Belfast Telegraph

Friday 24 October 2014

Review: Mazda2 three-door range

The Mazda2 is quite a sharp piece of styling in five-door guise but the three-door model is prettier still. Andy Enright reports

Mazda2 3door

Take any good looking five-door hatchback and it’ll be guaranteed you can make a better looking car by doing away with the rear doors. So it proves in the case of the Mazda2.

The three-door variant is about as cheeky as superminis get and drives pretty well too. Not many small hatches have this much instant ‘want one’ factor.

You’ll be excused if you haven’t heard of the Mazda2 before. Compared to more well known Mazda fare such as the MX-5 and the RX-8, this supermini hasn’t really made much of a dent on the national car-buying consciousness. It was first introduced in 2003, being effectively a rebodied Ford Fusion with a slightly better interior. This in itself would seem to make it worth buying, but people went with what they knew and sales were modest. Fast forward to 2007 and the launch of the all-new five-door Mazda2 and here was a car that had road testers raving. Lighter, prettier and more capable than its predecessor, this generation Mazda2 was made of the right stuff.

When the wraps came off the three-door version of the car at the 2008 Geneva Show, Mazda must have been confident of a sales winner. It might take some determined promotion to do the trick, but the hardware is certainly in place now.

With this generation of Madza2, history has, to a certain extent, repeated itself. It shares its underpinnings with the next generation Fiesta. What is novel is that this time round, Mazda got a good run at the market before the Ford is launched – it’s similar in many respects to Volkswagen letting the Skoda Fabia off the leash with the all-new Polo chassis first. The chassis itself is simple but very rigid, Mazda using MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam at the back to keep costs down. It’s the same set-up the five-door car uses and is none the worse for it.

In this price bracket, most buyers will opt for petrol power where there’s a choice of 75 or 86ps 1.3-litre engines or a vaguely sporty 102ps 1.5. Dealers will also sell you 1.4-litre 68ps and 1.6 90ps diesel versions. There’s clever electronic power steering assistance, so nipping in and out of small spaces around schools and supermarkets is a doddle. The suspension too is nicely balanced, managing to combine comfort and suppleness, yet it doesn’t allow the drive to wallow overly around the bends. The power steering can feel a little woolly around the edges when you’re at high speed, but this isn’t too much of a problem, and you soon get used to it behind the wheel. Clearly Mazda have paid attention to the driver dynamics of this car, and with a good level of success.

"The Mazda2 three-door is a case study in how to build a perfectly proportioned supermini"

With its steeply rising waist line, elegantly sculpted flanks and subtly bulging wheel arches, the Mazda2 three-door is a case study in how to build a perfectly proportioned supermini. Even at rest, it looks as if it’s charged up and ready to roll, and with even bigger wheels than the stock rims it could look absolutely potent. With a drag coefficient of just 0.31, it’s not just a pretty shape either. At the front, there’s the traditional V-shaped Mazda grille and the headlights are very deftly smeared into the front bumper assembly. Likewise the tail lights are neatly integrated into the tailgate which, from a practical perspective, doesn’t have the widest aperture as a result. Still, when budget small cars like the Proton Satria Neo now look as good as they do, the expectation for a company such as Mazda is cranked ever higher.

The three-door features a mechanism that tips the front seatback and slides the seat forward for one of the segment’s widest access widths. A relatively long 2490mm wheelbase ensures that spec in the rear isn’t too claustrophobic although the rising waistline means that smaller kids may have a job seeing out. The interior features a number of welcome design touches such as a glove box with integrated magazine rack. There’s also a floor console between the front seats with a large rear tray affixed. In total there’s 250 litres of storage space which isn’t half bad for a supermini.

Although hot hatch fans will be disappointed to hear that there’s no tyre-shredding MPS model to go toe to toe with the likes of the Vauxhall Corsa VXR and Renaultsport Clio 200, for those looking for a more sedate pedal there’s a lot to offer. Even the entry-level 75ps 1.3 gets get a decent kit quotient. This runs to ABS with Brake Assist and EBD, driver and front passenger airbags, remote central locking with deadlocks, electric front windows, driver seat height adjust, CD radio with AUX jack and two speakers, multi-function glovebox with magazine rack, Thatcham Category 1 alarm and immobiliser and electric door mirrors.

At the top of the line-up sit the 1.5-litre petrol and 1.6-litre diesel models which wear a ‘Sport’ badge apparently justified by a ‘full sports styling kit’. Buyers of these models can expect 16-inch alloy wheels, dynamic stability control, traction control, cruise control, fog lights, rain sensing wipers and auto lights, electric rear windows, a trip computer, speed alarm, six audio speakers and climate control air-conditioning.

Part of the benefit to superminis is their relatively low running costs, and that rule isn’t broken here. The weight loss program the 2 has been through means improved fuel economy and assuming you’re not a budding rally driver, the weight reduction should mean brakes and tyres last a little longer too. The 1.3 represents the bargain of the range. Notably, the basically equipped diesel model is a full thousand pounds more expensive than a similarly specified 1.3 petrol variant. All the time the petrol engine is averaging a remarkable 52.3mpg, there is little need, and few reasons, to go down the diesel route.

Residual prices too should stay high as demand should be strong especially once the masses acknowledge the similarities with the Ford Fiesta. Opt for the 1.5-litre car and an insurance rating of 5E probably isn’t going to send too many prospective purchasers looking for something a little less racy. This is backed up by a very strong fuel economy figure of 47.9mpg on the combined cycle. If you really want to keep ongoing costs in check go for the diesel. This manages 65.7mpg and its sub 120g/km emissions meaning cheap taxation and exemption from congestion charging.

It tweaks my professional pride not to furnish you, the reader, with a few caveats about any car in particular but the Mazda2 is tough to fault. While I’d rather not resort to hyperbole and claim it’s nigh-on perfect, material criticism of this supermini would border on the churlish. There’s a lot to admire. Mazda has created a smarter and lighter car than its predecessor, have supplied a range of decent engines, have styled it sharply and pricing looks to be on the button too. Just about the only word of warning is not to expect to recoup the cost of the diesel over the 1.3-litre petrol in terms of fuel bills.

If you can live without regular access to the back seats, the three-door Mazda2 is undoubtedly the car to go for. It’s such a deft piece of design that it’s certain to raise general awareness of Mazda’s efforts.

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