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Mazda 2 Review

Introduction

The Mazda 2 is meant to be perfect for the school run and as an around-town runabout.

It has always been highly regarded. And, in fairness to Mazda, the Japanese manufacturer quietly goes about its business and produces cars that often go unnoticed but are very good.

Select's rating score* - 3.5 / 5

At A Glance

It is not the first vehicle that springs to mind when you’re thinking of a supermini – in fact; it's easily forgotten. Indeed, the Mazda 2 is also starting to show its age as other rivals move ahead.

Mazda facelifted the car fairly recently and introduced some new engines, so we will see if this is enough to turn around its fortunes.


The Mazda 2 isn’t the prettiest car. It has a rather chunky appearance when viewed from some angles, but it’s likeable, if unremarkable.

The front features a sizeable open-mouthed grille, which is traditional for Mazda nowadays. A silver surround runs underneath it and up the sides, tucking in beneath the headlights.

The grille is rounded at the sides and the bottom, which leaves a lot of blank space on either side. Fog lights are housed here on some models, while the bodywork is shaped inwards towards the bottom, accentuating a lip splitter, which runs along the car's width at the front.

At the sides, it’s a more modest affair, with some neat creases that run from behind the headlights to behind the front doors.

Meanwhile, a second crease runs higher up across the back doors towards the rear lights. Finally, a third crease runs along the bottom, creating an indentation towards the car's floor, too, while the bottom of the windows curve upwards towards the rear.


The 2’s back is just as modest, with rounded triangular headlights that run from around the sides, tapering in towards the middle of the boot. The rest is mainly blank space, apart from the Mazda badge in the middle and an indentation at the bottom to accommodate the number plate.

Sportier models get a black roof spoiler that overhangs the back window, adding a bit of personality.

Some might say the Mazda 2 is a bit bland, but at least it’s not ugly.

Key Features

We are focusing on the non-hybrid version of the Mazda 2. A hybrid edition has been ushered in, but it is available in three differently named trims. To find some more information on hybrid vehicle leasing, be sure to check out our handy guide on all things hybrid electric vehicles.

For the non-hybrid, four trims are offered.

The SE-L is the entry-level grade. It features 15-inch alloy wheels, a brown cloth interior with black inserts, climate control, and a DAB radio.

There is also an eight-inch colour touchscreen with Satnav, wired Apple CarPlay/Android Auto, cruise control with an adjustable speed limiter, and electrically adjustable and heated power-folding door mirrors. Furthermore, you get a height-adjustable driver’s seat and electrically operated front and rear windows.


The Sport trim is next, offering bigger 16-inch alloys, a blue cloth interior trim, a chrome exhaust tip, a black gloss finish on the front grille and privacy glass at the rear. You also get smart keyless entry, a shark fin antenna and wireless Apple CarPlay. However, Android Auto connectivity is wire-only.

The GT Sport gets blue and grey leather trim, heated front seats and a heated leather-wrapped steering wheel. In addition, there is a reversing camera and a head-up display.

The top-of-the-range GT Sport Tech offers various safety features, including front and rear parking sensors, adaptive LED headlights and a 360-degree camera.

The engine choice looks straightforward, but it’s actually quite complicated. They are all 1.5-litre four-cylinder units called the SkyActiv-G and the E-SkyActiv G, which is easy enough to get your head around.


But the amount of power you get depends on the trim, as does whether you get a six-speed manual 'box or a six-speed automatic gearbox.

In the SE-L trim, both engines have manual gearboxes, producing 75PS with the SkyActiv-G or 90PS with the E-SkyActiv G.

Both Sport and GT Sport trims get 90PS in both powerplants, but the SkyActiv-G is an automatic, while the E-SkyActiv G is a manual.

The GT Sport Tech gets just the E-SkyActiv G engine with a manual ‘box, but it produces 115PS.

All are front-wheel drive, but none are turbocharged, which might explain the 2’s lack of grunt.

Performance & Drive

We are driving the top-spec GT Sport Tech trim, which means we are testing the more potent 115PS E-SkyActiv G unit.

That is good, though, because we have driven the lower-powered ones, and they’re sluggish, which restricts the car's usefulness on longer journeys.

