Often regarded as “the other” Japanese car brand due to the low profile it tends to maintain, it is perhaps ironic that it is frequently Mazda that pulls a truly stunning product out of the bag. Think MX-5, for example, or RX-7 and RX-8. Or even a surprise Le Mans victory… With its new supermini, the Mazda2, it appears to have done so again. Not only is the immediate appeal of the new model way ahead of anything Mazda has offered in this segment before, but it seems to be a genuine contender for class-best honours.
Appealing looks for Mazda2Attractive styling always helps, and in this regard the Mazda2 is off to a strong start. It’s a sporty looking car, with a cheeky grin and taught surfacing. In top-spec Individual guise it looks even better, courtesy of smart 16-inch alloy wheels and a more aggressive front-end treatment with integrated foglamps. Mazda offers a wide range of vibrant colours to suit the car’s personality.
The interior is similarly bursting with character. The bulging centre section features a circular digital display module for the audio system (which boasts auxiliary support) and two pod-like ventilation outlets protrude from the upper section. The gearlever is mounted on the facia and falls very easy to hand, which is just as well, seeing as the Mazda2 does not feature a reach-adjustable steering column. In fact, given the absence of the latter, the driving position is surprisingly good, if a tad high. Also catching the eye is an upmarket-looking steering wheel with neatly integrated remote audio controls. Keyless-go rounds off a fairly high-tech interior package that also includes automatic lights, rain-sensing wipers and no fewer than six airbags.
The generous specification goes a long way in lifting the Mazda2’s cabin ambience beyond the supermini norm, but what it can’t hide is the compactness of the car. Although there’s plenty space in front, it progressively gets more cramped towards the rear. Legroom for rear passengers are probably par for the course, but the boot is rather small and contains only a space-saver spare.
Sharp dynamicsGiven the Mazda2’s fairly straightforward underpinnings – MacPherson struts front, torsion beam at the rear – its dynamic character may come as a surprise, particularly as it also features electric power steering, which usually detracts from driving enjoyment in the traditional, “enthusiastic” sense. Mazda’s engineers have however managed to tune the suspension for fun, which is immediately noticeable in the firm ride. The steering is also nicely weighted, albeit artificially so, and impresses with its accuracy. Around town the Mazda2 can be a tad on the fidgety side, and perhaps in pursuit of ultimate agility, Mazda seems to have decided not to make use of too much weight-adding noise suppression materials, and consequently road noise levels can be high on coarser surfaces. Grab the Mazda2 by the scruff of its neck, however, and drive it with vigour, and you’ll get the best out of it. This is a car that relishes being driven hard and it probably rates as a class leader in this regard. Those who prioritise refinement, silence and ride comfort may need to look elsewhere.
Providing the zoom-zoomPowering this Mazda2 is a 1,5-litre petrol engine that delivers a competitive 76 kW, but which appears somewhat down on torque (136 Nm developed at a fairly high 4 000 rpm). Resultantly it is an engine that needs to be revved to get the best out of it, but this is no hardship, as this driving method suits the character of the car. The gearbox is a slick five-speeder that provides fast, accurate shifts with a pleasantly precise feel. It’s no slouch, this Mazda2, and higher up the rev range there remains considerable power for executing an overtaking manoeuvre if needed. Mazda claims a 0-100 km/h time of 10,7 seconds, but subjectively the Mazda2 feels faster than that. On the other hand, Mazda’s fuel consumption claim of 5,9 litres/100 km is not easy to achieve. You’re likely to see figures of closer to 7,5 litres/100 km.
Mazda2 - VerdictWith its lively character the Mazda2 appears to have been injected with a large dose of the company’s corporate “zoom-zoom” spirit. It is a truly fun car to pilot. But it’s also not a one-trick pony. The interior is stylish, upmarket, well-built and loaded with luxury segment features which are not common at this price level. In Mazda’s pursuit for driving enjoyment a few compromises have however been made – the “2” exhibits high levels of road noise, and the ride is on the firm side. All things considered, however, the rather dull B-segment has lacked such a fun offering for a long time. The Mazda2 may not be for everyone, but if you fancy yourself somewhat of a petrolhead and enjoy the thrills of driving, it is a must for the shortlist.
- Agile handling
- Standard specification
- Safety features
- Fuel economy
- Road noise
- Lack of reach adjustment for steering wheel
Engine: 1,5-litre, four-cylinder, petrol
Power: 76 kW @ 6 000 rpm
Torque: 136 Nm @ 4 000 rpm
Transmission: Five-speed manual
Wheels: 16-inch alloy
Top speed: 188 km/h
0-100 km/h: 10,7 seconds
Fuel economy: 5,9 litres/100 km
- Ford Fiesta 1,6 Ghia: An ageing contender, but still a strong one. Has similar power to the Mazda2, but more torque. The interior is not as modern as the Mazda2 and it lacks its Japanese rival’s safety specification, too. Similarly fun to drive.
- Opel Corsa 1,4 Cosmo: Often overlooked, but the Corsa is a good effort, with excellent build quality, a decent specification level and a willing little engine. Packs four airbags, too. Lacks the Mazda’s sparkle, though.
- Volkswagen Polo 2,0 Highline: The Polo’s restrained stylishness ensures it considerable appeal, and in 2,0-litre guise it boasts considerably more torque than most of its rivals. Spec-level is acceptable and the build quality is good. Fuel economy considerably higher than the competition.