The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 3.6
The Mazda 2 is one of the best superminis available. It looks great, is more fun to drive than many rivals, and its frugal engines and high level of standard kit make it an appealing ownership prospect. True, there are better all-rounders in the small car class – including the Volkswagen Polo – as the 2 is not the most comfortable or practical choice. There are cheaper options available too, like the Vauxhall Corsa. Still, the Mazda 2 is well worth considering.
Reasons to buy
- Smart, simple interior design
- Lots of safety kit
- Nippy 1.5-litre petrol engine
At a glance
- How good does it look? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's the interior like? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How practical is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- What's it like to drive? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How powerful is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much will it cost me? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How reliable is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How safe is it? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- How much equipment do I get? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
- Why buy? ★★★★★ ★★★★★
How good does it look?
Most small cars are sensible (rather than sensational) when it comes to their looks. The Mazda 2 offers something different from the norm though, with a curvaceous design lifted from its larger sibling, the Mazda 3 hatch. There are seven versions to choose from. Base SE models have steel wheels and plastic covers, and have to make do without fog lights, or LED running lights. Mid-range SE-L versions get 15-inch alloys, while Tech Line models and above get 16-inch alloys. GT and GT Sport models get a roof spoiler and brighter, full LED headlights, and the GT Sport also gets a reversing camera.
What's the interior like?
The driving position in the Mazda 2 is rather high, so you feel like you sit on the car, rather than in it, but there's enough adjustment to the seat and steering wheel to accommodate most drivers. The materials feel robust, and the layout is simple, so it's really easy to use, even on the move. The big circular air-vents look great and feel substantial, as does the smart, leather-wrapped steering wheel. Forward visibility is good, but the thick C-pillars do obstruct your view when joining a motorway. The infotainment system is fairly easy to use via touch-screen and a dial by the gearstick, but it can be slow to respond.
How practical is it?
This is not the Mazda's biggest strength, but it provides a decent amount of space for up to four adults. Those in the back will be a little squeezed for room though, and rivals like the Hyundai i20 and Skoda Fabia are both considerably more spacious, especially with three sat across the rear bench. The door pockets in the front are quite small, but will just about carry a 500ml bottle of water. The boot is reasonable rather than outstanding, with 280-litres of capacity. Its tall, narrow shape limits the type of luggage you can fit inside though, and it has a high loading lip too. Base SE models come without the 60:40 split folding seats, and even on cars that do have this feature, the seat backs leave a big step in the load bay, which isn't ideal when you're loading larger items.
What's it like to drive?
There was plenty to like about the way the Mazda 2 drives when this generation first landed in 2015, and a tweak for 2017-onwards models has improved things still further. Anyone who enjoys driving on a challenging road will love its tight body control, keen turn-in, and high levels of grip. It feels light and agile compared to many rivals, but is still very easy to drive in town. The downside of this agility is that it's not exactly the softest riding supermini. The ride is quite firm, and at low speeds, or on scruffy town roads, it rarely settles down. Things do improve once you're out of urban areas, but big bumps and crests will jostle you around the cabin; that’s the payoff for its excellent cornering ability.
How powerful is it?
Mazda has now ditched the diesel option from the Mazda 2 line up, meaning there are now three petrol-powered 1.5-litre Skyactiv engines to choose from. They come in three different states of tune: 75PS, 90PS and 115PS. We've tried the top two, and while the extra power of the most potent version does make a difference on steep hills and the motorway, most buyers will find the 90PS version quick enough. However, it needs working hard to extract decent pace, and if you do push this engine it becomes noisy at higher revs. Not all the engines are available in each model; the SE and SE-L come with the 75PS version, while the 90PS features in the SE-L Nav, Tech Edition, Sport Nav and GT models. The 115PS engine is reserved for the top-of-the-range GT Sport car. The manual gearbox is a joy to use, and comes with five or six speeds, depending on the power output. There is also a six-speed automatic available, but not on the SE, SE-L or GT Sport models.
How much will it cost me?
A lack of diesel options means the petrol-powered Mazda 2s can’t compete with some of the diesel-powered rivals when it comes to fuel economy. But against equivalent petrol-driven rivals, it fares very well thanks to excellent residual values and attractive servicing and repair costs. We compared the 90PS SE-L Nav manual model against the equivalent Ford Fiesta and Seat Ibiza – both of which are newer cars – and found the Mazda was the cheapest to run over three years and 60,000 miles. Financially at least, it makes a lot of sense.
How reliable is it?
While we don’t have any specific reliability data for the latest Mazda 2, the previous generation model had a good reputation, as does Mazda as a brand. The company sits towards the top of the table in both Warranty Direct’s Reliability Index and in JD Power’s Vehicle Dependability Study, which is very reassuring. Should anything go wrong, Mazda offers a fairly standard three-year/60,000 mile warranty. This isn’t bad, but some rivals, like Kia, offer seven years of cover.
How safe is it?
The Mazda 2 only scored four stars during crash tests by safety organisation Euro NCAP, which is disappointing when several rivals scored a maximum five. SE-L Nav models and above come as standard with automatic braking technology to avoid rear-end collisions at low speed around town, as well as a lane departure warning system. However, full automatic emergency braking at higher speeds is not available. All cars come with a full complement of airbags and two Isofix child seat mounting points in the back.
How much equipment do I get?
With seven versions to choose from, there’s a wide choice of kit in the Mazda 2. The SE and SE-L models are quite bare bones, with no air conditioning or DAB radio, but the SE-L Nav introduces the touch-screen infotainment system, DAB and sat-nav. Go for the Tech Edition and you’ll get upgraded air-con, while the Sport Nav model adds niceties like a chrome exhaust trim, shark fin antenna on the roof, and keyless entry. The GT introduces leather trim, heated seats and a colour display in the instrument panel, while the GT Sport adds the reversing camera and more powerful engine.
The Mazda 2 is a great choice for anyone who wants a good looking small car that is fun to drive, and affordable to run. The interior is smart, with a reasonable amount of space, and the 1.5-litre engines all provide eager performance. If you need a big boot, or comfy ride though, there are better alternatives.