Fun, forgiving handling. Comfortable driving position. Well thought-out interior. Easy-to-use infotainment
In a world of small turbo engines, this last-bastion of natural aspiration feels awfully sluggish
What is it?
The forgotten supermini. The Mazda 2 is never the first name out of our mouths when we’re thinking of rivals to the Ford Fiesta and Vauxhall Corsa. And seemingly nor the British public, either – while the Corsa and Fiesta sit in first and second place respectively on the UK’s year-to-date best-sellers list, the 2 is nowhere to be seen. Just ask yourselves this, when did you last seen one on the roads?
We’ll admit, mind, that we could ask you the same question of any car and you’ll likely be unable to answer. Not without taking yourself away for half an hour and having a really long think about it. Doesn’t help that the 2 is hardly the most eye-catching of cars, either; if you’re looking to blend in, then this is an astute choice. But the 2 does have its merits, even if it’s not as rounded as some of its rivals.
Where does the 2 excel, then?
By not pretending to be something it’s not, primarily. We like honest, unpretentious cars at Top Gear. And they don’t come much more uncomplicated than the 2. The only engine, now diesel has been exorcised from the range and Mazda is uninterested in doing a ‘downsized’ engine, is a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol unit with either 74bhp or 89bhp, and – newly reintroduced for 2021 – 113bhp. Mazda has been listening. More on that later.
Said engine drives the front wheels through a six-speed ‘box; manual or auto depends on trim choice. There’s no hybrid or electric version. You can’t get the supercharged SkyActiv-X engine out of the Mazda 3 and CX-30. No hot hatch version either, which is a bit of a pity, given what a great launchpad this chassis would be for a pocket rocket. But at this size, there’s no beating the Fiesta ST, it seems.
Sorry, where were we? Ah yes. It’s a five-door only. There are four trim levels. And, seemingly as with every Mazda these days, it comes generously equipped. All models in the range feature navigation, cruise control, integrated Bluetooth and air conditioning, while upper trims get a colour head-up display, reversing camera, heated front seats and a heated steering wheel. Above all, though, it’s very competitively priced, starting from just £16,475. That’s not to be sniffed at.
Where does it fall short?
Ah. As much as we approve of the simplicity of the engine range, Mazda insists on continuing its naturally aspirated fight. Meaning no turbocharger. And as much as we love naturally aspirated engines for their responsiveness and smooth power delivery, there’s no getting away from the fact that a diet of turbocharged 1.0-litre superminis has rather spoiled us all in recent years. No, most turbo units aren’t as efficient as claimed, but they do offer a lot of on-demand torque, and driving the 2 serves to teach just how lazy that’s made us. Even the 89bhp version, complete with just 109lb ft of torque, takes a heck of a lot of coaxing along.
We mentioned the newly reintroduced 113bhp version above, and it’s likely that Mazda’s brought this back from the abyss to stem some of the flack. So, a new engine, on top of a facelift in 2019 that addressed the 2’s looks and meant it looked less like a buck-toothed beaver from the front, in addition to classier alloy wheels and slightly updated headlights, sounds promising. But is it enough for the 2 to lose its tag as the forgotten supermini and keep pace with the Corsa and Fiesta?
Our choice from the range
What's the verdict?
The 2 is a very rounded product – if starting to show its age, but the fact it’s still here is credit to a strong original design – save for the engine which, if you’re trading in from a turbocharged rival, will take some getting used to.
As much as we’d like to come over all traditional and say ‘hurrah for having to wring a car’s neck for once’, to a great many folk, the easy-going performance of a Fiesta may well be what wins them over, despite the fact the 2 boasts a very sensibly laid-out cabin, decent space, fabulous dynamics and competitive pricing.
Opt for the 2 however and no one will be able to accuse you of being a sheep, and it'll get you and the family from A to B without too much effort. You’ll also be able to proudly claim that you’re one of the last bastions of natural aspiration. If, that is, anyone will listen.