What are you driving?
Leaving aside the wonderful MX-5, the Mazda2 is the smallest car you can buy from the quirky Japanese carmaker, but that is no bad thing. The Mazda2 has come in for a subtle update for 2020 and the changes do make a difference. Where almost all of its competitors offer rival cars with small turbocharged engines, the Mazda2 gets a larger 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine with some mild hybrid tech thrown in for good measure.
Name its best bits
There are two real standout aspects of driving the Mazda2, the first being the engine. The 1.5-litre four-cylinder petrol unit, naturally aspirated, remember, isn't exactly bubbling over with power (you'll have to move up the specs to this range-topping GT model to get the more powerful 90hp version, otherwise, you get 75hp), but maximum output isn't really the name of the game here. It's the way that the powertrain suits the car that makes it stand out. Over the combined cycle the Mazda consumes 5.3 litres/100km and, while we wouldn't normally expect a mild hybrid system to make any significant dent in that figure, during our week with the car it returned an average of 4.9 litres/100km. That was over a variety of city, urban and motorway driving, mostly with a sole occupant, which is respectable.
Where the mild hybrid system made more of an impression was in how it operates, or rather how the start-stop system works. It uses a belt-driven integrated starter generator (B-ISG) and a capacitor. The B-ISG converts energy into electric power that is stored in the capacitor and it's that B-ISG's operation that makes the difference. When the engine shuts off as the car comes to a rest it does so quickly and smoothly. Its restart is even more impressive, doing so almost seamlessly and without a hint of hesitation or vibration. The electrical energy is released when the engine is under load to help reduce consumption. For the rest of the time the smoothness and refinement of the Mazda2 make up for the lack of outright pace.
The other highlight is that it's quite an enjoyable and comfortable car to drive and, once up to speed, it makes faster motorways journeys seems as if you're in a car that's once size class up. Road and wind noise are below average too. While this GT specification isn't cheap, all the surfaces and touchpoints seem very well put together and of good quality, which goes some way towards justifying the price.
Anything that bugs you?
The Mazda2 is a small car, but even so, the rear passenger space is at best only average, and not helped by a central tunnel that eats into foot space for the middle-seat passenger. Despite the provision of five seatbelts, this is most suited to only carrying four adults. The boot space can increase to 950 litres by folding the rear seats forward, although they don't fold fully flat and do leave a lip between their base and the boot floor.
And why have you given it this rating?
Chances are, if you've got a Mazda2 on your shopping list, then rear passenger space may not be one of the key criteria you're searching for. Where the Mazda loses out to the competition slightly is pricing, which continues what seems to be the Mazda tradition of just being that bit more expensive than you'd expect.
What do the rest of the team think?
Without any effort I matched the official fuel consumption figure of the Mazda2 as well. That's despite revelling in how good it is to drive, with a satisfying mechanical gearchange and communicative steering. Sadly, not many new car buyers at this end of the market care enough about such things to pay more, so the Mazda2 is likely to rename a leftfield choice for those that appreciate its Japanese engineering and, in the higher-level trim specifications such as this, the well-appointed cabin.
Shane O'Donoghue - Editor