Mazda 2 review
Mazda 2 aims to take on the supermini elite with good looks, a fun drive and plush interior
Good looks, practicality and engaging driving characteristics mean the latest Mazda 2 is a serious contender in the supermini class.
While other brands seek efficiency through small capacity engines and turbocharging, Mazda sticks to larger, naturally-aspirated engines that give punchy performance and decent economy.
The Mazda 2’s spacious, well-designed interior has a quality feel for the most part, and the car is good value and safe too.
The running costs should be low, and strong demand for used versions bodes well for residual values. So the Mazda 2 is a supermini that can appeal to the head as well as the heart.
The fourth-generation Mazda 2 has a tough job on its hands; not only does it have to compete against the UK’s best-selling car, the Ford Fiesta, is goes up against the Vauxhall Corsa, VW Polo, Peugeot 208 and even premium badged models like the Audi A1 and MINI 5dr.
The Mazda 2 may be a global car, but it’s far more popular in Asia than over here in Europe, and furthermore the latest model is unashamedly designed with a primary audience of female drivers aged between 20 and 30 in mind.
This latest third generation Mazda supermini was also developed after the end of Mazda’s long and successful tie-up with Ford that saw the previous Mazda 2 sharing the Ford Fiesta’s platform.
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So there’s not much machismo about the styling – unless you opt for the Sport Black airdam skirt and roof spoiler package – and neither has Mazda gone all out to create a Tardis-like interior. Taking cues from the CX-5, Mazda 6 and Mazda 3, it features a chiselled exterior and a plush interior with a little more space and a bigger boot than before – thanks to an 80mm increase in the wheelbase.
It’s great fun to drive, too, thanks to its lightweight, agile chassis and a range of brand-new SKYACTIV engines and transmissions.
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A punchy yet efficient new 1.5 SKYACTIV-G petrol is available in three power outputs and with new six-speed manual or automatic gearboxes, while the new 1.5 SKYACTIV-D is only available with 104bhp and a manual gearbox. That said, the diesel returns incredible fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 83.1mpg and 89g/km – putting it among the cleanest cars in its class.
The Mazda 2 is packed with technology, too, including a head-up display, a seven-inch central touchscreen with excellent smartphone connectivity and safety kit including an auto brake function and lane departure warning.
While Mazda builds some variants of the 2 in Mexico, all UK versions travel to Europe by sea from the factory in Yamaguchi, Japan.
Engines, performance and drive
The Mazda 2 is a pleasure to drive in most respects. The steering could do with some more feel and weight in corners but it’s direct and fast enough to let you string a series of corners together smoothly and with plenty of confidence. The manual gearshift, as with all Mazdas, is reminiscent of the sporty MX-5's with a short throw and a satisfying click as the lever slots home.
Hit a pothole in top-spec versions equipped with 16-inch wheels and you’ll know about it. As you’d expect with a car with this level of spark, the ride is on the firm side. But otherwise the driving experience is refined and comfortable enough to make the 2 an excellent long-distance cruiser, not just an urban runaround. The 2 is also impressively quiet and composed on the motorway, with little wind or road noise.
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Two all-new engines have been developed for the third-generation Mazda 2. The 1.5 SKYACTIV-G is available with 74bhp, 89bhp or 113bhp, and with a new six-speed manual or six-speed automatic gearbox. It does without a trendy turbo but has a compression ratio of 14:1 (the highest of any naturally-aspirated petrol engine), a strategy that Mazda insists delivers better real-world economy. The figures certainly back that up.
The 1.5 SKYACTIV-D is only available with 104bhp and a manual ‘box – as with all supermini diesels, it’s difficult to justify the extra cost, but it offers decent performance and refinement.
The petrol engines really encourage you to drive hard, and you’ll be rewarded with near-hot hatch levels of performance in even the 89bhp version. The engine revs freely and feels responsive, but when you push it hard it sounds a bit raucous. It’s perfectly civilised when cruising at lower speeds, though.
