Continuing on its run of producing well-designed cars, Mazda has turned its attention to the Mazda2. Despite the supermini stature of the all-new car it still retains much of the brand's DNA. We drove a pre-production version.
In the Metal:
Dimensionally the new Mazda2 differs only a little from the model it replaces, with the main changes coming in the form of an increase in overall length by 140mm - 80mm of which is in the wheelbase. Crucially though, it is the changes to its proportions that give the car an appearance that is more closely aligned to that of the larger Mazda3. This has been achieved by moving the front axle line forward and the A-pillar back. These changes combine with a wider track and minimal wheel-arch clearances to give the Mazda2 a well-planted stance.
Front-on, the view is dominated by the signature winged grille design, which first appeared on the Mazda CX-5 and has evolved into what is now its most three-dimensional iteration. In side profile Mazda's 'Kodo' design language is most noticeable, with lines flowing off the bonnet and upwards from behind the front wheels, while a defined high shoulder line gives the Mazda2 a real sense of presence that is often lacking in cars in this segment.
Inside, Mazda's designers have employed some clever tricks to not only maximise space but also to give the cabin an open and airy feel. The dashboard is driver-centric, with a large rev counter centrally-placed with digital displays on either side. Flanking the instrument binnacle are simple, round air vents that both look and feel of high quality. Adding to the sense of spaciousness, the seven-inch touchscreen infotainment system is free-standing on top of the dashboard, requiring only a small glance away from the road in order to view it. Meanwhile, only the air ventilation controls are fixed on the centre console, underneath a discreetly placed passenger vent, with all other controls being accessed and operated via a rotary controller just behind the gear shifter.
Passenger space in the rear is on a par with most of its rivals, even if the high shoulder line does make it feel slightly enclosed, especially with the darker upholstery choices. The deep boot space of 280 litres can be expanded to 950 litres by lowering the 60:40 split rear seats.
The new Mazda2 is derived from a revised Mazda3 platform, which is a good base upon which to start. Irish buyers will have a choice of three different engines: two 1.5-litre petrol units and a 1.5-litre diesel, all of which are turbocharged four-cylinder designs. The 75hp petrol engine is likely to be one of the popular choices when the Mazda2 arrives onto the market in 2015, and although the performance figures on paper might not look overly impressive given the engine size, it is in fact perkier to drive.
Our predominately urban test routes were perhaps representative of where most Mazda2s will spend their time, and in stop-start traffic the car was enjoyable to drive. The 75hp engine performs well and although there is only a five-speed gearbox, it has a well-spaced set of ratios and pulls well enough in third gear that it can be left there much of the time.
The combination of Macpherson struts up front, a torsion beam rear axle and generously side-walled tyres (in conjunction with 15-inch alloys) gives the Mazda2 a ride that is compliant and well suited to town driving. Its steering also has a fair degree of precision to it.
What you get for your Money:
For now it remains too early to confirm pricing for the new Mazda2 as these test cars are still just early pre-production models, but it is not expected to differ greatly from the existing pricing structure - which starts at €15,295. The Skyactiv-G petrol engines are designed to be as fuel efficient as possible and come with an emissions rating of 110g/km for the 75hp version - although if you're after lower emissions the 1.5-litre Skyactiv-D diesel engine emits just 89g/km.
Mazda will also be offering an automatic transmission in the new Mazda2, but you will need to move up to the more powerful 90hp petrol engine in order to get it. Although it has six gears, as opposed the five-speed manual, it does suffer slightly on top speed and overall acceleration.
The new Mazda2 appears to have all the right ingredients for it to become one of the more successful models in what is an already crowded segment, not to mention one of the most desirable thanks to that attractive exterior styling.