From £12,5408
If it can better the old model, the new Mazda 2 has the potential to unseat the established leaders of the supermini pack

Our Verdict

The Mazda 2
The Mazda 2 name dates back to 2002. This latest version showcases the firm's Skyactiv technology and 'Kodo' styling

Mazda's Skyactiv tech revolution transforms its cheapest model

10 December 2014

What is it?

Another supermini contender, in a year that has been full to bursting with them. There's a lot of potential in the new Mazda 2, and we've now driven it on UK roads.

A longer wheelbase with shorter overhangs and more liberal use of high-tensile steels to keep weight down while increasing torsional rigidity by a whopping 22 per cent all promise something of the frothy handling that made the old 2 such a firm favourite.

There are also now five doors as standard, while the interior has been spruced up with a new colour touchscreen forming the focal point of the cabin on all but the entry-level trim.

Ride comfort is supposedly improved, too, and the new 89bhp 1.5-litre SkyActiv petrol model tested here (which is also available in 74bhp and 113bhp outputs, alongside a new 1.5 diesel) promises a great balance between fun and frugality.

What's it like?

Perhaps Mazda’s philosophical talk of ‘driver and car as one’ got our hopes up, but the 2 doesn’t quite live up to expectations in terms of the handling.

The steering is meaty and sharp when it’s weighted up mid-corner, so it’s easy to place the car precisely on the road, but it’s light and vague around the dead-ahead. That vagueness makes the 2 feel prone to wandering around a little at high speeds and gives an inconsistent to the steering. 

The Ford Fiesta remains the handling benchmark for superminis, then, but that’s not to say there isn’t a bit of ‘oneness’ to the way the 2 drives. Turn-in is sharp, there’s decent grip and taut body control, all of which means that flinging the 2 about with vigour will bring a smile to your face rather than the understeer-induced grimace that you’d be wearing in plenty of its rivals.

The engine enhances the fun factor. The naturally aspirated 1.5 drives through a positive-shifting manual gearbox and really encourages you to wring the last rev out of it if the fancy takes you. However, it doesn’t pull from low revs with the verve that you’ll enjoy in the turbocharged engines elsewhere in this class, and the Mazda makes a proper racket at higher revs, which in turn means that it’s buzzy on the motorway. 

Ride comfort is improved over the old car. You’ll feel a fair few tremors and the odd harsh thump in the cabin over patched-up town roads, but the damping softens the worst bumps and it’s settled at high speeds. 

Perhaps the biggest step forward is the cabin, which previously traded in scratchy plastics and some seemingly 1990s Casio-inspired readouts. Now you get a smattering of contrasting materials, including the odd gloss plastic and metal-effect insert, a simple, easy-to-read speedo and a seven-inch colour touchscreen.

It all feels quite grown-up and easy to use, provided you stick to using the rotary controller for the infotainment screen, given that you have to poke the touchscreen with alarming force to illicit a response. Its software also looks a bit half-finished because not all of the homescreen icons fit within the confines of the display. 

Still, the screen really brightens up the interior, and on SE-L trim you get DAB radio, Bluetooth and a USB input, and you can add sat-nav for £400 should you wish. It’s well equipped elsewhere, too, with climate and cruise controls, heated and electrically adjustable door mirrors, a leather steering wheel with audio controls and a lane departure warning system.

There’s a bit less room in the rear cabin and in the boot of compared to some rivals, notably the Volkswagen Polo and new Skoda Fabia, but with 60/40 split rear seats as standard, it’ll be more than fit for purpose for most supermini users.

Should I buy one?

There are plenty of reasons why you should, yes.

If you like the 2’s combination of swoopy, well proportioned looks, generous kit, encouraging dynamics and low running costs (we managed an impressive 50mpg in a varied real-world run), you'll probably love it. It's certainly a lot less dreary and pious-feeling than plenty of other small cars. 

Having said that, it’s a shame the list price isn’t lower, as the 2 does look a touch pricey next to the obvious rivals.The relatively poor refinement can be wearing out of town, too.

Without these issues, and if the handling stakes were high enough to rival the seemingly unbeatable agility of the Fiesta, the Mazda 2 could be a world-beating thing.

As it is, it’s one of the best, but it’s not quite king of the supermini hill. 

