Long-term tests

Mazda 2

After much deliberating, our supermini has finally made it out of town!

  • The Mazda’s 1.6-litre turbodiesel engine gets better with every mile. It’s particularly impressive in the mid-range, where a hefty hit of torque is delivered from only 1,750rpm. Put your foot down on a steep motorway incline and the 2 flies, leaving more expensive machines trailing. It’s returning good fuel economy too. If only it was as refined as the class leaders.
  • Access to the rear seat is hampered by the awkward folding mechanism on the front chairs. The pull cord (left) has to be tugged at just the right angle to allow the seat back to flip forward and the base to slide out of the way. Worse still, it doesn’t seem to return to the same place.

It's been my inner city companion for a few months now, with an impressive economy record that proves stop-start driving doesn’t need to break the bank.

But how would the Mazda 2 fare out on the open road? A rare month-long break from the office was the perfect chance for me to test the Japanese supermini’s mile-munching abilities. All I needed now was to decide where to take it…

In the end, the tarmac covered by the 2 on my road trips couldn’t have been more varied. First stop was the rolling landscape of the Yorkshire dales, and the journey up the M1 gave me my first proper excuse to get the city runaround out of third gear.

And I was delighted to discover that it’s actually here that it comes into its own. With a healthy 215Nm of torque the 2 never ran out of steam, and made light work of last-minute manoeuvring, steep hills and middle-lane hoggers. Better still, a tall top gear means that mechanical noise is kept to a minimum when cruising.

But it was the second leg of my trip – a four-hour drive down to Plymouth in Devon – that highlighted a rare flaw in the Mazda’s make-up. Despite the seats’ smart appearance, they don’t provide enough support on long journeys.

This was not far from the back of my mind as I set out on the most epic journey of my itinerary. I was off to the Lot et Garonne region of south-west France – some 700 miles away.

Never one to pack light, I was glad of the car’s surprisingly roomy boot – I filled it to capacity! Despite that, and the constant stop-starting at toll booths, the fuel economy only dipped slightly to 47.6mpg (down from 49.5mpg).

However, the long stretches of empty dual carriageway highlighted the lack of cruise control – it’s standard on petrol engine versions, but not even an option on the oil-burner.

Once off the smooth autoroutes, the region’s undulating roads provided another good test – this time of the car’s suspension. Big bumps and ruts highlighted the Sport’s stiff set-up, but the flowing corners allowed the sharp driving dynamics to shine.

And despite temperatures hitting 36o Celsius, the standard fit climate control system kept the cabin cool. I even managed to solve the comfort issues by wedging a small cushion in the base of the seat back.

All in, I’ve covered just under 3,000 miles in the last few weeks – enough distance to test for weaknesses in any car. And apart from the seats, the Mazda has been a great all-rounder, proving modern superminis are among the most versatile machines on the market. In fact I can’t wait for another chance to stretch the 2’s legs...

Second opinion

I’ve also been impressed by our Mazda 2. The Japanese firm has managed to inject the supermini with the same character and feel as its MX-5 roadster. The steering has similar weighting and direct responses, while the stubby gearlever delivers snappy shifts. Although the 2 can’t offer the same wind-in-the-hair thrills as its convertible cousin, it’s more practical and very nearly as fun to drive.

Graeme Lambert Road tester

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