s a mostly ‘hard-to-the-touch’ affair. But that’s not to say I don’t like it. An interior, even if filled with the simplest of stuff can be a good place to be in—if done right. At this day and age, the very least you’d expect in a Japanese car would be two things: peerless build quality and sturdy materials. Both the Toyota Yaris and the Mazda2 pass this test, but again, the 2’s sportier take makes it the outright winner.
Climbing aboard the Yaris feels like you’ve entered into The Twilight Zone. It’s a flashback to the interiors of yesterday where there’s a lot of plastic and very little character. There’s nothing much to hate, but nothing much to like either. It’s generic Toyota, but thankfully spared from anything remotely resembling wood or beige. Oh, I get it; it’s not generic Toyota, but generic sporty Toyota. In fact, the only thing that lends the slightest of character are the vertically-stacked ventilation controls and the centrally-mounted gauges—both of which irks some owners. That said, I’d take any semblance of character any day. Most of the upper dash is finished in a dimpled plastic, which is generally good, but it’s a fingerprint magnet. The plastics used all throughout are mighty solid, but they’re hollow-sounding when knocked. I feel they could have used thicker gauge plastics. The only thing I loved with the Yaris’ interior is the high-quality fabric used on the seats and the door.
While the Yaris’s interior execution is generic Toyota, the Mazda2’s interior is anything but generic Mazda. Being a part of the Mazda family, it’s a given that the 2 will have shared styling cues. But at least the look and feel is unique. The Mazda2 is abashedly sporty with the use of red throughout the cabin from the instrumentation lighting at night to the interwoven color of the seats itself. The white-on-black instrumentation and circular vents complete the look. The 2’s interior is also much more modern with the concave-shaped dash. Like the Yaris, the 2 does use a lot of hard plastics, but it sounds sturdier thanks to a more solid sound when knocked. Plus the ‘elephant grain’ used on the dash plastics is more resilient to smudges. Even the center stack in the Mazda2’s better designed. Housing the integrated audio system, it looks fairly similar to that of a Mini. Cool.
Interior Winner: Mazda2
Score: Mazda2 (2) / Toyota Yaris (0)
The sporty look of the Mazda2’s interior thankfully translates into a highly ergonomic driving experience. As I’ve come to expect from the company that gave us the MX-5, the Mazda2’s seating is downright near perfect. First, don’t expect a pseudo-MPV driving position that’s becoming all the rage these days. You sit low in the 2, though you can adjust the driver’s seat height if you wish. That said, the Mazda2 gives a much more connected road feel, heightened by the perfect steering wheel which is tons more comfortable than it looks (though the Mazda2 doesn’t have a telescopic steering column). The shift lever, sprouting from the dash, falls comfortably in your right hand with little effort. Even controls for the audio and ventilation system are pretty straightforward and are easily understood.
The only chink in the Mazda2’s ergonomic armor has to be the instrumentation itself. Split into three clusters, the speedo and tach feature white-on-black numerals. Though there’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, I find it too passé. Nowadays, carmakers should opt for an LED backlit display. On the rightmost side are the combined trip meter, gear indicator and fuel displays. Oddly enough, it doesn’t utilize all the available space. Instead, the miniscule fuel gauge with a Font Size 8 is tucked above the equally miniscule gear indicator. Perhaps an additional row or two of LCD displays could have helped. And come on Mazda, why did you have to delete the on-board computer?
Now, if the instrumentation’s the only thing going against the Mazda2, it’s one of the Yaris’s biggest plusses. Toyota’s been doing its trademark Optritron gauges for quite sometime now, and they’re actually getting quite good at it. On the Yaris, the numerals don’t wash out under direct sunlight and at night, they’re soothing to the eyes. Plus, things like the fuel indicator are much more visible on the Yaris’ gauges, even if it’s located on the far right of the cluster itself. Aside from the gauges, the Yaris’s seats (at least at the front) are supportive and comfortable for long drives; though the Mazda2 has the edge when it comes to the rear occupants. The gated shifter’s easier to operate on the Yaris as well because of the Toyota’s clear use of detents. On the Mazda2’s straight slot design, I sometimes find myself unintentionally shifting into park when all I want is reverse. Lastly, nothing beats the Yaris’s all around visibility. Though the Mazda2 has just as good front and side visibility, the use of a stylized shape for the rear glass makes the Toyota easier to see out of from the back, especially when parking.
