Mazda 2

The 2 is billed as the best supermini to ever hit the UK. We find out if it lives up to those lofty expectations

Overall Auto Express Rating

4.0 out of 5

Mazda has never been a big player in the supermini segment, but the new 2 could change all that. It looks modern and is smart inside and out, while it’s superbly put together, too. Keen pricing and generous equipment are also highlights, although it’s the driving experience that really stands out. Perfectly weighted controls and an agile chassis make the newcomer both easy and fun to drive – an excellent combination for a small car.

Is Mazda’s new supermini really ‘2’ good to be true? The slick looker, based on the chassis which is set to underpin Ford’s Fiesta replacement, is des­cribed as the hottest property the small car market has ever seen.

But will the mini Mazda live up to its billing? To answer the question once and for all, we got to grips with the model on UK roads to deliver this exclusive verdict.

On sale now, the all-new 2 is about as different to its supermini-MPV-styled predecessor as is possible. And with its sharply cut bodywork, short overhangs and athletic appearance, it’s clearly aimed at buyers who want their small car to make a big statement about style.

Boomerang-shaped tail-lights and a steeply raked windscreen give it a sporty, purposeful appearance, and because it’s 40mm shorter than the previous generation, it’s well proportioned. Nevertheless, cabin space is generous, and there’s decent head and legroom in the back. While the 250-litre boot capacity is smaller than in some rivals, versatility is boosted by a hidden load area under the floor which incorporates built-in dividers.

From behind the wheel, there is more than a hint of Mazda’s sporty RX-8 and MX-5 models in the cabin design, with a circular theme to the dials and air vents. Storage is also good, with a twin glovebox that has space for magazines in the front section. The driving position is excellent, while the three-spoke multifunction steering wheel and high-mounted gearlever are welcome additions.

Although the dashboard plastics aren’t soft to the touch or particularly classy, they are robust and faultlessly constructed. And the central climate and audio controls are logically laid out and simple to use. But it’s not all about the car’s looks. Mazda bosses wanted to produce a supermini which is also fun to drive – and they have ach­ieved their goal. The 2 effortlessly delivers the kind of responsive road manners a great small car should.

The steering strikes the right balance between weight and feel. It’s sensitive enough to make the Mazda easy to drive at low speed, but there’s still an impressive amount of feedback through the wheel.

Combine this with excellent body control and bags of grip, and the 2 is light and relaxing to drive. Yet at the same time, it’s agile and inspires confidence on the open road. And while the ride is firm, the damping is excellent, so the Mazda doesn’t crash over bumps and the chassis copes very well with uneven surfaces.

Strong brakes, with a positive feel through the pedal, plus a slick-shifting five-speed gearbox round off a great dynamic package. Buyers can take their pick from a simple choice of three engines and a trio of equipment levels: TS, TS2 and Sport. But it’s clear that the range-topping 1.5-litre Sport we drive here is one of the best.

The 102bhp powerplant provides decent performance. And, thanks to its snappy throttle response, the newcomer feels eager at urban speeds. Refinement is good, too, because the engine doesn’t sound or feel strained when it reaches high revs.

However, the unit does become a little louder at speed. Combine this with road noise from the low-profile rubber on the Sport’s 16-inch alloys, and motorway refinement isn’t a match for some of its competitors.

But with cruise, climate and stability control coming as standard, along­side automatic wipers, front foglights and an MP3 player socket, the top-spec Sport is generously equipped for a car costing less than £12,000.

Add this to the fact that it’s entertaining to drive and feels solidly built, and Mazda could be on to a real win­ner in the supermini class!

Rival: Peugeot 207 1.4 Sport Stylish looks and fun handling mean the Peugeot is a natural rival to the 2. But while it offers a more comfortable ride, it can’t match the Mazda’s solid cabin construction.

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