Mazda 2 Sport 1.6D

Cute looks and great value mark out Japanese model

The Mazda 2 looks as fresh now as it did when it debuted in 2007.

Back then it marked a U-turn for the firm after its boxy and unpopular predecessor. The new car was given a sporty appearance in a bid to build a more youthful image.

Its rakish profile, rising waistline and shapely headlights certainly achieve that.

The Fiesta may have stolen a little of its visual thunder, but in Sport trim the Japanese car looks racy, with its neat side skirts and subtle rear wing.

The supermini’s compact dimensions help the styling.

It might share components with the Fiesta but it’s both shorter and narrower than the Ford. The wheelbase is nearly identical to its blue oval stablemate, though, which boosts interior space.

Legroom is on a par with the Fiesta and Volkswagen’s, but the dipping roofline pinches headroom in the back and the small rear doors mean it’s not a child seat-friendly choice.

As a result, the Mazda feels the least accommodating for passengers in the back, and its 250-litre load capacity is the smallest of the quartet.

There is plenty of space around the driver, though, and the high-mounted gearlever and logical cabin design mean it fares well up front.

The dash is attractively designed and easy to use, but the interior plastics look and feel a little low rent compared to the Polo’s.

Nonetheless, everything is nicely screwed together, and there’s a sense of mechanical robustness through all of the Mazda’s well weighted controls.

Up front, the 1.6-litre diesel is closely related to the Fiesta unit, so it’s no surprise that it shares the same positive throttle response and smooth-revving nature.

With less effective noise insulation the diesel is more intrusive in the Mazda, but performance is strong.

It is more responsive than the Polo and in this company only the Ford feels as spirited. With a 0-60mph time of 11.4 seconds, the Mazda was the quickest of our superminis from a standing start.

The 2 is light on its feet through the gears, too, and this sporty nature is also evident in its handling. Mazda has injected a little of the MX-5 roadster’s fun into its smallest hatchback, so the steering is sharp and the turn-in positive. With plenty of grip and precise responses, it’s great fun to drive and makes the Polo feel lazy in comparison.

Driven back-to-back with the Fiesta, the 2 doesn’t have the same delicate feedback through its steering, and its body control isn’t quite as good. Ride comfort is also firmer than the Ford’s.

Yet while its set-up is harder, the suspension is settled over bumps and is comfortable enough around town.

To round off the attractive package, the Mazda is cheaper than all but the less powerful Polo.

The little 2 is huge fun to drive, stylish and affordable, but it falls down when it comes to comfort, practicality and refinement.

While it lacks the all-round talents of the class-leading Fiesta, it’s still a great supermini.

Details

Chart position: 3WHY: As well as being sporty, light and great fun to drive, the Mazda 2 is well built and top value. It’s a fine supermini.

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