"Stylish, fun and generously equipped, the Mazda2 is a great alternative to more familiar supermini rivals."
If you’re in the market for a small car, the Mazda2 is a sportier choice than the other established superminis on sale, such as the Nissan Micra and Vauxhall Corsa. It certainly looks the part, and because it's based on the Ford Fiesta and uses the same underpinnings, it's also great fun to drive, as well.
Like most Mazdas, it should be very reliable, and, while the interior doesn’t use the nicest materials out there, it is certainly solidly constructed and feels durable. List prices start reasonably low and standard equipment levels are certainly good, plus all of the petrol engines are inexpensive to run. You can normally find some good discounts on Mazdas and nicely competitive finance packages, plus resale values on the used car market will be strong, too, so you see a good return on your investment when you come to make a second-hand deal.
The Mazda2 comes in three main specifications – entry-level TS, mid-range Tamura and top-of-the-range TS2 (with automatic gearbox).
MPG, running costs & CO2 emissions
The 1.5-litre petrol engine with the sluggish automatic gearbox is the most expensive to run, returning 44.8mpg in combined fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 145g/km. You don’t get a diesel option, so the lowest running costs come from the 1.3-litre petrol, which returns 56.5mpg and emits 115g/km (so annual road tax of £30 per year). Insurance groups are low, too, with reasonable premiums for young drivers. All Mazda2s do come with a three-year/60,000 mile warranty, and good zero per cent finance deals are readily available from Mazda's large network of franchised dealers.
Interior & comfort
Sadly, the Mazda2's great drive means that its ride can be quite hard, juddering over rough and bumpy roads, making it lag behind its main rivals. Plus, it's also pretty noisy when on the move, with particularly intrusive wind and road noise making motorway journeys very loud. At least the petrol engines are all nice and quiet, with the top-of-the-range 102bhp 1.5-litre option making the most sense if you clock up a lot of miles on the motorway. The seats are basically comfortable but lack proper back support, but at least the driving position has lots of adjustment in both the seat and the steering wheel, making it easy to find a really great driving position. It's a small car so you shouldn’t expect the highest levels of comfort but alas the Mazda2 doesn’t quite cut the mustard in this department.
Practicality & boot space
It's a car of small dimensions, so practicality is obviously limited, but the boot is of average size for its class, offering 250 litres of luggage space. It's only a bit disappointing because that's less than the Ford Fiesta, which it's based on. If you fold down the back seats, then the space increases to 787 litres, but the boot is awkwardly shaped, which makes loading and unloading more difficult than it should be. Thankfully, there's a big glove compartment and a handy magazine rack on the front of it. There are also lots of cubby holes and deep door bins dotted around the interior. The Mazda2 used to come with the option of three or five doors, but now is only available as a five-door model. This version is obviously more practical, even though Mazda did make the three-door's doors open wide.
Reliability & safety
Mazda has a recent history of placing in the middle of the Driver Power customer satisfaction survey's manufacturers rankings, so it's quite amazing that it climbed a massive 13 places from its 2012 finish of 17th, to speed into the top five at number four in 2013. So you can bet that the Mazda2 will prove to be very reliable indeed. The second-generation 2 only came 102nd in the list of top 150 cars, but that's more a reflection of its time on the market rather than poor reliability. In terms of safety, it secured the maximum five-star rating in the Euro NCAP crash safety tests, scoring five for adult protection, four for child protection and two for pedestrians, which is pretty good for a car of these small dimensions and reasonable price range. Electronic brake assist is fitted as standard, as are anti-lock brakes (ABS), twin front airbags and ISOFIX child seat mountings, but basic models don’t come fitted with side and curtain airbags, or electronic stability control (ESP). The interior is well built and sturdy, but the materials aren’t of the highest quality, feeling quite scratchy here and there.
Engines, drive & performance
You get to choose from three petrol engines available in the compact Mazda2. The 1.6-litre diesel model was taken off the market by Mazda in 2011 because of low uptake, but if you want this engine you should still be able to find one on the second-hand market. So, new car buyers have the choice between an entry-level 1.3-litre engine with either 74bhp or 85bhp, or a top-of-the-range 102bhp 1.5-litre engine. You can only get them with a five-speed manual gearbox, except for the TS2-spec, which is fitted with a less-effective four-speed automatic. Every Mazda2 is a lot of fun to drive, with the higher-spec models also providing plenty of performance as well, thanks to lots of grip and its lightweight body. The car's light steering makes parking a doddle without sacrificing any accuracy or precision when driving on winding country roads – which is when you clearly see the Ford Fiesta's influence. It also has a really good driving position, so all in all, the Mazda2 is pretty good and one of the more entertaining superminis that you can buy.
Price, value for money & options
Next to mainstream rivals like the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa, the Mazda2 looks good value, offering decent levels of equipment and reasonable list prices. Take into account reasonably strong resale values and it looks quite the bargain. Special editions like the well-equipped Venture model are common and offer lots of equipment for little extra outlay, making them an attractive alternative to standard-spec cars. The range starts with the entry-level TS air-con model, which gets electric front windows and MP3 connectivity as standard. Tamura models add heated door mirrors and a rear spoiler, while top-spec Sport cars get 16-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors and climate control, as well as cruise control and front fog lights.