Mazda 2 1.5 Sport 3dr

Japanese contender shares underpinnings with new Ford

Our second three-door challenger is a close relative to the Fiesta. Beneath the flowing lines of the Mazda 2 are underpinnings that are shared with Ford’s newcomer. Launched last year, the stylish Japanese supermini was a real breath of fresh air after its boxy and unpopular predecessor. Better still, its Ford-inspired chassis dynamics mean the Mazda is as good to drive as it is to look at.

And with its rakish profile, distinctive rising waistline and swept-back headlamps, there’s no denying the 2’s racy style. Our range-topping Sport-spec model adds to the junior hot hatch looks with a standard-fit bodykit that features neat side skirts and a roof-mounted spoiler at the rear.

However, while the Mazda and Ford share common parts, the 2 is actually smaller than the Fiesta. Get out a tape measure, and you’ll find it’s 55mm shorter than the Ford, and it lags an incredible 139mm behind the SEAT. Lift the tailgate, and it’s immediately clear that the compact dimensions have had an impact on luggage space. With the rear seats in place, the Mazda can hold only 250 litres. And while dropping the bench increases capacity to 787 litres, that’s a long way short of the 979-litre maximum in the Fiesta.

Passengers are less likely to feel the pinch, because there’s a surprising amount of room in the cabin. Everything is attractively styled and solidly screwed together, too. Sadly, this good work is undone by the hard and unattractive plastic trim used for the dashboard and other fixtures and fittings.

Get out on the road, though, and all is quickly forgiven. Turn into a corner, and it’s clear that the Mazda shares the same spirit as the firm’s MX-5 roadster. Sharp responses, great agility and slick shifts from the short-throw gearbox all add to the fun. Our only criticism is that the direct steering lacks feedback. When you don’t want to be entertained, the Mazda is a relaxing place to be. Excellent refinement and a supple ride combine to make the 2 a capable long-distance cruiser.

The accomplished driving dynamics are backed up by strong straight-line pace. Not only is the 102bhp 1.5-litre the most powerful engine in our trio, the Mazda’s 1,030kg kerbweight is the lightest by far, too. As a result, the 2 is comfortably the fastest car here, accelerating from 50-70mph in 12.9 seconds – nearly four seconds ahead of the Ford and a massive six seconds faster than the SEAT.

To round off its excellent performance, the £11,395 Mazda also undercuts the slower, heavier and less well equipped Fiesta. So, has the 2 done enough to score a victory over its younger relation?

Details

Price: £11,399Model tested: Mazda 2 1.5 Sport 3drWHY: Small dimensions have held the 2 back. The new three-door aims to redress the balance.

Economy

When it comes to performance per pound, the 2 is very convincing. Sport trim costs £11,399, residuals are strong and it was easily the fastest car here. But this is reflected in its insurance quote. Servicing prices are similar across the board, but Mazda dealers came 11th in our Driver Power satisfaction survey. Ford and SEAT’s networks managed 26th and 24th.

Environment

Emissions of 140g/km put the Mazda in the same £120 road tax band as the Ford and SEAT. Despite its low weight, the car returned only 32.7mpg in our test.

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