First DriveAn early drive in this range-extender version of the Mazda 2 EV reveals an enticing proposition
First DriveIt’s a great car that offers excellent value but auto gearbox wouldn’t be our choice
What is it?
The all-new Mazda 2 supermini, which hits the UK in September. Its body and underpinnings will also be used on the new Ford Fiesta – due in 2008.
The 2 reverses a 15-year trend towards bigger, heavier superminis. It is about 10cm shorter than the current, recently-launched 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.
Most important, with a kerb weight around 960 kilograms it is around 60kg lighter than the model it replaces, and up to 190 kilograms lighter than the porkiest of its contemporaries.
We drove the 102bhp 1.5-litre Sport five-door, which can do around 118mph flat out and accelerates from 0-60mph in around 10 seconds.
Two 1.3-litre versions, with either 74 or 85bhp, are also available.
What's it like?
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 gearbox is quick-shifting and, to judge by the few decent bumps we could find, ride control is impressive.
Best of all, it feels sporty. The engine sounds purposeful but still refined at 6000rpm-plus, there is negligible body roll despite the reasonably relaxed suspension rates, and the car tucks in neatly if you throttle off in mid-corner near the limit.
Faults? The brake pedal seems rather spongy (though retardation is fine), the cabin materials quality isn’t in the Corsa class and we’ll reserve judgement on the car’s ride when fully laden, because lighter cars sometimes get unruly.
Should I buy one?
We'll have to wait until final UK details are confirmed to be sure. Prices look steep: they start around £8500 and ascend to £12,000, and we suspect you’ll pay £9500 minimum for a mid-spec TS2 model with the higher-power 1.3 litre, air conditioning, alloy wheels and a decent suite of airbags.