Back in 2008 the Mazda 2 was voted World Car of the Year. Considering the car’s engineering thoroughness and individuality, that shouldn’t be a surprise.

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Mazda’s supermini offering in Europe before the Mazda 2 was originally badged 121. The small cars that were sold under that name were a disparate bunch, including the bubble-shaped Mazda model launched in 1991 and the 1996 model which was a badge-engineered version of the oval-face Ford Fiesta. It was only with the current  Mazda 2 that the brand got really serious about breaking into the important European supermini market.

Introduced in late 2007, the Mazda 2, a sister car to the current Ford Fiesta, reversed a 15-year trend towards bigger, heavier superminis. It was about 10cm shorter than the then-current new crop of hatchbacks such as the Vauxhall Corsa, Peugeot 207, Renault Clio and Fiat Punto, without seeming to pay any significant penalty in reduced interior packaging, beyond conceding some boot space and a couple of centimetres of rear headroom.

The Mazda 2 is closely related to the Ford Fiesta

The 2 also took an early lead on Mazda’s new engineering direction, which requires future models to be ever lighter and more fuel efficient. Its platform was engineered by Mazda and also used by Ford. At the time of its development, Ford owned a significant stake in Mazda.

With a kerb weight of around 960kg, the new model is around 60kg lighter than the 2007-2014 Mazda 2 it replaced, and up to 190kg lighter than the heaviest of its contemporaries. Mazda’s engineers went to great efforts to shave the weight back when developing the 2. Shortening the rear suspension’s trailing arms saved 13kg, the radio speaker magnets are smaller and the wiring loom shorter, which alone saved nearly 3kg.

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Mazda 2

The 2 has an impressively lithe originality about it. The skin is heavily-sculpted and the intertwining surfaces give the smallest Mazda a taut look. Clever details abound; for example, the distinctive ‘wings’ over the front wheels are taken from the RX-8 rotary-engined coupé.  

The side of car has a very marked scallop in the lower door skin which is complimented by a rising line that starts just above the front wheel arch and climbs steeply through the front door handle and over the top of the rear door handle, wrapping over into the top of the rear light cluster.  

The Mazda 2 remains a handsome car, full of nice design touches

Mazda’s stylists have cleverly – and elegantly – distorted the two surfaces that are defined by this line. In the right colour, the side of the Mazda 2 is a masterclass in making pressed steel look beguiling. The rear elevation is less radical, but still neat and tightly drawn. The facelifted front end now gets a huge, five-corner, grille and big fog lights: a big improvement over the launch model. 


Mazda 2

Like the exterior, the 2's interior benefits from the originality of Mazda’s designers. It is based around a theme of circles, from the round air vents to the heater controls, console display and instrument faces. The dashboard is one big, simple, curved volume which gives the cabin calm distinctiveness that’s unlikely to date quickly.  

The gear lever is mounted up high on the centre console, which makes for easy shifting. Like most superminis, the door bins aren’t up to much and the cabin suffers from a lack of oddment stowage.  

The removable floor in the boot is a good idea, but it is fiddly to remove

The surface material quality is, arguably, not as good in places as that of rival European superminis. However, the Japanese do know how to mould plastics and how screw interiors together tightly and efficiently. It’s a pretty good bet that the Mazda’s dashboard will remain rattle free in years to come. The cabin is big enough for four adults and the boot decent at 250 litres with the seats up, although the Fiesta can manage a useful larger 290 litres.  


Mazda 2

The Mazda 2 engine line-up consists of two petrol options. A 1.3-litre unit with 74 or 83bhp and a 101bhp 1.5-litre, and a 94bhp 1.6-litre diesel, all of which are Euro 5 compliant. Overall, we’d opt for the 83bhp manual 1.3 model as our pick of the range, although if you spend a lot of time on the motorway, the 101bhp 1.5-litre unit is the better bet.  

In the benchmark 0-62mph sprint, the 74bhp engine takes 14.9sec and its 83bhp sister takes 13.6sec, while the 1.5-litre engine cuts that back to a much nippier 10.7sec. The torquey 1.6-litre diesel takes 11.5sec.  