Despite these apparent strengths, the ergonomics of the Yaris is far less perfect compared to the Mazda2. First is the seating position which finds yourself either too far from the steering wheel or too close to the pedals. In my Yaris ownership experience, I find that having the right pair of shoes can help in getting your driving position right. In addition, the audio controls, especially the power/volume button requires a good reach since it’s located closer to the passenger side. Although, the facelifted version somewhat addressed it by putting in audio controls on the steering wheel, the basic problem’s still unresolved.
Ergonomics Winner: Mazda2
Score: Mazda2 (3) / Toyota Yaris (0)
Space and Luggage
With rising car prices in our market, subcompact cars like the Mazda2 and the Yaris aren’t just your second car anymore. For a lot of Filipinos, they’ve become the primary mode of everyday transport and as such, available interior space has become very important. Before, it was okay to squeeze in maybe four adults in a single go, but now, you have to give them breathing room. This is especially true if you have a family as these cars must be able to ferry the kids to school, do the weekly groceries and sometimes even the occasional trips to the airport or the province. In this aspect, there’s no clear winner. In the end, if you want to carry more people comfortably, pick the Yaris. If you want more luggage space, pick the Mazda2.
Let’s start with the Yaris and its most obvious weakness: the lack of a split-folding rear bench. Despite upgrading the Yaris’s interior specs to include a leather steering wheel and auxiliary audio jack, they left the rear seating very much alone. Bad move. Without the 60/40 rear seats which is aggravated by the protruding full-sized spare tire, the Yaris has a severely limited interior flexibility. For instance, you can only fit one medium-sized (24-inch) suitcase at the back. If you need to put in a hand-carry or two, you can either: lay your suitcase on its spine and squeeze the additional baggage or fold the bench down and pray you’re just picking up just one traveler. Even when you put the occasional airport run aside, the Yaris can find the weekly family grocery shopping difficult, especially if you’re a member in one of those warehouse clubs.
This isn’t the case with the Mazda2 which can swallow a week’s worth of warehouse club grocery shopping (including 24 rolls of toilet paper) even without putting the rear seats down. The cargo hold back there is cavernous—close to unbelievable given the 2’s small exterior frame. When people complained about the lack of luggage space in the Mazda2, I just didn’t get it. It felt like first-class here next to the Yaris’s. And when the going does get really tough, you can always rely on the Mazda2’s 60/40 split-folding rear seats which adds even more luggage space. What’s more, the 2 actually has a removable luggage cover, a helpful feature in keeping those basag-kotse gangs at bay.
But the Mazda2’s luggage compartment couldn’t have come from thin air. Because of its small footprint, the trade off is primarily in the form of cramped rear space even for my average 170-cm height. Slouched, I found myself brushing my knees against the front seats. You either have to sit in stiff military fashion or beg the people at the front to move their seats a bit forward. The lack of knee space is just start since you have to consider the available seat width too. I’m well aware about my weight gain since marriage, but I still consider myself on the svelte side with my 75-kilogram frame. Yet, the 2’s cabin looks like it can only accommodate two adults of my size comfortably at the back.
That’s not the same with the Toyota Yaris. Despite having an equal width, the Yaris packaged its electronics and exhaust system better, saving a few precious millimeters. In the end, the Yaris has the advantage thanks to a flat rear floor and unobtrusive rear door panels. Plus, the Toyota has the advantage in its sheer number of available cubby holes such as three glove boxes, five cup holders and even a sliding tray under the front seat. In comparison, the Mazda2 has a nifty two-tier glove box with a magazine slot. It’s unique, but not really useful in the long run.
Space and Luggage Winner: TIE
Score: Mazda2 (4) / Toyota Yaris (1)
Performance and Fuel Economy
Mazda’s move to imbue the Mazda2 with regular instead of sport suspension made this aspect of the comparison closer than they would have hoped. Though the 2 did eventually win, it did so by a hair. On paper alone, it’s easy to see that both of these cars have equal specifications: 1.5-liter engines with variable valve timing, four-speed automatics, non-independent rear suspensions and so forth. But what’s even surprising is how similar these two cars behave on the road, especially when taking the same roads back-to-back.
Equipped with electric power steering, I find that both the 2 and the Yaris have artificially light steering wheel. It takes just a finger, even a pinkie to turn the wheel lock to lock. This is generally good for most users (especially the ladies) because it’s a joy to use for tight traffic maneuvers and even parking. However, for the more enthusiastically-inclined, it feels numb and doesn’t provide any sort of feedback as to what the front wheels are doing.
