Good: styling, space, quality, refinement
Not so good: not cheap, we'd prefer small capacity and turbocharging
The previous Mazda2 was stylish and great to drive. It never grabbed the attention of the car-buying public though, partly due to Irish buyers' loyalty to nameplates such as the Fiesta and Yaris. But also, we reckon, because Mazda has been associated in the past with pricing that's often at the high side of the continuum.
There may have been some truth in that in the past, but with a starting price of €15,995, the new Mazda2 compares well to five-door versions of its top rivals. Of course, Mazda will tempt you into paying more; the high-spec model in this review is a startling €21,890 thanks to a few choice extras. However, it shouldn't be dismissed as a bizarre anomaly, as it's arguably worth that. How many other small cars come with such a grown up specification? Check out the cream leather upholstery with snazzy red and black detailing. The lights and wipers turn themselves on and off, there's climate control, a tactile leather steering wheel and the same MZD Connect infotainment system found at the top of the Mazda line-up. It all adds up to a very special interior. But, even looking beyond the glitz, the basic cabin design and layout are good and there's decent space for four adults. The dashboard is far more interesting to look at than most and quality is top notch.
Indeed, there's a sense of deep engineering integrity to the way the new Mazda2 goes about its business. The suspension is supple enough to absorb sharp urban potholes and speed bumps yet feels utterly stable on the motorway. The Mazda2 is agile too, always capable of taking corners faster than you might expect, even if vague steering dulls the enjoyment factor.
We'd also prefer a low capacity turbocharged engine in place of the naturally aspirated 1.5-litre unit offered. It's quite enjoyable to drive, with zero turbo lag and a wide power band, but to access its full performance you need to rev it, and while that's no hardship to do so we suspect most buyers just won't bother. Still, thanks to Mazda's engineering efforts it's quite an efficient engine. Officially it uses 4.5 litres/100km (62.8mpg) while emitting just 105g/km - we averaged 6.7 litres/100km (42.2mpg) in a week of mostly urban driving.
If you plan to do a serious amount of mileage in your Mazda2 then perhaps consider the diesel model, but it's available only in Executive SE grade, at a cost of €22,195. While we thoroughly enjoyed the range-topping GT model, and reckon it's almost worth its high price, the good news for supermini buyers is that the basics of the Mazda2 are spot on, so even the entry-level version should be a contender for a place on their shortlists, alongside the better-known options on the market.