Long-term tests

Mazda2

Two wheels or four? The choice was far easier than our news and features editor feared..

  • Automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers and simple but effective climate control make the 2 a perfect companion for winter motoring. And while the Mazda is never going to beat a bike on running costs, the thrifty 1.6-litre diesel gives a lot of miles for my money.
  • My only gripe is with the quality and comfort of the seats. They’re fiddly to adjust and lack support during a long drive. That’s particularly disappointing in what is meant to be a Sport variant.

I am not normally a fair-weather cyclist. Yet, when the temperature plummets and the daylight hours grow short, so does my early-morning mood. Dragging myself out of bed to brave the dark streets is the last thing I want to do. To make matters worse, my little fold-up Raleigh bike now has a strong rival for my affections.

Parked outside is a Mazda 2. I look at it while I fish around my wardrobe searching for my flimsy fluorescent jacket; my futile effort to stay safe on London’s roads. It looks pathetic against the 2’s gleaming paintwork. No one could fail to see me coming in that.

Most of my hi-vis jacket will be obscured by the black rucksack I’ll be lugging on my back, anyway, rammed with the crushed change of clothes and shoes that I’ll wear in the office after my five-mile ride. It’s a poor substitute for the Mazda’s generous 250-litre boot.

Indeed, a recent trip to the West Country proved I could cram every piece of winter clothing I own in the back of the 2, and still have room for a case full of toiletries. The automatic halogen headlamps put the pathetic LED lights fixed to my Raleigh to shame, too. Even when they’re not switching themselves off or are in need of new AA batteries, I can barely see my front wheel, never mind the road ahead. So I would need to munch my way through an awful lot of carrots before they boosted my night vision to match the Mazda’s powerful beams.

Then there’s the weather. It’s freezing outside. But if I pile on too many clothes before cycling, my movement is so restricted I can barely pedal.I’ll then spend the rest of the journey stopping to strip off the unnecessary layers, which will end up strapped to my waist. By the time I get to my desk I’ll be all red-faced and sweaty.

The 2’s climate control system, on the other hand, is simple to use, and warms the car in a jiffy. I’m barely at the end of my road before the windscreen’s clear and my feet are nice and toasty.

So, you might ask, where’s the dilemma? Well, using the bike costs nothing, and the exercise will help me emerge from winter looking a little less porky. But when I glance down at my expanding waist, I spot a tenner poking out of my pocket. I’m shamelessly sold.

I leap into the Mazda. I’m warm, John Humphrys is bringing me the day’s news, and I’ll still have change from the capital’s Congestion Charge for a slice of toast and a cuppa on my way in. Bargain.

Second Opinion

As I frequently drive our fleet Ford Fiesta, any journey in the Mazda is an eye-opener. You see, structurally these two superminis are closely related – and they share exactly the same engine. On the move, the Fiesta is quieter and has a more composed ride, plus slightly better steering feedback. However, the 2’s engine is keener, and its handling is equally entertaining. But there is one major difference between the pair, and that’s the price. Despite both of our models having virtually identical standard kit on board, the Japanese car is now £2,150 cheaper.

James Disdale Road tester

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