It's facelift time for the Mazda 2! The lightweight supermini has been given a mid-life makeover, and Auto Express was first to get behind the wheel to see if all the little changes add up to make one big improvement.
On the outside, the 2’s sporty good looks remain, but a wider front bumper, narrow upper grille and new foglight surrounds bring the design into line with the rest of Mazda’s range. A fresh set of 15-inch alloys emphasises its sporty intentions, too.
Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Mazda 2
Under the skin, Mazda’s engineers have tried to smooth over a few of the previous car’s rough edges. To soften the ride, the suspension has been retuned, although thanks to the stiffer bodyshell, the hatch’s handling remains as sharp as ever. It’s still great fun to drive, as the steering offers plenty of feedback, and the light kerbweight ensures that even the least powerful models feel quick and agile.
The cabin has been given an overhaul, with redesigned instrument clusters, fresh materials used on the dash surfaces and better-looking seat fabrics lifting the overall package considerably.
Build quality is also a strong suit, and everything inside feels durable. But in spite of the addition of silver highlights, the swathes of dark black plastic make the cabin feel rather gloomy.
We tried the 1.5-litre Activematic, which is the first 2 to come with an automatic gearbox. Mazda expects it to make up around eight per cent of UK sales, and the four-speed unit is smooth, kicking down readily when encouraged.
However, it becomes strained at higher speeds, and although it has a sport mode, the auto doesn’t fit well with the car’s youthful image – the slick manual remains a far better choice.
Another drawback is the fact that the Activematic is the least efficient model in the range, emitting 146g/km of CO2 – that means a £125 annual road tax bill. Overall, though, the upgrades refine what was already a great car, and keep the 2 competitive in the supermini sector.
Rival: Renault Clio
The 110bhp 1.6 VVT auto Clio is a little more powerful than the Mazda, but at £14,290 it’s significantly more expensive. And while it has a roomy cabin and bigger boot, it’s not as well equipped, plus owners will pay more at the pumps, as the French car returns 37.7mpg combined.