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First Drive

Mazda 2 Hybrid review: is this Mazda's most embarrassing car?

£29,020 when new
Published: 10 Apr 2024


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What is it? 

When is a Toyota Yaris not a Toyota Yaris? When it’s a Mazda 2 Hybrid, apparently. It's unmistakably an exercise in badge engineering, with a few key differences thrown in to provide some separation.

The first lies with design: a mildly shrunken grille, blunter headlights and less defined fog light cladding. Er, and that's it. We said 'a few', and we meant it.

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Wait, why does the 2 Hybrid look so different to the standard 2?

Because it’s a completely different car. But rather than come up with an all-new name, Mazda has simply used that of its little supermini. Confusing, we know.

“Of course, we wanted to change the car completely, but we couldn’t," explained Jo Stenuit, design director for Mazda Europe. "We even had a few other interesting ideas, which didn’t get through the cost calculations.

"It was certainly an interesting challenge because we had to keep all the technical parts while still being able to create something that resembled a Mazda.”

I get it now. What’s the powertrain like?

This is a big weakness with the standard 2, so you can see the logic of piggybacking off the Yaris's hybrid 1.5-litre three-pot. A 59kW motor fizzes around in the background fed by a 0.7kWh battery, resulting in 114bhp and 0-62mph in 9.7 seconds. It feels faster than that though.

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Impressive fuel economy should return a few quid to your pocket in the long run, too, with Mazda quoting 72mpg. We've hit that magic number in the Yaris before now, and on a 65-mile test run we saw no reason to suspect that you couldn't do the same in this post-surgery 2 Hybrid.

Is it any good to drive?

Very, if you're keeping it local. The steering feels light, and the combo of low weight (1,160kg, fact fans) and generous grip makes it nimble. The suspension also deals with bumps and crevices rather well, even if the ride is a touch on the firm side.

On the motorway, it's a different story. Any strong throttle input - heck, basically any throttle input at all - sends the revs right up, and the engine becomes as noisy as a London nightclub on New Year's Eve.

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What else? Oh yeah, the lack of lumbar support. Premium versions of the 2 Hybrid are said to come with it, but after a few minutes you begin to wonder if Mazda has attached it to the boot floor or something. Meanwhile the hard plastics across the door will've made your arm numb, if indeed that's where you rest it while driving.

I'll buy elbow pads. How does the rest of the interior stack up?

In a word: pleasant. Aside from those few nitpicks, the 2 Hybrid is both well-equipped and spacious. You get a digitalised driver display, a nine- or 10in multimedia screen that’s easy to use and calibrate, and even a wireless charging pad for your phone.

The neat packaging also leaves a copious amount of space for your passengers, and should be sufficient for a small family. With the front seats rolled back, there’s even enough room for medium-sized adults back there... just not the six-and-a-half-foot basketball types.

Storage spaces and cubbyholes are also in strong supply, to be condemned to their fates as eternal empty crisp packet holders. We wouldn't mind a bit more volume in the glove box and door bins, though.

What if I really want to go to town with the options?

You can add a head-up display and diamond-stitched upholstery on premium models if you really fancy it. You might also consider the panoramic roof, since illumination of the switchgear is poor under dim lighting. Which is what we get 87 per cent of the time in Britain.

Boot space amounts to 286 litres: ample, but short of rivals like the Honda Jazz and the Peugeot 208. Albeit, only by a few basketballs’ worth.

What’s the verdict?

The 2 Hybrid might come with a superior engine to the standard Mazda 2, but don't let the name trickery fool you into thinking that this is anything other than an admission of defeat from Mazda. The Japanese carmaker makes literally every type of powertrain there is - ICE, hybrid, PHEV, BEV... it even brought back the range extender of all things, by means of reviving the rotary engine for the MX-30 - and yet it needs to copy and paste from Toyota's playbook? Ouch.

And consider this: the Mazda 2 Hybrid starts at £23,955 for the entry-level ‘Centre-Line’, which is around £1,300 more than the equivalent Yaris ‘Icon’. Meanwhile, the range-topping ‘Homura Plus’ rifles this figure to £29,020, which is still a touch higher than a top-spec Yaris ‘Premiere Edition’.

What exactly are you getting for your extra dosh, other than Mazda's softer take on the design? Not much at all. If it's an ultra-frugal runabout you're after, go for the Yaris and be done with it.

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