Mazda has removed 2kg from the speakers, 13kg from the suspension and 22kg from the body, all aiding performance

It’s probably true to say that the engines are, overall, slightly less refined than in rival models such as the Volkswagen Polo or mechanically similar Ford Fiesta. But then the Mazda 2 is tuned more towards satisfying the eager driver. The manual cars benefit from a slick-shifting manual ’box.  

The 1.5-litre petrol can be had mated to a four-speed automatic gearbox. The 1.5 is the only engine in the range available that gets the auto option, but Mazda believes it’s going to be a big seller in the UK both as a Motability scheme choice and thanks to the car’s popularity with driving schools. It’s a pretty refined unit, too, offering enough performance for the 2 not to feel out of its depth with motorway traffic.   

While the relatively low-tech four-speed ’box mutes the engine’s responses a touch it’s surprisingly driver friendly with slick, unobtrusive changes and an intelligent matching of speed to gear. It works particularly well around town, although can feel stretched on the open road – kickdown at 65mph or so and the engine is happy to rev alarmingly close to the red line for what feels like a few seconds too long, but it soon regains its composure.


Mazda 2

In short, the Mazda 2 is a cracking car and still great fun to drive despite a very slight softening of the suspension, which introduced for the facelift version for the 2011 model year. Changes to the suspension bushes were directly intended to smooth out the ride in certain conditions.  

The steering is quick and direct, and the ride pliant and composed. Yes, it will thump and bang a bit over urban potholes but frankly we’d be surprised if it didn’t. From the first few yards, the Mazda 2 comes across as a sweet, easy-to-drive car with foolproof controls and steering that seems unusually accurate and reluctant to load up in hard corners (especially considering its all-electric power assistance).  

The 2 is tremendous fun through the bends

Best of all, it feels sporty; there’s negligible body roll despite the reasonably relaxed suspension rates, and the car tucks in neatly if you throttle off mid-corner near the limit.  

Faults? The brake pedal can seem rather spongy (though retardation is fine) and we’ll reserve judgement on the car’s ride when fully laden, because lighter cars sometimes get unruly.


Mazda 2

The entry-level 1.3-litre engine with its 74bhp, standard air-con and showroom price of £10,305 looks like good value, especially considering the 2’s inherent dynamic appeal and smart styling, and that the entry-level Fiesta gets a measly 60bhp. Mazda claims an average 55.4mpg and 115g/km CO2. Servicing should squeeze in at under £200 per year, marginally more than European rivals but not noticeably so. The old insurers’ prejudice against Japanese-sourced cars pushes up the entry-level insurance to group nine, when the Fiesta gets a group-five rating.  

The same MPG/CO2 figures are given for the more powerful 84bhp, 1.3-litre engine, though the insurance group leaps to 11. The 1.5-litre engine might bring motorway pace, but is also pushed the average MPG down to 48.7, CO2 up to 132g/km and the insurance to a silly group 16. Most economical of the lot is the 1.6 diesel, which returns 67.3mpg, 110g/km but is also in group 16. 

The 1.6-litre diesel will return more than 67mpg


Mazda 2

Although it is quite compact and not as plush and refined as rival superminis, the Mazda 2 is something of an unsung gem. For drivers who appreciate a car that is light and taut handling, the 2 is a must-sample machine. Of course, it will do the job of a conventional supermini with ease but goes about its business with a bit of sparkle and it remains one of the most complete and enjoyable products in its class. It is also currently built at Mazda’s headquarters in Japan, rather than in a cheaper, developing-world factory which, for some, will be a worthwhile bonus.  

It is to be hoped that the SkyActive version of the Mazda 2 – which uses one of Mazda’s radical new high-compression petrol engines – will eventually be made available in the UK. This engine could well deliver over 70mpg and come in at under 100g/km of CO2. With no replacement in sight for the baby Mazda, which now just beginning to show signs of age, a SkyActive version offering diesel economy would make the 2 stand out among its rivals.

The Mazda 2 is the perfect choice for buyers who find the Fiesta a little too common

Mazda 2 2007-2014 First drives