Find a car review

Make
Model
Reviews

Mazda 2 review - a supermini to match Ford's fun Fiesta

Mazda's compact hatchback is more mature than before but maintains its sense of fun

Evo rating
Price
from £12,195
  • Styling, nimble chassis, driver-focused cabin
  • Limited engine range, dull initial steering response

What is it?

If you’re sick and tired of hearing that the Ford Fiesta is the best-driving supermini currently available (and that’s before you even consider the excellent Fiesta ST), the Mazda 2 is one of few rivals likely to challenge that claim.

This latest model arrived in 2013, with Mazda’s latest Kodo design language, new Skyactiv engines and even less weight than its already-light predecessor.

Subscribe to evo magazine

If you're passionate about the world's greatest performance cars, experience the thrill of driving with evo magazine. Try your first 5 issues for £5.

Engine, transmission and 0-60mph time

Scan the specification lists and you might wonder whether Mazda offers any choice at all in its engine lineup. All units are 1.5-litres in capacity with four cyliners, though closer investigation reveals varying outputs for the petrol models and a lone 104bhp, 162lb ft diesel, with an 83.1mpg combined economy figure.

Petrol models are available in 74bhp, 89bhp and 113bhp outputs, so no model in the range offers scorching performance. At its quickest, the 113bhp car accelerates to 62mph in a respectable 8.7sec and goes on to 124mph. Six-speed manual transmissions are standard in most models, but a six-speed automatic is also available on the 89bhp petrol.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Technical highlights

Low weight is a key priority throughout the Mazda range, and the firm’s supermini is no exception. It features what Mazda dubs its ‘Skyactiv-chassis’, which essentially means widespread use of high-tensile steels (65 per cent in this case), in order to facilitate high strength with fewer materials, and therefore less weight. A basic 2 weighs in at only 1045kg.

Suspension is by MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion beam at the rear, which is no more and no less sophisticated than a car in this class needs to be. Steering is electrically assisted and high-geared for quick responses, while braking is by ventilated discs at the front and drums at the rear, regardless of model. Unremarkable then, but par for the class.

What’s it like to drive?

If there’s one area in which the 2 scores highly over its Ford rival, it’s inside the cabin. The instrument cluster with its central speedometer and digital tachometer looks fantastic, while the three-spoke steering wheel and minimalist dashboard look like refugees from the MX-5. Rather uncharacterically for a small car, the 2 can be equipped with a head-up display.

The ride feels more composed than that of the Ford, without losing out in terms of body control. The tall and narrow stance hints at a perched, top-heavy feeling that never materialises out on the road, yet the 2 still feels fleet of foot rather than reluctant and leaden like some of its rivals. Over rough roads the Mazda copes far better, and remains more fluid, than many proper hot hatches meaning you can really make the most of the 2's modest power.

Where it doesn’t quite match the Fiesta is in its steering. Initial inputs seem dulled, but wind on a few more degrees of lock and the feel it starts to improve. The steering is linear too and well-weighted, so deft inputs are matched with consistent behaviour. But the lightness of the controls is what reveals the Mazda's humble roots, and although it never feels like a bargain hire car, it's no thoroughbred hot hatch.

The 1.5-litre engine – tested in 115PS spec, naturally – is willing, but lacks the top-end zing of the similar unit in the MX-5. This is to be expected, given their differences in output, but it’s a pity the 2’s gearshift isn’t infused with more of the roadster’s snap – the old 2’s gearbox was much more tactile.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The Mazda 2 is really cohesive package; the supple damping, perky engine, linear steering work together to create a harmonious driving experience. There's the same polish to the dynamics that made the early Ford Focus and Spot Ka such appealing and enjoyable cars to drive. It may not have any real sporting pretentions, but it’s certainly fun on a twisty b-road. 

Rivals

It’s that Ford Fiesta again. Frankly, many would be forgiven for choosing it over the Mazda for its wider range of powerplants and the ubiquity of Ford dealerships – but ride quality aside, it probably just pips the Mazda dynamically. Pricing starts at £10,345, though you’ll want at least the 1-litre, 100PS Ecoboost in Zetec trim (£14,395) to really enjoy the sweet chassis.

>Click here to read our review of the Ford Fiesta

Otherwise, take your pick: the supermini market is huge in the UK, with Clios, 208s, Corsas and Polos as far as the eye can see. As a great-driving, left-field alternative, Suzuki’s ageing Swift (from £8999, but best in Sport trim) is also worth a look.

Price

The 1.5-litre Sport Nav test car came in at £16,525 with options (including leather trim and a fetching shade of red mica paintwork), though resist the urge to tick boxes and this particular car starts at £15,595. Mazda 2 models as a whole begin at £12,195.

Advertisement

Have You Considered

Visit/mercedes/gle/201748/2019-mercedes-gle400d-review-a-worthy-original
Mercedes GLE

2019 Mercedes GLE400d review – a worthy original

12 Sep 2019
Visit/porsche/porsche-911-carrera-4/201744/2019-porsche-911-carrera-4-and-carrera-4-cabriolet-detailed
Porsche 911 Carrera 4

2019 Porsche 911 Carrera 4 and Carrera 4 Cabriolet detailed

12 Sep 2019
Visit/mercedes/201726/mercedes-amg-electric-car-to-target-porsche-taycan-and-tesla-model-s
Mercedes

Mercedes-AMG electric car to target Porsche Taycan and Tesla Model S

10 Sep 2019
Visit/volkswagen/18328/2020-volkswagen-id3-revealed-vws-electric-revolution-is-here
Volkswagen

2020 Volkswagen ID.3 revealed - VW’s electric revolution is here

9 May 2019

Most Popular

Visit/features/17721/the-best-family-cars-that-are-fun-to-drive
Best cars

Best family cars that are still fun to drive

Saloon, hatchback or SUV, family cars come in all shapes and sizes, and needn’t be a snore to drive. These are some of the team’s favourites.
13 Sep 2019
Visit/abarth/201755/2020-abarth-595-pista-arrives-with-162bhp
Abarth 595

2020 Abarth 595 Pista arrives with 162bhp

The supermini has been given a new Garrett turbocharger, paint options and tweaks inside
13 Sep 2019
Visit/buying-advice/19675/used-car-deals-of-the-week
Features

Best used cars for sale this week

We’ve delved into the classifieds and chosen our favourite cars for sale this week
13 Sep 2019
Visit/features/22773/goodyear-eagle-f1-supersport-chosen-by-those-in-the-know-advertisement-feature
Advertisement Feature

Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperSport - chosen by those in the know

The perfect choice for those looking to extract every last drop of performance, we run down Goodyear's Eagle F1 SuperSport range
12 Jun 2019