At slower speeds and tight corners, the Mazda2 keeps it body roll in better check than the Yaris; and the Yaris has more understeer too. At higher speeds though, the differences aren’t as obvious. In terms of NVH insulation, both of these cars have their respective strengths and weaknesses with the Yaris taking a slight advantage. The Toyota’s quieter at any speed and is able to absorb the heavy road imperfections better, while the Mazda2 does the slight ruts better.
In addition, the Toyota Yaris more than makes up for its lackluster handling with a punchier engine. The additional four horsepower (107 versus 103) and seven more Nm of torque (142 versus 135) surprisingly spells one heck of a difference. The Yaris is perkier from a standstill and scan scoot to 100 km/h much quicker than the Mazda2. Plus, the Yaris’s four-speed automatic is easily one of the smoothest and most responsive I’ve ever come across. On the other hand, the Mazda2’s asthmatic engine note should serve as a fair warning and quash any drag racing pretentions. Though there’s some decent low-end grunt, as the speeds climb, the Mazda2 simply cannot keep up with the Yaris despite the pseudo sport mode. Plus, every time you mash the throttle, you penalize the Mazda’s fuel efficiency. In the end, I managed to wring out 10.11 km/L for the 2 and 12.35 km/L for the Yaris.
If you’re still interested about the 2’s semi-sport mode, it has to do with the gearbox’s ‘Hold’ function. Unlike a typical gearbox where ‘L’ stands for first gear and ‘2’ means first and second gear, on the Mazda2, ‘L’ means first and second gear while ‘S’ is first, second and third gear. The ‘Hold’ button acts like an ‘overdrive off’ in ‘D’ but acts through all the lower gear settings. This gives much more flexibility in shifting without the use of paddle shifts or +/- functions.
Performance and Fuel Economy Winner: TIE
Score: Mazda2 (5) / Toyota Yaris (2)
Value for Money
Both of these cars are priced below the psychological P 800,000 mark. And that’s a huge plus considering you can something decent a class higher in the low 800K range. That said, the Mazda2 dances the line precariously close: it’s P 795,000—P 29,000 more than the Toyota Yaris. What’s even more surprising is that they’re equally equipped! Well, at least on the surface. In truth, there are some details on the Mazda2 that actually make you do a double-take as to whether the price difference is worth it.
Personally, I don’t consider theses to be real deal breakers, but if you’re purchasing a car, it’s worthwhile knowing that these things are there. First, aside from having a split-folding rear bench, the 2 is the only one in its class to have built-in ISOFIX child seat anchors. Second, though the Mazda2 has a similar audio set-up to that of the Yaris, the Mazda’s stock speakers produces slightly better sound. Plus it’s the only one of these two that has a 6-disc CD changer and Automatic Level Control (ALC) which automatically regulates sound volume depending on the vehicle’s speed. Lastly, though I don’t promote in-car smoking, but if you really must, the Mazda2 is the only one that has a cigarette lighter and ashtray.
As a Toyota Yaris owner, I didn’t really care that my car didn’t have the aforementioned features maybe with the exception of the ISOFIX anchors. I didn’t go, “Dang, I wished I could have had that feature.”
Besides, the P 29,000 savings (not including the heavy cash discounts) can be put to some other use. If you bought a Yaris lately, I’m sure your sentiments would probably be the same: money saved is money saved. That said, if the Mazda2 were made available the day I got my Yaris, I would have swung towards the Mazda’s favor. Still, additional minor features or more peso savings? It’s entirely your call.
Value for Money Winner: TIE
Score: Mazda2 (6) / Toyota Yaris (3)
The arrival of the Mazda2 is a shot of fresh air in the subcompact hatchback segment. Though this market is supposed to be youth-oriented with first-time car buyers, there’s only a handful of carmakers (I count two) that take this segment seriously.
In our previous comparison, we concluded that the Honda Jazz has taken the sporty direction, perhaps a bit too much. In the end, it compromised itself in more than one aspect, making me lose my love affair with Honda’s beloved hatchback. The Toyota Yaris won then because of its everyday practicality and maneuverability even if it’s one dull tool to drive.
The Mazda2 slots easily between these two worlds. It mixes sportiness and practicality; not to mention it looks good and comes in at an excellent price point. The Mazda2 still doesn’t have the best fuel economy in its class (that honor still goes to the Yaris), but it’s still a mighty good car. It’s a shame that the Mazda2 arrived just now, else I’d be lining up for one. And in the end, that’s the ultimate measure for this car: I’m suffering buyer’s remorse considering I’ve done 25,000 kilometers and spent two and a half years in my Toyota Yaris.
By Ulysses Ang | Photos By Ulysses Ang