Granted, it’s a city car, and it’s intended to be used as such, but it’s frustrating on the occasions you need to put your foot down. You find yourself constantly flooring the accelerator, especially in the 75PS version. However, the 90PS version will likely suffice for most people’s everyday needs if you’re using the 2 for its intended purpose.


The extra 40PS that we’re getting compared with the lowest spec engine is very noticeable. And while it's still not amazingly quick, it’s far more bearable, especially if you’re in a hurry.

Nought to 62mph still takes 9.1-seconds, which isn’t fantastic, but it's brisk enough that you won’t be left frustrated by the lack of progress. Furthermore, it tops out at a not at all bad 124mph.

The mild-hybrid technology means the Mazda gets a bit more torque off the line, too. But because this review model is only available with the flagship trim, you have to pay a hefty premium for the privilege.

We were a little surprised that 17-inch wheels weren’t offered with the top-of-the-range GT Sport Tech, considering that three out of the four trims get 16-inch rims. But we’re pretty relieved they stuck with the smaller ones. The ride is on the firm side and doesn’t smooth out potholes and bumps in the road exceptionally well.

If ride comfort is your priority, then sticking with the entry-level SE-L trim is the best option, thanks to its 15-inch wheels. These soak up a bit more of the jostling on uneven surfaces, although you can downgrade to smaller alloys on the higher trims if you wish.


The firm ride should mean the suspension is set up more for handling, which seems at odds with its city car characteristics. Body lean in the corners is limited, and the car is agile, but it lacks the outright personality of some of its challengers.

The Mazda 2’s steering wheel feels well-weighted. Therefore, it’s light and simple around town but firms up at higher speeds around bends. However, the feedback is limited, and for those who like driving on the edge, it's difficult to tell how close you are to it.

If you do try to test the supermini’s limits, though, you won't have to go all that far to find them. While the grip is sufficient for driving around ring roads and town centres at higher speeds, it doesn’t give you the confidence to throw it into corners on bendy back roads.

Gear changes are slick and smooth in our manual test car, and, overall, it does what it says on the tin. The 2 is a city car, so it should be easy to drive – and it is.

Road noise is okay, although the vehicle does vibrate at higher speeds. But then it’s designed to be driven at lower speeds for much of the time.

Running Costs & Emissions

Our top-of-the-range GT Sport Tech comes with the most commanding engine in the range. But it still returns an impressive mid-50s mpg, emitting just 113g/km of CO2.

As for the other engines, the 90PS E-SkyActiv G manages around 60mpg, releasing 107g/km of CO2 with both the manual and auto gearboxes.

The 90PS SkyActiv-G engine achieves just over 50mpg and 122g/km of CO2 with the automatic, while the smallest engine, the 75PS, manages high 50s mpg, releasing 109g/km of CO2.

Meanwhile, Mazda has a good reputation for reliability – more so than most of its rivals. And servicing should be cheap.


Interior & Technology

The Mazda 2’s interior is nice and straightforward. It is good looking and appears well designed. But, like the exterior, there isn’t much to it.

There are plenty of soft-to-the-touch materials, but several cheaper, thin plastics spoil it a little in places.

You get a steering wheel garnished with silver trim. Meanwhile, more silver styling on the circular air vents, a thin strip along the dashboard, and the central console make it look attractive.


Our GT Sport Tech trim is partly dark blue, which adds a nice contrasting touch, while we also get a head-up display. This feature is also included on the GT Sport trim, the next model down.

All trims get the seven-inch colour touchscreen which sits on top of the dashboard like a tablet. Although it’s on the small side, it’s responsive and clear. That said, it isn't the easiest touchscreen in the world to use. Thankfully, there's a dial on the centre console - something many of its adversaries lack.

Practicality & Boot Space

Finding a good driving position is easy enough, although none of the Mazda 2 range provides electric seats.

The visibility is good, too, as the pillars at the front aren’t thick. However, it is somewhat restricted out of the back, but we’ve seen a lot worse – and rear parking sensors are included as standard across the range. What’s more, the top two trims get the help of cameras, plus front parking sensors in the GT Sport Tech that we’re driving.

The seats look nice, but they aren’t the comfiest we’ve ever sat in. That said, at least there’s plenty of space up front, while even taller drivers won’t be short on headroom, despite the Mazda 2’s small stature.

It is clear that the rear isn’t really designed for adults. They can physically fit in the Mazda, but taller passengers won’t want to be there for very long. And, due to the sloping roofline, the headroom is far less generous than the front.


