The Mazda2 is the smallest car the Japanese automaker offers, a funkily styled city car that can be had as either a five-door hatch or four-door sedan that scores highly against the competition from the brand’s native land or from Europe.
Globally, the car first rolled out in 2014, the fourth car to bear Mazda’s SkyActiv badge, their catch-all term to describe an improved construction, design, and powertrain philosophy. The 2’s appeal is strong with buyers looking at cars like the Volkswagen Polo, Skoda Fabia, Ford Fiesta, Peugeot 208, Honda Jazz, Toyota Yaris, or Suzuki Swift, and for good reason.
It emulated the factors that popularised the Polo and Fiesta to a fault, mainly style, lively handling, and a cabin that punches above its weight. It certainly helps that its engine (in either tune) stacks up well for power and efficiency and that it boasts an appealing list of standard equipment.
The previous-generation Mazda2 is decisively left behind here. That one might not have had the same amount of market penetration, but should this newer, larger successor suffer the same fate, it’s definitely not for want of effort or fault of its own. The base ingredients here are indeed of high quality, and for the money Mazda gives you a lot of car in return.
The 2 is available in either Neo, Maxx, or Genki grades, though the sedan misses out on that highest and final tier. The hatch might lag behind in terms of raw boot space certainly gives buyers more options.
“While its silhouette is almost identical, it’s a smidge longer than the car it replaces, and carries the firm’s current distinctive front end design…” - Top Gear
Mazda’s KODO aesthetic is prevalent here, with their designers going so far as to push the bulkhead further back to make the bonnet as flat and long as possible in order to give the car a more purposeful and premium stance, as well as to better echo the many creases that litter the car’s profile.
This is one of the few cars that manages to retain its good looks even when transitioned into a sedan, as its roofline tapers neatly to meet the tail to emphasise the genetic similarities with the Mazda3 fastback.
The 2 is certainly a distinctive looking thing, and next to its fiercest competitors it stands out as having one of the more defined visual personalities, though some argue that the design works less well than Mazda’s larger cars.
The base car has to endure steel wheels, but move upward it’s alloys all the way with the most expensive ones flashing 16-inch rollers and LED headlamps.
Engine and Drivetrain
“The engine is refined through its rev range but is noisier than some in this class, and road noise is also obvious at higher speeds and on coarse surfaces.” - CarAdvice
Only a 1.5-litre four-cylinder naturally aspirated SkyActiv-G petrol engine is supplied to Australian-spec Mazda2s, and while the extra torque and motorway cruising brownie points are lamentably missing due to the lack of the equivalent turbodiesel, the petrol acquits itself quite well with an eager character that lets it zip around with ease.
There are, however, two states of tune that comes with it. Only the base Neo receives the lower-powered version, chucking out 79kW and 139Nm of twist, burning 5.4-litres/100km of fuel. Every other grade gets a slightly more powerful 81kW and 141Nm that’s also 0.2-litre/100km more economical.
This is due to the ‘high-spec’ engine being fitted with Mazda’s i-stop system which turns the engine off during short stationary periods - such as in a traffic jam - and reignites when the accelerator is again depressed.
Though the ratio to which buyers are likely to select the six-speed automatic transmission is very one-sided, Mazda doesn’t take away the option of having a six-speed manual away no matter which grade or body style is chosen.
“Inside, the Mazda2 has been designed with an ideal blend of the simplicity you’d expect in a supermini, but with a modern and well finished feel.” - CarBuyer
Mazda has seemed to have successfully extracted the premium design, materials, and build from their larger cars and shoehorned them into the relatively diminutive 2. The car shows the way forward with regards to how a car this reasonably priced can feel a lot more expensive.
Of course, the KODO design philosophy applies here too. There are swooping curves, subtle undulations, all bridged by quite a logical and ergonomic layout that’s accented by a mix of pleasant glossy, matte, and textured surfaces.
The dashboard is elegant and minimal, cascading down past the infotainment/audio system to the HVAC controls, but also quite stylish. Easily the best-appointed in its class. In fact, it makes pretty much all its rivals feel a little dated.
The front passengers are treated to a roomy but predictably narrower cabin. But the seats are comfortable and sized to accommodate even larger occupants. In the second row though, and its a little pokier than some of the competition which may discourage a third passenger from squeezing in. But even with two passengers at the back, they could be wanting more headroom and legroom as the Mazda trails in this respect too in contrast to class leaders, especially the Honda Jazz.
