Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Mazda’s new supermini is a little short on finesse

THINK of the new Mazda2 as a work in progress. It is a car that could

THINK of the new Mazda2 as a work in progress. It is a car that could prove to be one of the most desirable of superminis at an attractive price — and yet to me does not quite match the finesse of larger models in the new Mazda range.

I took to the latest Mazda6 immediately: it was fast-paced, nice to drive and comfortable. Of the new Mazda3 I said in my review last year that it “ticked all the boxes for day-to-day commuting, shopping and other necessary functions”.

The new fourth generation Mazda2 will surely do likewise because that’s what Mazdas do: it is, says the Japanese carmaker, its best-selling model in the UK.

Indeed, it was Japan’s Car of the Year 2014/15. These cars have an everyman appeal that cannot be faulted.

But in 2015/16 the Mazda2, the baby of the Mazda canon, faces stiff competition from other superminis that sparkle not only with new technical innovation but flair and desirability.

You cannot fault Mazda on what it offers with this supermini: a 16-strong all-new Mazda2 model line-up priced from £11,995 to £17,395 on the road.

Its new technology — SKYACTIV — across the model range increases fuel efficiency and engine power, as well as improving transmissions, bodywork, and chassis.

The test car — a Mazda2 1.5 90ps SE-L Nav — was comfortable enough on journeys and economical: the combined fuel cycle on this model returned 62.8mpg with emissions of 105g/km.

I found the engine needed some time to settle down, but once it did on motorways it could fire along quite happily in top gear.

To get there you had to use the gears positively: interestingly, when speed dropped, I found that by not being afraid to use fourth gear to top (fifth) gear frequently (and at highish revs) I could maintain the performance.

The gear change itself was smooth and there were hardly any awkward moments finding gears in this proven transmission: though taking off in first I found the car could be a little hesitant. But once it was up and running and had reached its stride it was fine.

Interior space was well defined. There is a wide choice of colours and it has to be said that for me the black paintwork and its dark interior was a quite downbeat combination — perhaps too subdued overall. Boot space was extensive and easily accessible.

It is important here to note that as with all Mazdas you get good value for money: so the standard equipment on this test car (and on cars above SE model) had an array of goodies including 15-inch alloy wheels, front fog lights and power-folding, body-coloured, heated door mirrors with integrated indicators.

The interior included leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, 60:40 split folding rear seats, steering wheel-mounted audio and Bluetooth controls, seven-inch colour touch-screen, multimedia Commander and DAB radio.

There is also an integrated navigation system with three years’ free European map updates, rear electric windows, cruise control and adjustable speed limiter.

Safety is a big factor with the Mazda2, so on the test car there was also a Lane Departure Warning System (LDW) Smart City Brake Support (SCBS).

So with the new Mazda2 we reach some kind of conclusion to the new model range in this generation of Mazda cars. I may have some reservations about the Mazda2 in so far as it does not have quite the appeal in its own context of the Mazda3 and new Mazda6.

But the Japanese car company has no doubt improved its stable for prospective buyers in 2015/16 and a number of years to come before the next generation.

Mazda2 factfile

Test car: All-new Mazda2 1.5 90ps SE-L Nav

• On-the-road price: £14,870

• Colour: Black Mica

• Interior trim: Black cloth with Navy insert

• Engine / CO2 rating: Petrol / 105 g/km

• Five-level grade structure -SE, SE-L, SE-L Nav, Sport and Sport Nav

• New technology including 7-inch colour touch-screen, MZD Connect smartphone connectivity and Active Driving Display

• Optimised range of Euro 6-compliant SKYACTIV powertrains: 1.5-litre, 75, 90 and 115ps petrol and 1.5-litre, 105ps diesel engines

• Comprehensive safety package as standard, including Hill Hold Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control System

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