Some cars can really surprise you. As does this Mazda 2. It is well styled, but the real sensation lies in its uncanny mechanical smoothness and balance which is brought here to unseen levels for its class and size.
It is so well engineered, with minutious attention to detail, that the result is a car which is silky smooth, drives with the silence and panache of a premium car, handles pleasantly and is very, very frugal indeed, with a 1,5 litre Skyactiv engine technology which really works. Read more about our findings...
Hans Knol ten Bensel
The Mazda 2 has good proportions, and now also sports the typical radiator which we see also on other Mazda's. We can only applaud this, as it is ever more important nowadays to give modern cars a styling language which underlines their personality and gives them individuality and character, and makes the typical form language of the brand stand out.
The proportions and contours of the Mazda radiator are reminiscent of the racing D20 Lancia's, styled by nobody less than Pinin Farina. Especially the bottom of the radiator grille, culminating in a pointed angle, is typical. These formidable D20 Lancia's raced to third place in the 1953 Mille Miglia in the able hands of Clemente Biondetti, seen here pushing the car over the finish line...
The Mazda looks good from any angle, and has no styling gimmicks or too outspoken accent lines.
Harmony also continues in the interior and the styling of the dashboard, where we found again the instrument layout of the 1954 Mercedes "Ponton", with the round speedometer dial placed centrally, and fuel, rev gauges and other information shown in two lateral windows.
We also show here the instrument layout of the Mercedes “ponton” dashboard…
We commented on this already in our test of the Mazda 3 and are delighted to find this layout here again. We liked the numerous accessories and their very easy and intuitive use. The centre console houses a round knob, turn it and you select the various audio, nav and phone functions.
On the steering wheel you can select volume, phone, cruise control functions. All straightforward, user friendly, as it should be in any car.
On the centre of the dashboard sits a large screen, displaying the different functions and, as we said, steered by the round knob on the centre console.
Practicality continues with a storage area for your smartphone, which sits under the airco commands, and which features also two USB slots, an Aux jack and last but not least a CD player... What more do you want?
The seats are well finished and sit well, a good seating position is easily found. Cabin life is indeed pleasant in this Mazda 2. The level of finish and the quality of the used materials definitely evokes premium atmosphere, accentuated by a large carbon patterned glossy strip across the dashboard.
Formidable engine and drivetrain
Pushing the starting knob and a subdued hum is audible, the engine idling somewhat higher when cold. Being very soon to warm up, the engine is further almost completely inaudible and vibrationless, and has indeed excellent flexibility. It truly amazed us with its very refined behaviour.
It proved to us again that modern small engined petrol engines are becoming truly formidable, combining excellent torque and pulling power with smoothness and frugality. Indeed, this engine pulls beautifully from say 1500 rpm onwards, and runs totally vibrationless from as low as 1000 rpm, especially important when pottering around town and observing 30 km/h speed limits on city boulevards, using the higher third gear, for instance. This feels absolutely natural, the engine remaining smooth and inaudible.
Observing the gear change indications, this excellent low rev behaviour allows the car to chalk up truly impressive consumption figures, and extended, very slow city trips still gave an average consumption of 5,2 litres/100 km.
The gearbox is super slick and easy to use, the gears clicking in without the slightest effort, two fingers on the gearlever suffice...
The clutch is smooth and progressive, steering is light, precise and sensitive. You guessed it, this car delivers "Zen" driving pleasure when driven in town. But not only there...
The Mazda 2 holds with its healthy 90 HP very well its own on the open road and motorways. Cruising at the legal limits is a truly effortless, engine noise being subdued, the gearing of the standard five speed box being high enough to warrant low revs, like 2500 rpm at 120 km for instance. There is ample power to accelerate still at these speeds and maintain cruising speeds uphill, also when fully laden.
The Mazda 2 will sprint from 0 to 100 in 9,4 seconds, and has a top speed of 183 kph. We already discussed the Mazda Skyactiv technology in our previous test of the Mazda 3. Suffice to say here that a specially designed 4-2-1 exhaust system and enhanced fuel spray system counters the drawbacks of the 1:14 compression ratio with early knock control.
The engine has excellent fuel efficiency, with maximum power of 66 kW reached at 6000 rpm, and maximum torque of 148 Nm developed at a relatively high 4000 rpm. Indeed, the engine is very flexible, and as said, will remain super smooth at low revs, but real pulling power sets in at around 1500 rpm where torque is already some 125 Nm.
Wind noise and tyre roar are also very well damped, making this car a good long distance cruiser. Of course, there are electronic aids like cruise control and the so-called lane assist function, which emits a very subtle but clearly audible low frequency sound when you change lanes without indicating this. All this warrants lf course effortless and safe progress on long journeys.
Agile handling and well balanced suspension
Like any other Mazda, the car displays lively, precise and very predictable handling. It does not invite you to throw it around corners, indeed, a smooth, anticipative driving style is what you want to adopt intuitively behind the wheel of this refined compact. But that does not mean that it will protest when you are somewhat more in a hurry.
The free revving engine, the agigle chassis truly gets down to business and true driving pleasure sets in. The car steers precise and neutral up to very high cornering speeds. The Mazda 2 has also excellent straight line stability and impressive comfort, also at low speeds it will absorb potholes and ridges on our winter-ridden roads quite well.
As we said, the seating position is quite good. Adjustment range of seats and steering wheel let you find an ideal seating position in a breeze. Our test car was equipped with a manual, non digital airco, which worked smoothly and progressively. We already mentioned also the ergonomics and practicality of the cabin.
Sound insulation is excellent, and thanks to the low noise level in the cabin, this is really a car in which one can enjoy (classical) music to the full. The standard sound system is of very good acoustic quality, and also this contributes to the overall premium driving experience this Mazda conveys. The car is sufficiently roomy to seat four and their luggage, the four door layout and the split foldable rear backrests are of course quite practical in everyday use.
The Mazda 2 is discreet, well styled, and scores very high indeed in terms of refinement, a quality we personally put before many others in a car. In this respect, this Mazda truly surprised us. It combines this smoothness, silence and balance with impressive frugality. Indeed, one of the few petrol engined cars where even in city driving it takes little effort to achieve consumption averages around 5 litres and lower. But it does not only excel in the city. It also comes very well to its own on the open road, has quite entertaining handling and is a very good long range cruiser. All this makes the Mazda 2 a very versatile car to have, and enjoy...for many years of smooth and refined driving pleasure to come.
Hans Knol ten Bensel