Mazda 2 SkyActiv-G 1.5 90 SE-L

Price £13,995 0-62mph 9.4sec Top speed 114mph Economy 62.8mpg CO2 105g/km Kerb weight 1050kg Engine 4 cyls, 1496cc, petrolPower 89bhp at 6000rpm Torque 109lb ft at 4000rpm Gearbox 5-spd manual

 

Join the debate

Comments
12

11 December 2014
If this new model struggles against the Fiesta which is nearly in it's 8th year of production what hope for it when the next gen fiesta comes out. Another problem for the Mazda 2 is that it already looks dated and not boy does it sound like it needs a modern small 3 cylinder turbo engine. Not all negative as the inside looks like quite a nice place to be.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

11 December 2014
Sorry buddy, the Fiesta is going into it's 7th year of production in 2015 - was released in 2008 :-)

11 December 2014
50mpg in real world driving is impressive. I disagree with xxxx that it it looks dated. Think we are looking at vastly different cars, because I think this is one of the best looking small cars out there.

11 December 2014
superstevie wrote:

50mpg in real world driving is impressive. I disagree with xxxx that it it looks dated. Think we are looking at vastly different cars, because I think this is one of the best looking small cars out there.

Sorry to hear you disagree with me and we're not looking different cars, it's called a personal opinion.

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

11 December 2014
xxxx wrote:
superstevie wrote:

50mpg in real world driving is impressive. I disagree with xxxx that it it looks dated. Think we are looking at vastly different cars, because I think this is one of the best looking small cars out there.

Sorry to hear you disagree with me and we're not looking different cars, it's called a personal opinion.

Yeah but I'm right and you are soooooo wrong! :p hehe Just messing. I just don't see it as a dated design.

11 December 2014
Vicky ! I ve not seen an article written by you for ages. Often wondered why there arent more female motoring journalists. You ran the A1 and another supermini before it if I remember, seems a bit sexist that youre only allowed to test superminis though.

11 December 2014
... and I really like it that Mazda is choosing to stick with normally aspirated. Sure they don't give the turbo whoosh people are getting used to. Hence you have to rev it a bit for it to deliver all of it's performance. But what you gain instead lineal power delivery and it's economy is clearly better than that of say Fiesta 1l turbo. Implying what I suspected that a larger capacity normally aspirated properly developed would actually be more economical real world. Let us not forget either, that the relatively low stressed Mazda engine will be still going strong when the 1l. turbo engines have joined an engine grave yard. That Mazda is sticking with normally aspirated thus bucking the trend, is a reason to buy it ahead of the others. Appears to have a lovely handling to boot.

11 December 2014
Einarbb wrote:

... and I really like it that Mazda is choosing to stick with normally aspirated. Sure they don't give the turbo whoosh people are getting used to. Hence you have to rev it a bit for it to deliver all of it's performance. But what you gain instead lineal power delivery and it's economy is clearly better than that of say Fiesta 1l turbo. Implying what I suspected that a larger capacity normally aspirated properly developed would actually be more economical real world. Let us not forget either, that the relatively low stressed Mazda engine will be still going strong when the 1l. turbo engines have joined an engine grave yard. That Mazda is sticking with normally aspirated thus bucking the trend, is a reason to buy it ahead of the others. Appears to have a lovely handling to boot.

You may be on to something on the fuel economy thing, although I suspect the relatively poor real world economy of the Ford ecoboost 1l is due to Ford trying to make it an exciting engine to appeal to road testers rather than give it genuine fuel efficiency. I have to argue about the reliability issue, this will depend on the durability of modern turbos in the latest boosted engines as that is the real weak point. The engine itself won't be affected in long term reliability (stop start tech excepted, but this can easily be on n/a engines) by the forced induction boosting the output, as it's how fast an engine revs that'll shorten its life expectancy not how much air is forced into it. That's why the 1st and 2nd gen Honda civic type-R's were so remarkable as somehow Honda managed to make a n/a 4 cylinder that could rev like fury but was reliable. Only time will tell if modern downsized engines are reliable or not and again the weak point is not their specific output, but the turbocharger's reliability as a component and any negative effect of stop-start.

11 December 2014
no need to be sorry just be right. I said "nearly in it's 8th year". Released in 2008 so it's 08,09,10,11,12,13,14 so 2015 means "nearly in it's 8th year" :-)

 

Hydrogen cars just went POP

12 December 2014
. . . you neglect however that a turbo engine is operating under a stress from the turbo-charging itself, by squeezing more power out of an engine, your are putting components under tremendous stress. Not the same stress as from a high reeving engine. Call it pressure. Even so, only time will tell about the longevity of those stressed components. But my money is on that the Mazda engine will outlive an average 1l. turbo by a margin. How large only time will tell. And moreover be more economical to boot. But it's not just the ford engine, it's also that 2cyl. 800cc Fiat engine which has got a disappointing economy.

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