What is it?
This is the facelifted Mazda 2, a car we’ve already driven on its launch but tested here for the first time in the UK. Autocar could be accused of not shouting loudly enough about the Mazda 2. It’s a great car that offers excellent value, but it’s the Fiesta and Polo that steal the class headlines. Mazda, then, is no doubt hoping that this mid-life facelift, which includes styling changes inside and out along with slightly softer suspension, will go some way towards raising the 2’s profile.
The engine line-up consists of two petrol options (1.3-litre with 74 or 83bhp and a 101bhp 1.5-litre) and a diesel (a 94bhp 1.6), all of which are now Euro 5 compliant. As with the car tested at launch, this car came with the 1.5-litre petrol mated to a new 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. We, it has to be said, would have preferred to try the car with a manual transmission…
What’s it like?
In short, it’s a cracking car and still great fun to drive despite a slight softening of the suspension. 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.
The 1.5-litre engine is a pretty refined unit, too, offering enough performance for the 2 not to feel out of its depth with motorway traffic. Mated to a manual ’box it returns 48.7mpg on the EC combined test cycle, although this drops to 44.8mpg for the automatic version.
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.