It has been a long time since I last drove a Mazda. Two years in fact, when my ‘better half’ owned a previous generation Mazda 3. It wasn’t great…it was a little sluggish, didn’t handle all that well and was hard on fuel, which was disappointing given the lack of performance.
On the back of that mixed introduction, I genuinely wasn’t sure what to expect when I heard I was going to test-drive the all new Mazda 2. So when I arrived home to see the stunning Soul Red metallic paint (£650 option) sparkling in the sunlight, I was immediately impressed.
I couldn’t help but notice that it has become quite a large car, far removed from the previous model. It’s incredibly grown-up looking, with the very open mouth and pointed bonnet/upper bumper that the Mazda design team seems to have implemented across the ranges. And rightly so as it really is a stunning front end.
With five doors, it makes the Mazda 2 a practical car, suitable for a young family, a young person with lots of friends or maybe even a couple of canine family members. The ease of access was good and the amount of room in the rear was surprisingly ample for a car of this size, even for two adults.
The front seats were comfortable with plenty of room around but perhaps a little more bolster support would be welcomed. That said; this is a very personal gripe as I am used to driving cars with sports interiors that offer a little more support on the ever expanding waistline!
The dash was well laid out with a screen placed in the centre of the dash that angled slightly towards the passenger rather than the driver. This screen was the hub of the infotainment system which comprised of Sat Nav, BlueTooth, USB media input, SD Card input, DAB Radio and the controls for which were situated down by the handbrake with various easily used knobs and buttons.
For a car of this size and affordable price (OTR starting at just over £14k) I was impressed with the sheer amount of technology, even to the extent of pop up notifications for SMS and e-mail on the screen with the option to read and reply (not advisable whilst driving I must add).
Electric windows and mirrors all come as standard and this test car from Mazda UK was equipped with cruise control, which was simple to understand and use. All but the very base model come with cruise control as standard.
The materials used within the cabin have come a long way from previous generations. The Mazda 2 feels well put together and solid throughout without that old ‘plastic’ feel inside. Boot space was adequate and the boot floor was sunken but I reckon a small buggy with some shopping would fit with ease.
After taking the car for a spin, I must take my hat off to Mazda’s chassis department. They have really worked magic with the new generation of models – the ride was firm but very comfortable and cornering was smooth and precise with minimal effort and body roll.
I felt confident driving the car and trusted its predictable mannerisms like it was a much bigger, grounded car. For this alone, well done Mazda. Around town the car was very light and nimble but I did find visibility very restrictive out of the back via the large C pillar and a little restrictive to the side via the B pillar.
Engine wise there is only one capacity available – a 1500cc – but there are two fuel types and four outputs to choose from. The single diesel offering is turbocharged and produces 104bhp with a five speed manual gearbox while the petrol offering comes with 74bhp, 89bhp or 113bhp. All have a five speed manual gearbox while the 89bhp model can also be ordered with a six speed automatic.
The car we drove had the 89bhp engine with five speed manual gearbox. For a car that will rarely be out of the city and rarely attempting to break the speed limits, the engine was reasonably lively. On mixed driving over the period of a week, it didn’t struggle at all and it didn’t need to be revved hard as there was plenty of usable torque.
However, the biggest surprise of all was the real world combined MPG of 51 which is on par with a lot of large capacity modern diesels. This economy is thanks to Mazda’s ‘SKYACTIV’ technology. In Mazda’s words, ‘SKYACTIV engines can compress the air-fuel mixture in the cylinders to an extraordinary degree, squeezing far more energy from every drop of fuel’. Sounds like snazzy marketing speak but it works!
I reckon the Mazda 2 is going to be a popular little car and for good reason too. It’s well built, handles well, has decent performance, great economy and is spacious inside with annual road tax of just £20.
Words & Photos: Graham Curry