There is room for two cupholders in the front next to the handbrake. But the centre console doesn’t offer any cubby space, so your only option is the glove compartment or the door bins, which don’t compensate much. There is space for a smartphone behind the gear lever, but that’s about it.

The boot isn’t the biggest, either. It measures up at just 280-litres, although the rear seats can be folded down in a 60:40 split, which increases the capacity to 950-litres. However, the boot lip is quite large, so lifting oversized items in and out is more of a faff than it ought to be.

To make matters worse, the boot floor isn’t adjustable. And, if you do fold the rear seats down, it creates an unwelcome ridge, so sliding longer items in and out can also be tricky.


Safety

The Mazda 2 hasn’t been tested by Euro NCAP since 2015, so its rating has expired.

It only scored four stars then, and the testing criteria have become more stringent since. Therefore, the same model wouldn’t score as highly if re-assessed today. And most manufacturers are still scoring five stars even with the new beefed-up testing regime.

Nevertheless, the 2 scored 86 per cent for adult occupants, 78 per cent for children, 84 per cent for pedestrians and vulnerable road users, and 64 per cent for safety assists.


The safety kit has improved since it was last crash-tested, so the latest model might be better. For example, you get tyre pressure monitoring and hill start assist in all trims. Meanwhile, the 90PS engine adds automatic emergency braking, lane keep assist and lane departure warning.

The GT Sport gets a useful reversing camera. This is upgraded to a full 360-degree camera in the GT Sport Tech trim.

Really, though, you need the top-spec car that we're testing to get the most benefit when it comes to safety.

As well as the surround-view camera, the GT Sport Tech gets a blind spot monitoring system with rear cross-traffic alert, a driver attention alert, and a pre-crash safety system with smart brake support. This technology prepares various systems in the car if it detects an imminent collision.

Options

Even though our GT Sport Tech trim is the top-of-the-range model, we still must pay extra for the privilege of having any colour but solid white.

Pearlescent white, metallic platinum quartz, ceramic, silver, crimson, grey, light blue, dark blue and jet black all cost a few hundred pounds.

If you want dark grey, that’s even more, while bright metallic red costs not far off a thousand notes.


You can also add sportier accents to the exterior, including a front skirt, a rear roof spoiler, and a side skirt. Meanwhile, a set of aluminium pedals is yours for a smallish sum, too.

If you want smaller wheels, you can downgrade to 15-inches, although you still have to pay for the privilege, depending on which design you choose. Meanwhile, alternative designs of 16-inch rims can exceed the thousand notes barrier.

Other options are available, too, such as coloured interior illuminations and scuff plates.

A detachable tow bar costs a few hundred pounds, a roof rack is peanuts, and you can add a centre armrest for a relatively small amount, too.

Rival Cars

There are plenty of rivals with more to offer than the Mazda 2.

Both the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo, for example, are more comfortable. VW also owns SEAT, whose Ibiza is more spacious and, despite having a more comfortable ride, also has superior handling.


All three also offer more space in the rear while having bigger boots than the Mazda.

A Skoda Fabia has an even bigger boot, while the Peugeot 208 is more accommodating.

Verdict & Next Steps

Overall, the Mazda 2 offers a lot but underdelivers in many areas.

Despite having a firm ride, the handling isn’t much to shout about. And, as we’ve seen, its rear space and boot capacity is inferior compared with most of its challengers.

However, the interior is excellent. And, even at entry-level, it's very well equipped – so much so that it's challenging to justify leasing the higher trims, given the GT Sport Tech is so much more expensive than SE-L trim.

Annoyingly, this means you’ll have to settle for the lower-powered engines. Although, in fairness, the 90PS E-SkyActiv G will suffice for most.

Regardless, all the engines are economical, so you may want to consider if you need the extra grunt of the top-of-the-range engine.

Really, in that respect, it’s a toss-up between the entry-level 2 or the top-spec. If the cheaper version doesn't meet your needs, the others in between are unlikely to either.

Overall, the Mazda 2 is nice and offers a lot. But it’s likely time for a complete refresh as it’s outperformed by its competitors in several areas, especially when it comes to practicality.

Where to next?

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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top five leading independent car website reviews of the Mazda 2

**Correct as of 18/05/2022. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £1,611.27 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.

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