The entry-level 74bhp petrol is adequate but it needs to be worked hard to get up to speed. However, at the national limit, this affordable petrol cruises well.
The diesel has a linear power delivery for a turbocharged engine and stays refined even under heavy load.
MPG, CO2 and running costs
Mazda likes to think of itself as an honest car company, more interested in giving customers real-world fuel savings than focusing on spectacular results in the official economy cycles. That’s why its strategy is based around high-compression naturally-aspirated petrol engines rather than following the trend for downsizing and turbocharging.
As a result its engines aren’t the cleanest in the class, but they are pretty close. The entry-level 74bhp version of the 1.5 SKYACTIV-G petrol engine returns economy and CO2 emissions of 60.1mpg and 110g/km. Our pick and likely to be the most popular model is the 89bhp version, which returns 62.7mpg and 105g/km with the five-speed manual gearbox or 58.8mpg and 112g/km with the six-speed auto.
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The range-topping 114bhp petrol is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox and returns 57.6mpg and 115g/km. The cleanest model in the range, by quite some distance, is the 104bhp 1.5 SKYACTIV-D. It’s capable of 83.1mpg and 89g/km – identical figures to the 89bhp VW Polo 1.4 TDI.
Other superminis quote higher fuel economy figures – for example the petrol Fiesta EcoBoost does a claimed 65.7mpg while the Kia Rio diesel claims 88mpg. However Mazda reckons its larger capacity engines have a better chance of attaining ambitious claimed figures in the real world motoring – away from the test bench.
The Mazda 2 is a little more costly than some of its rivals to insure, as it ranges from group 13 for the entry-level petrol to group 16 for the top-end diesel and petrol models. The Ford Fiesta doesn’t get beyond group 12, while the entry models start at group 3. Bigger engines and the potential for higher repair costs are to blame for the Mazda’s ratings.
The previous generation Mazda 2 did pretty well in the depreciation stakes, with best-performing cars losing 41 percent of their value over three years. The new car is even better, with residual values ranging from 46 to 50 per cent – with the top prize going to the entry-level 74bhp car in SE-L trim.
Interior, design and technology
Mazda has applied its Kodo design language to the new 2, and as a result it looks very much like a scaled-down version of the Mazda 3 family hatchback. There’s the familiar trapezoidal grille that features the brand’s chrome-finished ‘wing design’ insert first seen on the facelifted Mazda 6 saloon, while elsewhere you’ll spot the bold creases and curves along the car’s flanks, the swooping roofline and the steeply rising waist. It looks a bit heavy-handed and bulbous at the rear, but overall the 2 is a smart and distinctive small car.
All models get body-coloured door mirror housings and a subtle tailgate spoiler, while SE-L models can be identified by 15-inch alloys and front fog lights. In mid-2015 Mazda launched a special edition Sport Black based on the SE-L, with sporty black accents for the mirrors, spoiler and side skirts. It comes loaded with kit, but the final list price is rather expensive – so unless you really love the tweaks, we’d stick with the standard car.
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Flagship Sport versions pack the most kerb appeal courtesy of their larger 16-inch wheels, LED daytime running lights and a colour-coded grille insert.
The eye-catching design continues inside, where Mazda has attempted to push the 2 upmarket. For instance, the neatly styled dashboard gets a trio of eyeball air vents (the fourth is cleverly hidden in the facia below the infotainment touchscreen) that feature controls with an Audi-style, metal-effect knurled finish. Another highlight is the large speedometer flanked by digital readouts for the rev counter and trip computer.
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Yet while the cabin looks smart and is robustly constructed, it can’t match the Volkswagen Polo for premium appeal. There are few soft-touch materials, while the plastics covering the top of the dash and door trims look and feel a little low rent. Also, the rear doors shut with a tinny clang.
On the plus side, soft leather covers the steering wheel and gearlever, while the switchgear feels sturdy in its operation.