Open the boot, and there’s a fairly large 280-litres (or 440-litres in the sedan) of cargo space, which thankfully is back on par with the class standard. The 2 scores more points here thanks to its nicely squared boot floor shape to make arranging a snap, and the wide aperture allows for some wide loads to be slotted in. Of course, there’s more room to be used should the rear seats be folded, though they don’t do so flatly, resulting in a middling 950-litres.
Behind The Wheel
“It’s imbued with an agility and keenness to change direction that goes hand in hand with its perky little engine.” - Top Gear
This is a Mazda after all, and we expect their cars to have some tinge of fun injected to all their cars. It’s no MX-5 but definitely a top contender to be the most fun car to drive in its class, though that distinction still belongs to the Ford Fiesta.
A side-effect of this is that the 2 has a more comfortable ride, a product of the softer suspension setup rather than the firmer springs on the Ford. Still, coupled with the better on-road composure, the 2 is still keen to be chucked around.
Steering is quick and direct given there’s not much weight to grapple with, there’s plenty of mechanical grip, and body roll is well controlled. However, it can feel a little disconnected when the car is pushed harder. It’s been a common theme for Mazdas to have a softer edge to them, and that extends to the 2, though some argue it’s more forgiving than it needs to be at the expense of sharpness.
This is an area where Mazda probably felt that most buyers of the 2 won’t mind having sacrificing some driving thrills for a calmer car overall. Since the car will likely spend the majority of its life in urban areas, visibility is good all around with only minimal obstructions around the A- and C-pillar, making it easy to thread around town and to park.
Safety and Technology
“Mazda tells us the side airbags are specially tuned to provide the best protection within the relatively short occupant-to-door distances of a small car,” - CarsGuide
ANCAP tested the Mazda2 in 2015 and subsequently gave it their maximum 5-star rating. As standard, there’s 6 airbags, stability control, hill start assist, and rear parking sensors in the base Neo spec.
Move up the grade ladder, though, and features such as a reversing camera and the 7-inch MZD Connect infotainment system become available. Unlike rivals which use a touchscreen exclusively for input, which is quite flawed, Mazda’s lets you use a scrolling dial like BMW’s iDrive in addition to supplying touch-sensitive panel.
The range-topping Genki hatch comes also comes with automatic wipers and ambient light-aware headlamps that turn on automatically. The Autonomous Emergency Braking system, which Mazda terms as Smart City Brake Support, a part of their i-ActiveSense suite), which can prevent collisions at slower speeds, is still surprisingly absent from the feature list at any grade but can be added had by selecting the Genki S Pack option
Overall, the Mazda2 is a very strong contender in the small car space, in some categories outright shaming its competitors such as with interior quality and exterior panache. In others, it doesn’t fare so dominantly.
For sheer practicality, it’s trounced fellow Japanese rivals like the Toyota Yaris and Honda Jazz, and the Fiesta is more fun to drive. Still, the 2’s efficient yet punchy engine and more pleasant cabin really does claw back some critical points for it. We can’t fault it for not being excellent in every criteria, but we can praise it for being pretty darn good instead.
CarBuyer - 4.3/5 - “…you shouldn’t overlook the Japanese entrant. Especially if you value style, enjoyment behind the wheel and economical engines.”
CarsGuide - 3.5/5 - “Mazda is at the top of its game at the moment – the entire line-up doesn’t have a weak point and even their most affordable car is still a high quality offering, that’s stylish, fun and easy to drive.”
CarAdvice - 7.5/10 - “If it’s got you on looks alone, it’s good to know its neat pricing, sporty interior, and decent performance and driving dynamics mean there’s much more to the 2 sedan than just a shapely rear end.”
Motoring - 82/100 - “It is spacious for its size both in the cabin and in the boot. It is incredibly thrifty yet also enjoyable to drive. There is no better sedan in this category than the Mazda2. In fact, it’s debatable whether there’s any better car in this category at all. It’s that good.”
Top Gear - 7/10 - “Sweet-looking 2 drives as well as it looks. Fun supermini, deserves more attention.”
Autocar - 4/5 - “The Mazda 2 continues to be Japan’s best effort at a classic, European supermini, but it’s now a better one than most of the Europeans.”