From £18,0608
Mazda's rival to the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo is plusher and more grown-up than the model it replaces

What is it?

The all-new Mazda 2; a bigger, plusher supermini built to fill out its manufacturer’s ambitions towards Volkswagen-style status. The previous car, the one you’ll have been mistaking for a Ford Fiesta for the past seven years, was a chip off Ford’s block; small, switch-blade sharp and arguably a little bleak inside.

We liked it. The fourth generation, though, ditches the elfin attitude for something rather more substantial. Now a five-door model only, with a considerably longer wheelbase and bigger boot, the 2 has been transformed into a respectable five-seat hatchback. Although not conventional in Mazda’s book; the designers having shifted the A pillars 80mm rearwards for proportions that apparently contradict the class norm.

Perhaps. But the 2 is only modestly handsome; being slightly under-wheeled and looking for all the world like a scaled down Mazda 3 in the flesh. Underneath it shares in its sibling’s guiding principles, being another recipient of the manufacturer’s far-reaching SkyActiv technology.

Thus, despite being noticeably larger, it is practically no heavier, and, thanks to the greater proportion of high tensile steel in its belly, significantly stiffer.

There’s a choice of two four-cylinder engines; a 1.5-litre diesel and a 1.5-litre petrol. The latter is offered in three power outputs; 74bhp, 89bhp and 114bhp, while the smoker comes solely as an all-new 104bhp option - capable of claimed 83mpg and 89g/km CO2 emissions. 

Serious numbers, and delivered – once again – by Mazda’s seemingly superior attention to engineering detail. The diesel shares some of the SkyActiv tech used on the recent (and exceptional) 2.2-litre engine, or else downscales it for use in a smaller package. Hence there is the same ultra-low compression ratio and a great emphasis on thermal efficiency. 

As standard there are both five and six-speed manual gearboxes, while an (untried) updated and lightened conventional auto takes on the slusher duties.

We drove pre-production cars (the 2 doesn’t launch in the UK until the spring) in predictably well-equipped format. Mazda won’t be drawn on UK spec yet, but the infotainment screen is expected to be standard fair and there’s a small heap of new safety tech, including lane assist and blind spot monitoring.

What's it like?

While recent additions to the Mazda lineup have impressed us, a common theme has been the humdrum character of their cabins. Not so the 2.

It’s no surprise to learn that Ryo Yanagisawa, Mazda’s chief designer and the man responsible for the car’s styling inside and out, trained as an interior designer. Up front it’s a minor triumph; incorporating a muscular swathe of dashboard, a natty but fully formed centre console and a gunsight of an instrument binnacle in the kind of limited space that would usually become cluttered by so many standout features.

Outclassing the class is the phrase Mazda likes, and for once, it rings true. The sophistication of the dash, in attractiveness at least, is in a different league to the mainstream opposition. It’s functional too – the centre console might look like the front of a 10 year old PC, but you can plug all manner of things into it, and the slick switchgear above makes a mockery of those used in the new Vauxhall Corsa.

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Which isn’t to deny the presence of some obvious compromises – encountered in some hard, scratchy plastic atop the dash – but these hide in plain sight. Were it built from toffee, the layout would still impress.

The seating follows suit. Mazda claims it has offered a driving position modeled on the posture astronauts adopt in zero-G – make of that what you will, but certainly it feels praiseworthy, and lower slung than most of its rivals, too.

The previous 2 funneled rear seat occupants into contorted knee bends; here, with proper rear doors and a surprisingly generous roofline, the origami expected of adults is minimal. Once inside, an additional 80mm of wheelbase helps keep the kneecaps adrift of the front seats.

Certainly the proximity of the car’s bodywork leaves you in no doubt that you’re still in a supermini, but clearly this is a bigger, plusher 2 than Mazda buyers have been offered before. Repeat buyers will find the enhanced maturity weaved into the driving experience.

The 2’s previous benchmark  a result of its blood ties – was the Fiesta; now, convincingly, it’s the Volkswagen Polo. The spunkiness and dinky verve evinced by its predecessor have been papered over by sure-footedness, ease of use and enhanced rolling comfort.

Less of a driver’s car then as a result  but one you could spend relentless hours in without complaint. Tellingly, Mazda has adjusted the suspension’s castor angle for a German-branded straight line sure-footedness.

It’s countered the subsequent deadening effect with a quicker steering rack, although truthfully the weight-up of effort isn’t quite as convincingly linear as Mazda imagines it is. The lasting impression, ratified on the conspicuously few available corners made available, is of an over-assisted rack and a chassis with an obvious stability bias. 

That’s mostly okay though, because Mazda’s powertrains all implore you to drive in measured style. Neither 1.5-litre engine is an epitome of spiritedness; both favouring a calculated build-up of revs, from what is an initially hesitant throttle pedal. Predictably, it’s the usability of a productive mid range that’s favoured here  straying beneath 2500rpm or above 4500rpm is respectively unwise and unwarranted, no matter which fuel you’re burning.

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Ultimately, the 89bhp petrol (the likely big seller) edges the diesel in the kind of well-mannered performance you’d want from a supermini especially as it comes with 62.7mpg potential – although the latter, with 10.1 second to 62mph performance and a 50lb ft torque advantage, wouldn’t make for an outlandish choice if you’re considering a supermini for serious motorway miles.

Should I buy one?

Mazda hasn’t provided us with the prices that would inform a decision, but the signs here are certainly promising. The maturity and finesse emanating from the cabin is underwritten by the drive experience; a refined, everyman-pleasing medley of usability and deceptive straightforwardness.

The 2 feels ready-made for urban commutes, and while there’s precious little to get your teeth into should you choose to take the long way home, this is still a supermini of very few rough edges. The definitive verdict awaits a UK drive, of course, and doubtless some match-ups with the usual contenders  but until then, the new 2 seems in fine fettle. 

Mazda 2

Price TBC; 0-62mph 9.4 seconds; Top speed 112mph; Economy 62.7mpg; CO2 105g/km; Kerbweight 1050kg; Engine type, cc Four cylinder, 1496cc, petrol; Power 89bhp at 6000rpm; Torque 109lb ft at 4000rpm; Gearbox Five-speed manual


Add a comment…
Paul Dalgarno 10 November 2014

Don't love it, but quite like it.

Ignoring the ivory coloured interior I really like the inside. Wish manufacturers would go down the new TT route and get rid of those stick up screens (I have one in my 3 series and I hate it).

The outside is quite nice, but not fantastic.

And yet people will still buy Vauxhall bl**dy Corsas though?????

Carmad3 6 November 2014

Mazda 2

Yet another really ugly Mazda YUK!!!!
Dark Isle 6 November 2014

More Economical

Mazda's SkyActiv technology does bring more impressive real life economy figures according to What Car? and True MPG. For example, Mazda CX-5 2.2 D (47.2 mpg) versus Audi Q5 2.0 TDI (39.2 mpg), BMW X3 xDrive20d (42.2 mpg) and Volvo XC60 (43.6 mpg). I think it's really good.