What is it?
The one and only turbodiesel version of the new Mazda 2, which officially went on sale in the UK earlier this month. We’ve already reviewed the car in a couple of petrol guises, but the diesel offers something markedly different – both from its rangemates and most of its competition.
Using a new 1.5-litre all-aluminium turbodiesel engine built of Mazda’s 'right-sized not downsized' philosophy, the car develops a healthy 104bhp and 162lb ft – in a class where it remains rare to find a diesel option with more than 90bhp.
As a result of that power, as well as the lightness that Mazda added in the design and engineering of its third-generation supermini, this car is almost two seconds quicker to 62mph than plenty of its competition. And thanks to the low compression ratio and associated efficiency, it’s also just as frugal and CO2-efficient as those rivals, bettering 80mpg and squeezing in less than 90g/km of CO2 at manufacturer claims.
We tested the car in range-topping Sport Nav trim, giving us a chance to sample the richer features and touches available on the car. The standard specification includes 16in alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, parking sensors, a 7.0in colour multimedia system with sat-nav and DAB radio, and both climate and cruise control.
What's it like?
Long-striding, refined, stable and frugal at high speed: a small car with the ground-covering ability of something much bigger.
You could happily spend a lot of time in one of these, not least because the cabin is so pleasant. With its black cloth and dark plastics, our test car did reveal Mazda’s predilection for monochromatic interior design. Headline petrol versions are offered with lighter leather trim as an option, which breaks up the vast expanses of gloomy blackness, but for some reason it’s not offered on the diesel.
That apart, the fascia looks modern, uncluttered and appealing to the senses, with tactile and colourful inserts used in places and good material quality apparent on the climate controls. Cabin space is good but not great, with larger adults likely to find the back seats in particular tight on both knee and head room.
But in just about every other way, this Mazda 2 does an uncanny impression of a much larger family hatchback. That diesel engine is a little bit gravelly under initial throttle applications, but settles to a remarkably hushed cruise that really distinguishes the car. Throttle response is relatively soft, but torque comes on strongly between 2000rpm and 3000rpm, making the car feel quite brisk pulling through third and fourth gears.
That it feels less muscular in fifth and sixth has little to do with the engine and more the unusually long gear ratios that Mazda has chosen. Pulling 39mph per 1000rpm in top, the Mazda 2 diesel has longer cruising legs than most diesel hatchbacks from one or two market segments above.
Motorway overtaking is therefore best attempted with a downshift, while country road passes require a couple of them. The trade-off is outstanding, fairly effortless real-world fuel economy. Economy in the mid-60s is very easily achieved on a mixed route, and we can believe a return starting with a '7' would be possible with the right driving style.