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.
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.
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.