Mazda 2 1.5 petrol 2015 review

First drive of production spec Mazda 2 fitted with entry-level petrol engine

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Mazda’s hot run of form is showing no signs of coming to an end. We’ll have to wait until we get the two head to head in the UK with the Ford Fiesta to see which handles better, but it’s going to be close. Slight refinement issues aside, the 1.5 SKYACTIV is a cracking engine, while the rest of the package is stylish, interesting, offers good value for money and is great fun to drive. Diesel versions offer better economy but cost more, while the higher-powered 89bhp 1.5 petrol is the best all-rounder, but if you’re on a budget, this 74bhp version should be near the top of your list.

We’re already big fans of the all-new Mazda 2, having driven a pair of pre-production versions late last year. But this is our first chance behind the wheel of the full production spec car, and fitted with the entry-level petrol engine. You can order the Mazda 2 with a 1.5-litre SKYACTIV-G petrol producing 89bhp or 113bhp further up the range, but for entry-grade S and mid-grade SE-L versions, the 1.5 can be selected with a more modest 74bhp and 135Nm of torque. As a result it takes 12.1 seconds from 0-62mph, returns fuel economy of 60.1mpg and, with CO2 emissions of 110g/km, slots into tax band B meaning a year’s road tax costs just £20.

Just like its more powerful brothers, and the upgraded 129bhp version we drove in the new MX-5 last week, the 74bhp 1.5 is well suited to the job in hand. With just 74bhp, the 2 feels a little sluggish from a standstill, but once past 2,000rpm, the power kicks in and the engine revs cleanly all the way up 7,000rpm. We wouldn’t get too close to that red line, however – the dinky engine gets vocal past 4,000rpm and it’s a din that quickly gets tiresome. But there’s no doubt it’s a willing engine that loves to rev, even if it’s noisy when doing so.

Best small cars on the market  Show it a series of corners and, as we’ve come to expect from all modern Mazdas, the handling has a sparkle to it that few rivals can match. It’s brilliantly agile, there’s loads of grip and the steering is direct, if a bit light. The five-speed box has a precise mechanical action, just like the MX-5, that makes changing gears a pleasure.  

Once at cruising speed, the long-geared five-speed manual helps to settle the car down, and thanks to 15-inch wheels shod in tyres with deep sidewalls and good sound insulation, inside is a hushed and comfortable place to be.   The 74bhp 1.5 comes in two trim levels – base SE and mid-spec SE-L. Go for the SE at £11,995 and you’ll get electric mirrors, adjustable driver’s seat and a steering wheel with reach and rake adjustment plus audio controls. For £1,000 more, SE-L adds alloy wheels, fog lamps, heated folding mirrors, leather steering wheel and gearknob, 60:40 split rear seats and Bluetooth. Both pack a lot of kit for not a lot of money and their reasonable price tags are further backed up with stylish looks. The 2 carries on the ‘Kodo’ design language first seen on the larger Mazda 3, 6 and CX-5 models, and works particularly well on such as small car – the bold front leads onto sharp creases on the sides and there’s a swoopy roofline. A squat rear-end nicely finishes off the sporty look.

It’s really only the dashboard plastics that let the side down for us. While the design is pleasantly different from the competition, you won’t find many soft-touch plastics to prod on this entry-level car. Things improve on the higher trim grades, but here there are vast swathes of scratchy and hard plastics. And it’s not the roomiest either – while there’s plenty of space for six-footers up front, the new Hyundai i20 trumps the Mazda 2 in the rear and headroom in the back is a bit tight. Space in the boot measures 280 litres – just 10 litres less than a Fiesta –– which is adequate. Mazda feels UK buyers will more likely opt for the higher-powered 89bhp version, and we’d agree it’s the better option. But, if you only have around £13,000 to spend and you want a fun to drive supermini that’s a bit more stylish than a Fiesta, the new Mazda 2 is a well-rounded and very likeable little car.  

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