Jeremy, Jeremy, wherfore art thou Jeremy ?
Mazda UK launched the Mazda2 on the day the news broke that Jeremy Clarkson had allegedly punched a colleague. Jeremy was conspicuous by his absence, but was not missed because the assembled journalists were treated to a test route through beautiful South Devon, an area I had not visited since the 1970’s. Mazdas previous 2 had won the coveted World Car of the Year Award, so the new model has a lot to live up to. It’s already won Japanese Car of the Year 2014 so it’s off to a good start.
Offered with a range of Euro 6-compliant SKYACTIV powertrains – 1.5-litre SKYACTIV-G, 75, 90 and 115ps petrol and 1.5-litre SKYACTIV-D, 105ps diesel engines, Mazda are quite rightly proud of the way they do things & the Mazda2 is no different, giving customers real-world fuel savings than focusing on spectacular results in the official EU economy cycle. That’s why its strategy is based around high-compression naturally-aspirated petrol engines rather than following the turbocharged, downsizing that others have championed.
The assembled cars were at Exeter Airport & the first thing I noticed was how striking the new Mazda2 is to look at. As the old adage goes, ‘ If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ Mazda has cleverly made the Mazda2 look like the other models in Mazdas range.There’s a definite symmetry which is pleasing on the eye,as the 2 has the signature wing, front grille & headlamp styling which instantly identify it as the latest addition to the Mazda family. Add in a chiseled exterior, plus a neat & simple interior & you have a very classy looking car indeed.
Just because it’s small doesn’t mean that the Mazda2 is lacking in technology or safety. There’s MZD Connect smartphone connectivity & an Active Driving Display – the first head-up display in the B-segment- being offered on some models. Mazda also offer a comprehensive safety package as standard, incorporating an array of active safety systems including Anti-lock Brakes (ABS), Electronic Brakeforce Distribution (EBD), Electronic Brake Assist (EBA), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Traction Control System (TCS), Emergency Stop Signalling (ESS), Hill Hold Assist (HHA) & a Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) are fitted as standard across the model range.
Thanks to an 80 mm increase in wheelbase, the new 2 gets a larger more spacious cabin & a bigger boot. There’s more room in the back than in a Ford Fiesta & although it might be a squeeze if you’re over six foot, there’s a surprising amount of headroom. The boot has a high lip, but it’s deep, with 280-litres of space with the rear seats in place, or 960-litres with the folded down, 30 & 173-litres more than its predecessor.
Inside the cabin the dashboard as is currently the trend is uncluttered, with just the circular air vents-one small rectangular air vent & three circular ones, the climate control dials & a 7” touchscreen in front of you. On SE-L models and above, the touchscreen display can also be controlled with a rotary dial on the centre console, similar to those found in BMW & Lexus models. Getting comfortable is easy, with the range of adjustment for the front seats & steering wheel easy to locate & to use.
I drove the diesel model first & found it to be well balanced & very capable, with a bit of punch in the mid range.The diesels is the cleanest model in the range, with the 105ps 1.5 SKYACTIV-D, capable of 83.1mpg & emissions of just 89g/km. More fun is the largest petrol model the 115 ps version, which is almost hot-hatch like in it’s handling & acceleration. This petrol model is only available with a six-speed manual gearbox but still returns a respectable 57.6mpg with emissions of 115g/km. I also tested the 90 ps version, which is also fun to drive, but requires more work changing down, in particular on steep hills to keep the revs where you want them to be. his version returns 62.7mpg with emissions of 105g/km with the five-speed manual gearbox. All models handles brilliantly, with sure footed road holding & great suspension.
Over all terrain, motorway, A & B Roads & some narrow country lanes, the Mazda in all formats remained poised & great fun to drive. The cabin oozes quality & is an incredibly nice place to be. Comparing it to the Fiesta & Polo is quite easy to do, it’s definitely as good as both, but I have yet to drive the new acclaimed Hyundai i20, although I would be surprised if the Korean car is as well put together.
If I was in the market for a B sector car, possibly downsizing to save money, I would not hesitate to consider the Mazda2. It’s a B segment car offering luxury car equipment whist still giving the driver a bit of old fashioned fun behind the wheel. It may even have appealed to Jeremy, who knows ?
A Top Gear 4/5