Clarksville, Tennessee, United States
Small cars may be big business, but the world's automakers don't seem to be in any particular rush to keep them fresh. The new Smart Fortwo unveiled yesterday replaces a model that's already been around for seven years, and based on a structure dating back to the late '90s. The new Opel Corsa revealed just last week replaces a model that had been around for eight years. And the Mazda2 has been on the market in its current form for seven years now, but not for much longer because Mazda has finally revealed its successor.
Set to be unveiled at the Paris Motor Show this October, the new Mazda2 follows the stylistic lead of the Hazumi concept remarkably close, from the sharply creased front end right down to the wheel design - bringing the supermini hatchback in line with the KODO design language that characterizes its bigger siblings: the Mazda3, Mazda6 and CX-5.
Although details released thus far are rather limited, and power will vary from one market to another, engine options center around a 1.5-liter four in both gasoline and diesel versions, joining the manual and automatic transmissions and the chassis itself under Mazda's Skyactiv technology umbrella. We wouldn't expect the diesel version to make it across the Pacific (or across the border from the plant that will build it alongside a new Toyota hatch in Mexico), but rumors have surfaced of a potential rotary hybrid. The new 2 will also include the company's MZD connectivity suite and i-Activsense safety technology.
Mazda is reportedly set to introduce a Mazda2 with a four-door sedan body. Unlike the upcoming CX-3, which is debuting at the upcoming Los Angeles Auto Show and is almost certain to be sold in North America, this other version's chance here are a bit more mysterious.
According to The Bangkok Post, the Mazda2 sedan will make its word debut at the Thailand International Motor Expo on November 28, and the traditional five-door hatch will be there as well. Both body styles will be built in Thailand with diesel engines and will be the first vehicles to adhere to the country's eco-car rules for oil-burners with a SkyActiv 1.5-liter diesel that will make 105 horsepower.
At this time, there's no indication whether the new sedan might also be sold in the US, but we're not holding our breath - remember, the previous Mazda2 sedan never made it Stateside, either.
Diesel has without a doubt become the dominant fuel in the modern era of endurance racing. The 24 Hours of Le Mans has been won under diesel power for the past eight years running, as has every race in the FIA World Endurance Championship since its inauguration in 2012. Yet there will only be one diesel prototype entered in the top tier of the new Tudor United SportsCar Championship this year, and it belongs to Mazda.
The last Japanese manufacturer to win at Le Mans outright, Mazda has been gradually working its way back up the endurance racing ladder once again, following the example set by Audi with diesel power. Last year it campaigned a competition-spec Mazda6 Skyactiv-D in the GX class of the Grand-Am series, but rather than simply port over the existing racer into the new series, it's fielding a new prototype instead, just as it promised a couple of months ago. And now that prototype has hit the track for the first time, prompting Mazda to release its basic specs for the first time.
Tentatively referred to simply as the 2014 Mazda Prototype, the purpose-built racecar is testing this weekend in the Roar Before the 24, the official test session at Daytona that kicks off the racing season. It packs a 2.2-liter SkyActiv-D engine that's based heavily on the production version but tuned to produce 450 horsepower and 580 pound-feet of torque in race trim. Power is channeled through a six-speed sequential transmission from Xtrac, carbon brakes from AP and 18-inch racing slicks from Continental. With the Daytona-spec aero setup, it'll top out at around 186 miles per hour.