Mazda 2 1.3 TS2

Oldest car here still cuts a dash in this class. Is it still a contender?

If you want a supermini with head-turning looks and sparkling driving dynamics, the Mazda 2 should be at the top of your list. It’s often overlooked in favour of mainstream rivals, and is one of the best-kept secrets of this market sector.

A facelifted version is due to be unveiled at next month’s Paris Motor Show – although there’s not much wrong with the rakish looks of the current model. The car in our pictures is a three-door version, but the five-door shares the same eye-catching styling.

While it’s the oldest car in this test, the 2 has a sporty appearance, with its taut lines and wheel-at-each-corner stance. Well equipped TS2 trim brings 15-inch alloy wheels and a body colour finish for the door mirrors and handles.

Climb aboard and you’ll find a cabin that matches the Suzuki for style and quality. The bold centre console houses chunky controls for the stereo and ventilation, while the white-backed dials add a dash of sportiness. Standard-fit air-con, power-fold door mirrors and steering wheel-mounted stereo controls will keep gadget fans happy.

Buyers placing practicality at the top of their shopping list shouldn’t be put off by the 2’s compact exterior. While it means the car trails the larger Hyundai for interior space, there is lots of room on offer. Plus, storage solutions include a deep glovebox, a long tray running between the front seats and useful door bins. Open the tailgate and you’ll find a 250-litre load bay – 37 litres bigger than the Suzuki. A split/fold rear bench further boosts the 2’s versatility.

On the move, the Mazda impresses with its agility and involving driving dynamics.

The accurate steering responds sharply to inputs from the wheel, while the skinny 185-section tyres give surprisingly strong grip. Adding to the car’s appeal is a slick and precise gearshift and progressive brakes.  

The trade-off for the sporty handling is a firm ride – although bosses claim the revised model will be more comfortable. On the plus side, good visibility and light controls make it easy to thread the compact Mazda through crowded city streets.

At the track, the 2 turned in a decent showing, matching the more powerful Swift in our performance tests. With its keen 85bhp 1.3-litre engine, the car completed the 0-60mph sprint in 12.6 seconds – which is one-tenth slower than its rival.

Out on the road, though, the Mazda feels faster than either the Hyundai or Suzuki, as its 122Nm peak torque output is delivered at an impressively low 3,500rpm.

Use the performance to the full and fuel economy can suffer – we returned a disappointing 33mpg exactly. CO2 emissions of 125g/km are 9g/km higher than the Swift’s, too, meaning that the 2 will cost more to tax.

It’s not all bad news, though. Not only is the £11,170 Mazda the cheapest car to buy in this test, our experts predict it will hold on to an impressive 46.7 per cent of its value over three years – so it’s a sound investment.

Details

Chart position: 2WHY: Although bosses will take the wraps off a revised model next month, the current 2 still matches class leaders for style, driving dynamics and value. Can the oldest car in our trio cause an upset by seeing off its young upstart rivals?

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