Sat-nav, stereo and infotainment
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Pick a model with the MZD Connect infotainment system, and the Mazda 2 delivers a high-definition seven-inch touchscreen and command wheel controller with a clear and intuitive menu system that’s very straightforward to use.
It’s smartphone compatible of course, so gives you access to all your music, social media and text messages, as well as providing DAB radio and integrated Bluetooth.
Sat-nav is also available, and is standard on all Nav cars. Entry-level SE models have an AM/FM radio with a single CD/MP3 player and USB connectivity only.
Practicality, comfort and boot space
By stretching the wheelbase by 80mm, Mazda has managed to boost interior space in every direction and as a result the little supermini is a reasonably practical choice, especially for young families.
The ergonomics are spot-on, too; the range of adjustment for the front seats and steering wheel is superb, while the pedals are nicely positioned without any offset.
There’s nothing radical in terms of oddment storage though - just a large glove box in the front, along with door pockets shaped to hold large bottles.
At 4,060mm the Mazda 2 is a little shorter than the latest Ford Fiesta, but longer than both the VW Polo and Toyota Yaris. It’s the same width as the Yaris at 1,695mm while the Polo is 1,682mm. The Mazda 2 and Fiesta sit between the VW and Toyota for height at 1,495mm.
Leg room, head room & passenger space
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There’s more room in the back than a Ford Fiesta, and while two six-footers will probably struggle to sit one in front of the other, you could just about fit five adults at a squeeze.
It’s only-offered as a five-door (the three-door was canned when the old model was replaced), so getting in and out of the rear seats is simple. ISOFIX child seat mounts are standard in the rear too.
Overall, we reckon the Mazda 2 it’s a pretty good package from an accommodation standpoint. The new Hyundai i20 just has it beaten on interior space, though.
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In spite of a usefully wide tailgate the deep boot means you have to lower objects down into it, but the trade-off is much more space than in the old Mazda 2. There’s 280-litres with the rear seats in place, or 950-litres with them folded down (10 and 24-litres less than the Fiesta respectively, but 30 and 173-litres more than its predecessor – and a match for the Volkswagen Polo). However, there’s a nasty step up from the boot floor when you fold the rear seats.
If you want to tow a small trailer you’ll be limited to 900kgs – but that isn’t bad for a supermini. There’s no spare wheel though, as Mazda supplies a can of repair foam instead.
Reliability and Safety
The previous Mazda 2 didn’t feature in our 2014 Driver Power survey, and this one is too new to have made it into the 2015 results. However, Mazda has forged a strong reputation for building durable cars, and that’s backed up by the manufacturer’s excellent ninth-place finish in our Driver Power 2015 owner satisfaction survey.
In addition, while the 2 is a new model, many of its mechanical and electrical components have been proven in other cars in Mazda’s line-up, and at first sight the fit and finish of components inside the car gave us no cause for concern.
The marque’s garages finished a less impressive 14th in our most recent dealer survey though, so don’t expect the slickest treatment.
Despite being a new design, the 2 was awarded a four-star Euro NCAP crash test score. The testers marked it down for not having autonomous emergency braking as standard – although this is included on the flagship Sport model. All models get six airbags, while the SE-L and above add lane departure warning and a speed limiter function. Blind spot monitoring, cross traffic alert and a head-up display are part of the £400 Safety Pack, but this is available only on the range-topping 113bhp Sport Nav.
All models are equipped with anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control and traction control as standard.
Along with the majority of its rivals Mazda has yet to move with the class leaders on warranty cover, so you get a fairly average three-year/60,000-mile deal. By contrast, Kia offers seven years and 100,000 miles. You can extend your Mazda warranty, but at a cost.
There’s a service package deal available on the Mazda 2 that gives you three years cover for a fixed price of £499. If you don’t want to pay it all up front, you can arrange to pay your servicing dealer in monthly instalments.