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Mazda 2 review (2010 onwards)
What - Mazda 2 facelift
Where - Nice, France
Date - November 2010
Price - £9,995 - £14,455
Available - Now
Key rivals - Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo, Hyundai i10, Fiat 500, Suzuki Swift, Vauxhall Corsa, Renault Clio, Citroën C3, Toyota Yaris, Nissan Micra
Summary - The fun and friendly Mazda 2 supermini gets a refresh bringing new looks, cleaner engines and greater refinement.
We like - Improvements on the surface and under the skin make the Mazda 2 feel like a better quality product
We don't like - Better ride quality seems to have taken some of the sparkle off the chassis, nothing really exciting and new
It's mid-life revision time for the second generation Mazda 2 supermini, and for once with a facelift we actually have something to talk about. The updated 2 isn't radically remodelled, but it has certainly changed.
Available as a three- or five-door hatchback, on the outside there's an attempt at 'sportier', with the front end adopting the latest Mazda smiley-face design, a new grille and new fog light bezels. Oh yes. The excitement.
To be fair, the designers have done a decent job - the makeover is well resolved and the car still looks good. Whether this is actually an improvement is open to debate; it now seems much more like a relative of the original Mazda 2.
On the inside there are upgraded materials and further modest remodelling. And under the bonnet extra efficiency from the engines. Given the current version has proved fantastically successful over the past three years, Mazda is therefore surely on to a winner.
We are, after all, talking about the 2008 World Car of the Year.
There are technically three engines available - but in four variants. The 1.3-litre petrol comes in 75hp 'standard power' and 84hp 'high power' guises; the 1.5-litre petrol offers 102hp, and the 1.6-litre turbodiesel 95hp.
On launch we were able to try the high power 1.3 and the 1.5. Unless you're going to be filling all of the seats all of the time, the 84hp 1.3 should cope with most everyday usage - although you will need to work the gearbox more often.
The 1.5 is pokier, as you'd expect, but both engines are pretty peeky, and like you to use plenty of revs to get the best from them. Fortunately they are also smooth in the process - and Mazda has clearly been working on the cabin refinement.
The rain doesn't echo off the roof in the same manner as the pre-facelift car, wind noise seems well contained, and when you can hear the engine the note is pleasantly thrummy rather than thrashy and harsh.
As for the gearbox, as part of the efficiency drive Mazda has changed all of the ratios from second and above. We think it's highly unlikely you'll notice the difference - the Mazda 2 hardly ever feels sluggish. A four-speed auto is optional on the 1.5.
Ride and handling
In addition to the visual upgrades and engineering alterations to reduce emissions, Mazda has been busy making detail changes to the chassis - to the extent that there are extra spot welds in places, changes to internal structures, and even revised suspension bushes.
The result is a stiffer structure, which means Mazda has been able to make the car more comfortable without unduly damaging the driving experience; and as a paragon of lightweight engineering already - all except the diesel weigh less than 1,000kg - the Mazda 2 has always been very nimble.
The same basic platform underpins the current Ford Fiesta - and we all know how great that is. By comparison the 2 now seems less raw than it was, with slightly glassy steering and a reduced eagerness about the front end.
However, the increased interior refinement and boosted ride comfort will make the car a more pleasant place to be for most people. It's still easy and light to handle, but now quieter and less crashy - especially around town.
Sadly the facelift couldn't fix the windscreen pillars, which are of the angled variety that make the outside oh so good to look at but the inside oh so difficult to look out of - placing the car precisely in corners is occasionally challenging.
But the cabin makeover itself is generally successful. The new seat upholstery is of better quality, the centre console fascia gains piano black trim that's made a surprising difference to the interior ambience, and the entire car feels substantial and solid.
It's no Volkswagen Polo - but then the Polo stands above everything else in the supermini sector as well. And for such a small car, the Mazda 2 is impressively roomy, with fair rear legroom and a 250-litre boot (787 litres with the rear seats down).
As part of the update Mazda has binned the 'magazine rack' glovebox arrangement in deference to a much more conventional affair. But the feminist-infuriating 'handbag slot' between the front seats does remain.
Economy and safety
The pre-facelift Mazda 2 achieved a five-star Euro NCAP rating - but under the previous, more lenient scoring system; we await confirmation of any update to this with the new model. Up to six airbags and stability control are available, and the braking system has been improved.
Both 1.3-litre petrol engines now return 119g/km CO2 with 55.4mpg, the 1.5 manages 135g/km with 48.7mpg, while the diesel unsurprisingly scoops the lot with 110g/km and 67.2mpg.
All see improvements bar the 1.5 and all are now Euro 5 emissions compliant. The gains come not only via the revised gear ratios; Mazda has also changed the way the alternator is controlled and specified a lower viscosity oil to reduce friction.
There is no dedicated eco model, so the Mazda 2 can't compete with the sub-100g/km superminis available - at a price - from certain rival manufacturers. Mazda is apparently happy to see the majority of its range dip below the 120g/km mark.
MSN Cars verdict
With prices starting at £9,995 the Mazda 2 continues to represent a good value alternative choice in the supermini sector, supported by smart looks, a fine driving experience and now even greater refinement and efficiency.
But despite these genuinely worthy updates, it's really a case of as you were with the Mazda 2. The facelifted model builds on strengths the car already had without bringing any kind of significant wow factor.
Still one for the shortlist, though. No doubt.
|Need to know|
|Engines, petrol||1.3 75, 1.3 84, 1.5 102|
|Engines, diesel||1.6 95|
|Power, hp||75 - 102|
|Torque, lb ft||87 - 151|
|0-62 mph, secs||10.4 - 13.4|
|Top speed, mph||104 - 117|
|Mpg combined||48.7 - 67.2|
|CO2, g/km / tax, %||110 - 135 / 13 - 15 (though 1.3 petrols are 10%)|
|Ratings||Mazda 2 1.3 high power|
|Ride & handling||***|
|MSN Cars verdict||***|
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