"Stylish, fun and generously equipped, the Mazda2 is a great alternative to more familiar supermini rivals."
The Mazda2 is a sporty alternative to established small cars like the Vauxhall Corsa and Nissan Micra. It's certainly one of the best looking superminis on sale, and thanks to its Ford Fiesta-based platform, it's great to drive, too. Mazda has a strong record for reliability and although the 2's cabin materials aren’t the most appealing, it feels sturdy and well put together. Standard equipment is adequate and list prices fairly low, while all three petrol engines are cheap to run. Dealers are always offering cut price deals and competitive finance, while strong resale values should make the Mazda a safe place for your cash in the long run, too.
There are three petrol engines available in the compact Mazda2. Mazda removed the 1.6-litre diesel in 2011 due lack of demand, but there are still plenty for sale on the second hand market. Since this, buyers have been given the choice of an entry-level 1.3-litre engine with 74bhp or 85bhp, or a range-topping 102bhp 1.5-litre. Each is offered only with a five-speed manual gearbox, apart from the five-door TS2-spec, which gets an inferior four-speed automatic. All models are fun to drive, and top-spec cars offer plenty of speed, too, thanks to a lightweight body and good grip. The steering is light enough to make the Mazda2 easy to park but it's also very accurate and precise on a twisty back road – thanks in part to the fact it shares its platform with the brilliant Ford Fiesta. Inside, the Mazda gets a great driving position and a set of comfortable seats, making it one of the most entertaining superminis on the market.
This is where the Mazda falls short of its rivals. The fact that it's so good to drive compromises the way it rides, and can feel quite firm, juddering over rough road surfaces. It also makes quite a bit of noise on the move, mainly from the wind flowing over the car and the tyres on the road. That said, the seats are comfortable, if a little unsupportive, and the driving position is great, with plenty of adjustment in the wheel and seat. The range of petrol engines are all quiet, too, with the flagship 102bhp 1.5-litre option making the most sense if you spend a lot of time on the motorway.
The Mazda scored five stars in the Euro NCAP crash tests for adult protection, four for children and two for pedestrians, which is good for a car in this size and price range. Electronic brake assist is standard, as are anti-lock brakes, twin front airbags and ISOFIX child seat mountings, but basic models miss out on side and curtain airbags, and electronic stability control. The interior is well built and tough, but the materials aren’t of the highest quality, feeling scratchy in places. Mazda has long had a very a strong reputation for mechanical reliability, however, consistently finishing mid-table in the Auto Express Driver Power survey.
With 250 litres of storage space available, the Mazda2 offers a below-average boot, which is disappointing given it shares its underpinnings with the practical Ford Fiesta. Not only is the boot small, its awkward shape makes loading quite difficult. However, the glovebox is large and there's a useful magazine rack in front of it, along with plenty of cubbyholes and decent-sized door bins. Buyers get the choice of three or five-door models, and while the former has great, wide-opening doors, the latter is evidently more practical, with easier access to the rear.
Value for money
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. 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. Five-door models command a very slight premium, both new and used, while resale values are strong across the range.
The 1.5-litre petrol engine is the most expensive to run, but even that offers 50mpg economy and CO2 emissions of 132g/km. Add the sluggish four-speed automatic gearbox and expect to see economy tumble, though. There's no diesel option so the lowest running costs come from the 1.3-litre petrol, which returns 56.5mpg and emits 115g/km, regardless of which power output you plump for. Insurance groups are low, too, with reasonable premiums for young drivers. All cars come with a three-year/60,000 mile warranty, while zero per cent finance deals are common from the brand's large network of franchised dealers.