What is it? All-new version of the Mazda2 supermini best-seller.
Key features: New look, upgraded quality, more tech.
Our view: The Mazda2 is very much a contender that supermini rivals, including Ford’s Fiesta, need to take notice of.
Mention the word Mazda and for most the immediate image coming to mind is an iconic two-seater roadster. If not the MX-5, perhaps the Mazda6 that rivals the Ford Mondeo in the fleet market, more recently the sharply-styled CX-5 crossover.
In fact they are all out sold by a perhaps all-too easily dismissed supermini – the Mazda2. Look out for the car while on the road and you quickly realise just how many of them are around, and why the all-new Mazda2, arriving in showrooms in March, is so important to the brand’s UK performance.
The Mazda2 was once closely related to the Ford Fiesta, in the days that Ford had a major stake in the Japanese brand. That’s not the case these days, but the Fiesta, the UK’s best-selling car, remains the rival the Mazda has to beat.
This it aims to do by making full use of Mazda’s now familiar SkyActiv construction technology and ‘Kodo Soul in Motion’ styling language. The 2 is the last of the existing Mazda range to get this treatment, and it benefits greatly from it – the curvy visuals of the previous third-generation car are replaced by an exterior of distinctive creases that produce a good-looking whole.
Such positive first impressions are strengthened on slipping inside. Firstly there appears to be plenty of space, front and back.
The new Mazda2 is built using the SkyActiv modular platform and measures up 140mm longer and 20mm taller than its predecessor. Crucially the wheelbase is 80mm longer, which combined with such measures as thinner seat backs frees up more passenger space, as well as extending the boot capacity by 30 litres to 280 litres. This extends to 950 litres with the rear seats folded, but still falls short of the Fiesta’s capacity at 290/970 litres.
The second major impression on inspecting the Mazda’s interior is of quality. The brand really has stepped up in this area – the Sport Nav trim variants driven on the launch boasted soft-touch surfaces and a sensibly laid-out dash with high quality switchgear.
The seven-inch colour touchscreen, standard on SE-L models and above, looks a little ‘stuck-on’ to the top of the centre console, but the satellite navigation that is standard on Nav grades is one of the clearest and easy-to-follow units this reviewer has experienced.
At launch the Mazda2 offers four engine options, all SkyActiv units. Three of them are variants of a 1.5-litre petrol engine in 74, 89 and 113bhp power outputs, along with a 1.5 diesel of 103bhp.
The Car Expert tried the 89bhp petrol, likely to be the best seller, and the diesel unit. Some might like the extra power of the 113bhp unit, but we feel only the most cash-strapped will want the entry-level 74bhp engine. The 74bhp Mazda2 is £2,000 less to buy than an 89bhp version, but is also 2.7 miles per gallon less fuel efficient and with CO2 emissions 5g/km higher.
The 89bhp unit offers a good compromise between efficiency and performance. It pulls freely, though you need a few revs dialled in to get it going, and it is smooth in its delivery. A Mazda2 with this engine won’t write any performance headlines but it is every bit as competent as rivals in the class.
Supermini buyers don’t tend to favour diesels but Mazda considers it worthwhile offering one and the 1.5 deserves its billing, offering an excellent blend of performance and efficiency including an 89g/km CO2 emissions figure, the only Mazda2 in free road tax territory.
However said diesel is slower to 62mph than its 89bhp petrol sibling by more than 1.5 seconds, and costs £2,000 more to buy, so it would take quite a lot of driving to justify the 20mpg or so extra fuel economy and £20 saving in road tax.
The latest Mazda2’s body-shell weighs in seven per cent less than its predecessor, while the high-strength steel construction of the SkyActiv chassis gives it 22 per cent more torsional rigidity.
As a result one expects confident handling and the car does not disappoint. The steering is quite light but offers good feedback and well-placed cornering to the degree that it’s a degree of fun. Cruising in a straight line, meanwhile, it’s exceptionally well behaved.
Mazda offers the 2 in five trim levels, effectively SE, SE-L and Sport plus navigation variants of the latter two. Standard equipment is good, particularly in terms of safety with every car including Hill Hold Assist, a tyre pressure monitoring system, Dynamic Stability Control and traction control.
DAB radio is offered on all but entry-level SE models, as is Bluetooth, while move up the grades and the spec includes LED headlamps, auto wipers, parking sensors, along with quite a lot more.
A look at the options list, meanwhile, reveals technology not so long ago seen only on premium models and certainly not superminis, such as Lane Departure Warning, Smart City Brake Support, Blind Spot Monitoring, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Active Driving Display – the last effectively a head-up display rising on a clear screen from the top of the steering column.
The ultimate question remains, is the Mazda2 better than Ford’s Fiesta? The answer is no, but it’s very much a contender that supermini rivals, including Ford, need to take notice of.
Mazda2 – key specifications
Model tested: Mazda2 1.5 90PS petrol, 1.5 105PS diesel
On sale: March 2015
Range price: £11,995-£17,395
Insurance group: 13E-19E
Engines: Petrol 1.5 x 3, Diesel 1.5
Power (bhp): 74/89/113, 103
Torque (lb/ft): 100/109/109, 162
0-62mph (sec): 12.1/9.4*/8.7, 10.1
Top speed (mph): 106/114*/124, 111
Fuel economy (combined, mpg): 60.1/62.8*/56.5, 83.1
CO2 emissions (g/km): 110/105*/117, 89
Key rivals: Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Renault Clio
Test Date: March 2015
* = with manual gearbox