The Auto Trader expert verdict:
Compared with other cars in its class, the Mazda 2 is now a pretty aged design - and it shows. Although it's not without its merits, it lags behind too many more modern rivals in too many crucial areas for us to recommend it.
Reasons to buy:
- Smart looks
- Excellent reliability
- Sharp to drive
How good does it look?
The Mazda 2 is a smart and sporty looking little thing, with alloy wheels, a rear spoiler and body-coloured bumpers on every model in the range. At the base of the range, the SE Air Con model is the only one to have black (rather than body-coloured) mirrors and door handles, and clear (rather than tinted) glass in the side and rear windows. At the top of the range, Sport Venture models stand out with their front foglights, bright alloy wheels and silver door mirrors.
What's the interior like?
The interior doesn’t look as distinctive as the exterior, but everything’s neatly laid out and easy to use. Trouble is, because the materials inside lack the class and quality you’ll find in many similarly priced superminis, the overall effect is good rather than outstanding. What’s also disappointing is the level of comfort on offer, as the seats are rather flat and unsupportive. Similarly, although the driver’s seat can be raised or lowered on all models and the steering column adjusts for height, it’s disappointing that the wheel isn’t adjustable for reach.
How practical is it?
You can only order the Mazda 2 as a five-door model, but it’s not one of the most practical superminis. Fitting in four adults is more of a squeeze than in many other rivals and, although every model has folding seats to expand the boot (which is smaller than in many rivals), if you choose the basic SE Air Con model, the rear bench folds down in one piece, rather than being split. To make matters worse, while tipping the rear seatback forward couldn’t be easier, once it’s stowed, the boot floor isn’t flat – there’s actually quite a step in it.
What's it like to drive?
Mazda has consciously set the 2 up to provide a sporty drive, and to an extent, it has been successful: the steering is weighty and precise, and the car certainly handles sharply. However, all that is achieved at the expense of comfort, which we feel is more important in a car such as this. It jitters and thuds over even the smallest bumps, and potholes will give you one heck of a jolt.
How powerful is it?
Unlike many other superminis, the Mazda 2 only comes with a choice of petrol engines, but despite the company’s emphasis on the car’s sporty drive, none gives especially quick performance. If you spend most of your time in the urban jungle, then either version of the 1.3-litre unit is fine – but no better. However, if you often need to venture further afield, it’s worth spending the extra on the 1.5. Although it comes only with a four-speed automatic gearbox, its extra power is welcome on more open roads.
How much will it cost me?
By supermini standards, the prices of the Mazda 2 look pretty reasonable, but it’s certainly not all good news. In particular, none of the models return very good fuel economy, with even the most economical not even beating 60mpg. You don’t have to look too far to find a petrol-engined rival that can comfortably better that. And, if economy is your priority, there are many diesel-engined superminis that are far more frugal. Following on from that, with no model putting out less than 115g/km of CO2, it also means that no Mazda 2 will be exempt from road tax – something that is commonplace in many rivals. On the other hand, at least the car retains its value well as it ages, and insurance costs are reasonable.
How reliable is it?
Mazda has a reputation for building some of the most dependable cars on sale, and this model is a perfect example of why. Figures from Warranty Direct show it to be very reliable, and this is backed up by the owner reviews on this site, with owners almost uniformly giving the car high marks for reliability.
How safe is it?
Although the Mazda 2 was awarded a five-star Euro NCAP rating when it was tested, it’s important to note that the test was carried out in 2007 and the regulations have been tightened up since then. All models in the range come with anti-lock brakes, brake assist and front airbags for the driver and front-seat passenger, but the base model doesn’t get the side and curtain airbags that are standard on the rest of the range, while only models with an automatic gearbox come with stability control.
How much equipment do I get?
There are four trim levels – starting with SE Air Con and running upwards through Tamura, Tamura Nav and Sport Venture – but each is exclusive to a single engine. Common to every model are alloy wheels, air-con, electric front windows and electrically adjustable door mirrors, and the Tamura adds extra safety features and a better stereo, as well as side skirts, sports headlights, a leather steering wheel and trip computer. At the top of the range, Sport Venture has climate control, sat-nav, sports seats and automatic lights and wipers.
If you’re more worried about snazzy looks and sharp handling than you are about economy, refinement or ride comfort, the Mazda 2 is worth a look. There are better all-rounders out for similar money, though.