Baby zoomer

A new smarter face for the bonnet, cleaner engines and an auto option herald the revised Mazda2 supermini.

A new smarter face for the bonnet, cleaner engines and an auto option herald the revised Mazda2 supermini.

THE revamped Mazda2 has a smarter look in restyled guise to ensure that supermini buyers don’t ignore its appeal. And the changes go more than skin-deep. There are upgrades too, under the family-themed bonnet with its five-point grille and larger badge. Plus Mazda have added their Activematic four-speed auto to the range.

This model first arrived in the UK in 2003 as essentially a re-badged Ford Fusion but the second generation version that followed up in 2007 was much more its own car, even though it shared much with Ford’s Fiesta supermini under the skin. From the start, the car’s sharp handling won admirers, thanks to Mazda’s use of ultralight yet strong steels. To improve things further, the bodyshell has been stiffened to give even better road holding and ride comfort. A bit more ‘zoom zoom’ if you like.

This car accounts for around a quarter of Mazda’s UK sales volume, but it’s been rather a forgotten model in recent times, hence the importance of the styling changes and the interior enhancements which offer a heightened sense of quality. The addition of an auto Activematic variant should help too, as even drivers of smaller cars seek easier motoring.

Under the bonnet, buyers will find an upgraded Euro 5-compliant powertrain line-up. Most customers will probably go with the 1.3-litre petrol unit, offered with either 75, at tested here, or 84PS. But there is also a more potent 1.5-litre powerplant good for 102PS. Perhaps the biggest advance in terms of mechanicals however, comes with the introduction of a far more competitive 1.6-litre turbo diesel which is 5.5 percent more powerful and offers 95PS.

So does it zoom zoom? Well yes, up to a point. The high-mounted gear lever shifts neatly and the whole car feels handy and light on its feet. It never feels unstable and the steering’s quick acting. Performance-wise, this 1.3 TS will cover the 0-62mph dash in 14.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 104mph. The 1.5 Sport by comparison, whether as a three or five door, is of course sprightlier and will do 0-62mph in 10.7 seconds and keep going to a top speed of 115mph.

As well as the stiffer bodyshell, the drive and handling are enhanced by modifications to the front suspension geometry, as well as rear trailing arms that now have been given softer mountings. The rear dampers also have been revised and retuned. The changes may be modest individually, but with the whole greater than the parts, the result is a car that should feel more planted to the road without losing any of its verve for life. The four-speed automatic transmission is a first on the Mazda2

There are three and five-door options, giving flexibility to parents who perhaps have young children and are looking for a small runabout. Those back doors certainly make wrestling Junior into the rear childseat a lot easier than would be the case if they were having to lean through in a three-door model. And there are ISOFIX fastenings for said seat. There are a trio of three-point rear seatbelts in the Mazda2, but five adults in the back is a bit ambitious, as is the case with all superminis. Two adults will be reasonably comfortable in the rear for short to medium-length journeys however and space for bigger passengers in the front isn’t an issue.

The exterior styling looks classy and dynamic with that smarter nose, revised front fog lamp bezels and more striking wheels. And Mazda have addressed criticisms of the previous generation car by paying particular attention to the look, feel and touch of the interior, reworked to reflect the outside upgrade. There’s certainly a high quality feel about the cabin, with the plasticky bits in the previous model now replaced by a much classier redesigned instrument panel with ‘blackout’ finished dials and chrome rings, plus a centre stack in piano black.

Expect to pay somewhere in the £10,000 to £15,000 for your Mazda2, which is about par for the supermini course. There are cheaper rivals but many more pricey ones.

Superminis like this one are light years on from the days when floor mats were offered as optional extras. Whether you choose 1.3 or 1.5-litre petrol power or the 1.6-litre diesel, every Mazda2 comes with standard equipment that includes air conditioning, remote central locking, a Thatcham Category One alarm, electric front windows and door mirrors, plus a decent quality MP3-compatible CD stereo with auxiliary jack. Safety equipment across the range includes ABS, electronic brake force distribution and emergency brake assist.

Cleaner and greener, fuel economy has been improved across the engine range by up to 2% overall and cuts CO2 emissions by as much as five per cent. Best of the bunch, predictably, is the 1.6-litre diesel, with a combined fuel figure of 67.3mpg (55.4mpg urban and 76.3mpg extra urban). You’ll need to cover a lot of miles to justify its asking price though. The more common petrol choices see combined cycle fuel figures of 55.4mpg for the lower-powered version of the 1.3 and 48.7mpg for the 1.5.

Insurance groupings (9E to 16E) are a little higher than rivals. Still, you can balance that against stronger residuals thanks to impressive build quality, reliability and durability. The evidence is simple - just try to buy a used Mazda2 and you will find owners very reluctant indeed to part with theirs. If you want to save money on your road tax, then again the 1.6-litre diesel with its B-band rating is the one to go for, as vehicle excise duty is zero for the first year and £20 a year after that. The C-band rated 1.3 litre petrol models are also zero-rated for the first year and then £30 a year after that. All models come with three year/60,0000 mile warranty and three year European Roadside Assistance.

This improved Mazda2 remains a really class-competitive supermini and a car that should make any small car buyer’s shopping list.

There’s a touch of sportiness to it that many bored customers in this sector will like and in five-door form, it has all the trendy image that other brands limit to their three-door superminis. Or to put it another way, an extra touch of zoom-zoom.