Review: The Mazda 2
In a segment as competitive as the small car class, manufacturers are under huge pressure to offer buyers fantastic value for money.
In this respect, the Mazda 2 doesn’t get off to a great start because it looks expensive next to rivals such as the Ford Fiesta, Hyundai i20 and Skoda Fabia. However, look beyond the brochure price and the 2 has a range of engines that tend to prove frugal in the real world, and trim levels that offer plenty of kit and safety features.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Mazda 2 buyers can choose from three naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engines, and the mid-range 89bhp Skyactiv-G version is a popular choice. Lacking a turbocharger, which most of its rivals use in order to boost mid-range poke, you need to rev the engine hard to make good progress on motorways. Around town this is less of an issue and it feels responsive enough.
If you hanker for something quicker, there’s also a 113bhp version. However, the truth is it doesn’t feel dramatically more powerful, yet costs more to buy and run. We’re yet to try the entry-level 74bhp version, or the automatic gearbox, which is available exclusively with the 89bhp petrol.
Suspension and ride comfort
SE+, SE-L+ and SE-L Nav+ get 15in wheels, which offer the smoothest ride. They allow the 2 to smooth the edges off large bumps such as speed humps, but there’s no getting away from the fact that the 2 is a little on the firm side. When you encounter potholes and broken tarmac, it tends to jostle you around. We wouldn’t call it uncomfortable, but if you’re looking for the best-riding cars in the class, the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo should be top of your list.
The more expensive Sport Nav+ trims and above come with larger 16in wheels that only exacerbates the issue, making bumps feel even more abrupt
If you fancy something more entertaining and capable we’d steer you towards a Ford Fiesta or Seat Ibiza. Why? Well, when you’re pressing on the 2’s steering doesn’t tell you much about how much grip the front wheels have on the road, and the ultimate grip levels aren’t especially high.
On the plus side, the weight of the 2’s steering is consistently well judged, whether you’re scooting through town or cornering hard, and the body stays relatively level in bends thanks to that firmer-than-usual suspension.
Noise and vibration
Cars in this class aren’t always very adept at isolating wind and road noise, and the Mazda 2 is par for the course – it generates a fair bit of both at 70mph. The 1.5-litre petrol engines also sound coarse when you rev them – especially compared to rivals’ motors, such as the Fiesta 1.0 petrol – and send vibrations through the steering wheel and pedals, too.
Along with the Fiesta, the Volkswagen Polo is a far quieter and more relaxing place to spend time on a long journey.
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
There’s a good range of adjustment to the seat and steering wheel, including height adjustment on all versions, so even tall drivers should be able to get comfortable.
Electric seats aren’t available on any of the trims, but that’s in line with most of its rivals. The pedals line up nicely with the driver’s seat, too, for a comfortable driving position.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
The windscreen pillars are relatively slim and the side windows large, so your vision forwards and to the side is pretty clear. Rear visibility is less generous, as the 2’s sloping roofline and styled rear combine to result in a smaller-than-average rear screen. Rear parking sensors aren’t available as an option on the two lower trims, but they are standard on SE-L Nav+ and above, while range topping GT Sport+ models have a rear-view camera, too.
Sat nav and infotainment
One of the 2’s best features an impressive infotainment system that’s available on SE-L Nav+ versions and above. You can control the system using the 7.0in touchscreen, which is responsive but does have some fiddly icons. More intuitive is the large, conveniently positioned rotary controller that sits between the front seats, which can be used to scroll through the various options. It’s much less distracting and makes it simple to use on the move. Entry-level cars make do with a simple monochrome display that you control via rotary dials and buttons, and it can’t be upgraded.
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are also available as a £350 option on SE-L Nav+ and above.
Soft-touch materials on the dashboard feel surprisingly classy while the leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearknob sit nicely in your hands. Some other bits of the interior feel lower-rent, though, including the scratchy plastics in the storage area by the gearlever, and the fake carbon-fibre on the inside of the doors.
GT Sport Nav+ gets a choice of different interior finishes, including black or stone leather inlays, which give it a much more enticing and upmarket feel.
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
Despite its small dimensions, the Mazda 2 offers plenty of space for two adults in front. There’s more than enough leg and elbow room, and even six-footers won’t find their heads against the roof lining.
The 2 also offers a spacious cubbyhole just ahead of the gearlever for throwing small items into, and there’s a cupholder and additional space beneath the armrest. The door bins are big enough for a water bottle as well.
Adults will find rear leg room a little tight, and those who are taller than average may find their knees resting against the front seat backs. Head room isn’t especially generous, either. The rear seat is more comfortable for two adults than three – shoulder room is tight and the middle passenger has a raised transmission tunnel to contend with.
There are plenty of cars that offer more rear space, including the Ford Fiesta, Seat Ibiza and VW Polo.
Seat folding and flexibility
The driver and front passenger seats both have manual backrest and fore-and-aft adjustment but only the driver has height adjustment.
The rear seats don’t offer any sliding or reclining ability, but that’s not unusual in the small car class. They can be split and folded in a 60/40 configuration, though.
The 2’s boot isn’t its best asset; it’s smaller than boasted by the Fiesta and Renault Clio, and comes some way behind the Seat Ibiza on bootspace. It also doesn’t have the largest of apertures – it’s restricted by curved corners that make loading bigger items awkward, and there’s an inconveniently high lip for you to lift things in and out across.
Fold down the 60/40 split rear seats and the space created is smaller than rivals can muster. The boot floor isn’t adjustable for height, either, so you can’t create a segregated compartment for delicate items, and it also means there’s no way to remove the large step that forms when the seats are folded. This makes it tricky to slide across heavy items.
Equipment, options and extras
The range kicks off with the SE+ trim. It’s relatively basic with 15in steel wheels, and its interior looks decidedly dull, but it does have air-conditioning and remote locking. We recommend going a few trim levels up, to SE-L Nav+. It benefits from plusher interior fittings and welcome upgrades including alloy wheels, rear electric windows, cruise control, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearlever.
Sport Nav+ models get 16in alloy wheels, auto headlights and wipers, climate control, keyless entry, rear parking sensors and sat-nav as standard. Black+ edition adds black alloys, a black rear spoiler and premium leather interior design features while top-spec GT Sport+ adds a rear view camera, LED headlights and leather seats. With all of this kit comes a significant jump in price, though, so we’d avoid the top levels and stick with SE-L Nav+.
Here’s an anomaly: Mazda as a manufacturer, has impressed its customers on reliability, finishing in 12th place from a total of 31 manufacturers in our most recent reliability survey.
However, there’s a twist, because the 2 finished rather poorly in the small car class, proving far less reliable than the Toyota Yaris, which came top, as well as the very worthy Renault Clio and Skoda Fabia. It did finish above the Peugeot 208 and Mini Clubman, though.
Safety and security
The Mazda 2 comes with a pretty basic level of standard safety kit, which includes six airbags, traction control, hill hold control as well as tyre pressure monitoring. Only mid-spec SE-L Nav+ models and above offer sophisticated active safety features like lane departure warning and automatic city braking.
The 2 scored four stars in Euro NCAP’s tests back in 2015 with a particularly strong pedestrian safety score, even though a Ford Fiesta gets the full five stars overall. Thatcham security also rated the Mazda three stars out of five for its ability to prevent being broken into.
This first appeared in What Car?