2016 Mazda2 unveiled: More tech, more aggressive, much more efficient

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The Japanese Demio will ultimately reach the States with the Mazda2 moniker. Mazda

Mazda just announced that it has started Japanese production of the new Demio in its Hofu plant and released preview photos of the new compact hatchback, which will be known as the 2016 Mazda2 when it ultimately launches globally.

The Japanese Demio be powered by a Skyactiv-G 1.3-liter gasoline engine, which outputs a mere 83 horsepower and 83 pound-feet of torque. That's even lower than the current Mazda2's 100 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque, but the new engine's use of fuel-saving technologies nets it an impressive 30km/L (about 70 mpg) on the Japanese highway test cycle. That's not an apples-to-apples comparison with the EPA's testing methods, so the 2016 Mazda2 will probably receive a more conservative estimate in the 45-to-46 highway mpg ballpark (based on Mazda's estimate of a 50 percent increase in efficiency) when it makes North American landfall.

The 2016 model will also be significantly lighter, which should help it to maintain or improve on the current level of performance despite the reduction in output.

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The Demio will be powered by either an efficient 1.3-liter Skyactiv-G engine or a torquey 1.5-liter Skyactiv-G clean diesel. Mazda

A 1.5-liter Skyactiv-D clean diesel engine will also be available for the Japanese market, pumping out 103 horsepower and 184 pound-feet of torque. Now, that sounds like a lot of fun in the lightweight Mazda2. While I don't have high hopes that we'll be seeing that engine stateside anytime soon, I've got my fingers crossed.

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Though toned down from the Hazumi concept, the Demio/Mazda2 reminds me of a smaller Mazda3 hatchback. Mazda

The photos also reveal just how much of the Hazumi concept's design, which we saw at this year's Geneva auto show, made it to the production model. You can see the concept's influence in the grille and the headlamps, but the rest of the hatchback's aesthetic has been toned down. The profile and rear remind me of a smaller "chibi" version of the Mazda3 hatchback, which I like.

Inside, we see that the new 2 features a similar "tablet toaster" infotainment design and should share much of its available dashboard technology with the newly launched 2014 Mazda3 hatchback and sedan. Mazda states that "the model also features a wide range of cutting-edge technologies such as the Mazda Connect next-generation car connectivity system, and a wide range of i-ActivSense advanced safety features that aid the driver in recognizing and responding to hazards." We're looking forward to seeing those technologies trickle down to the most affordable model in the lineup.

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The new 2 will feature a "tablet toaster"-style infotainment system with a hardware controller mounted down near the shifter. Mazda

Specifics of pricing, clarity of engine and transmission choices, and details about the tech will be revealed closer to the Mazda2's global launch this fall, possibly at the 2014 Paris auto show.

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2016 Mazda Mazda2

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