Mazda 2 review

Category: Small car

The Mazda 2 impresses with its economy but falls short of rival small cars in terms of fun and comfort

Mazda 2 front right driving
  • Mazda 2 front right driving
  • Mazda 2 rear cornering
  • Mazda 2 dashboard
  • Mazda 2 boot open
  • Mazda 2 driver display
  • Mazda 2 right driving
  • Mazda 2 front cornering
  • Mazda 2 rear right driving
  • Mazda 2 front right static
  • Mazda 2 right static
  • Mazda 2 rear left static
  • Mazda 2 front detail
  • Mazda 2 headlights detail
  • Mazda 2 alloy wheel detail
  • Mazda 2 front seats
  • Mazda 2 back seats
  • Mazda 2 infotainment touchscreen
  • Mazda 2 dashboard detail
  • Mazda 2 air-con controls
  • Mazda 2 interior detail
  • Mazda 2 front right driving
  • Mazda 2 rear cornering
  • Mazda 2 dashboard
  • Mazda 2 boot open
  • Mazda 2 driver display
  • Mazda 2 right driving
  • Mazda 2 front cornering
  • Mazda 2 rear right driving
  • Mazda 2 front right static
  • Mazda 2 right static
  • Mazda 2 rear left static
  • Mazda 2 front detail
  • Mazda 2 headlights detail
  • Mazda 2 alloy wheel detail
  • Mazda 2 front seats
  • Mazda 2 back seats
  • Mazda 2 infotainment touchscreen
  • Mazda 2 dashboard detail
  • Mazda 2 air-con controls
  • Mazda 2 interior detail
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Introduction

What Car? says...

There are few things more confusing than the Mazda 2. You see, as well as the 2 we're covering in this review, Mazda’s small-car offering also includes the 2 Hybrid – a totally different car based on the Toyota Yaris.

Even more confusingly, some of this Mazda 2's 1.5-litre petrol engines have hybrid tech. It's of the mild-hybrid variety, so while energy is recovered during braking to improve efficiency (using regenerative braking), it can't run on electricity alone as full hybrids and plug-in hybrids can.

The discontinuation of the Ford Fiesta means that famous big-seller is no longer counted among the Mazda 2’s rivals, there’s still plenty of quality competition to compare it with. At the less-expensive end of the small-car class you might be considering the Dacia Sandero and Hyundai i20 while if you have a bit more to spend, there's the Skoda Fabia and VW Polo to consider.

This review will cover everything you need to know, from how the Mazda 2 performs and handles to what the interior quality and boot space are like. Read on to find out how we rate it against the best small cars. Or, to find out more about its full-hybrid namesake, see our Mazda 2 Hybrid review.

Overview

The Mazda 2 has a reasonably plush interior, economical mild-hybrid engines and even the entry-level model is very well equipped, too. However, in key areas like refinement, ride comfort, handling, performance and practicality there are a number of other small car rivals which are easier to recommend.

  • Frugal economy from mild-hybrid engines
  • Infotainment system is easy to use
  • Even entry-level trim is well equipped
  • Poor refinement
  • Small boot
  • Gutless performance from all but the range–topping engine
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Performance & drive

What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is

You can have your Mazda 2 (as opposed to Mazda 2 Hybrid) with a straightforward petrol engine, the Skyactiv G, or have the same engine but with mild-hybrid technology and a slightly different name: e-Skyactiv G. Unusually, none of the engines has a turbocharger.

The entry-level option is the Skyactiv G 75, which feels really underpowered. The 0-62mph time of 11.3 seconds gives a good hint of its leisurely pace, but what it doesn’t tell you is how weak the engine feels when you meet a slight incline in sixth gear on the motorway. You have to work hard with the six-speed manual gearbox to inject life into the engine. The lack of pulling power means it even feels slow at low speeds around town.

The next engine up is the Skyactiv G 90, which becomes the e-Skyactiv G 90 when you opt for mild-hybrid tech. The "e" version is more fuel-efficient, and we think it's the best engine option. It will get you up to motorway speeds fairly comfortably but does still need to be worked hard when you need a burst of power or encounter a hill.  

The most powerful version is the e-Skyactiv G 115, which doesn’t feel as lethargic as the other options, but is only available in the range-topping trim – and that has a bearing on ride comfort as well as cost.

Mazda 2 image
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How so? Well, the entry-level trim (Centre-Line) comes with 15in wheels, which have deeper tyre sidewalls and smooth the edges off larger bumps in the road better than the 16in ones you get higher up the range. Even so, there’s no getting away from the fact that the Mazda 2 is still a little on the firm side, and jostles you around when you encounter potholes and broken Tarmac. For the best ride comfort among small cars, try the Peugeot 208 and VW Polo.

The Mazda 2’s steering is well-weighted, feeling lighter at lower speeds but becoming slightly heavier when the speeds increase and you take a corner. Unfortunately, the steering wheel never really gives you much information about what the front wheels are doing or how much grip they have. The ultimate grip levels aren’t especially high either. 

The firmer ride means body lean is relatively well controlled, but if you fancy something capable and entertaining on a twisty road, we’d steer you more towards the Seat Ibiza.

Small cars are not always very adept at isolating wind and road noise, and although Mazda has fitted the 2 with additional interior sound-deadening material over the years, it still lags behind the Peugeot 208 and VW Polo when it comes to quietness and relaxation on a long journey.

The engines send vibrations through the steering wheel and pedals, and often sound coarse when revved, comparing unfavourably with many rivals. We’ve yet to try the optional automatic gearbox but the standard six-speed manual gearbox is good, with a snappy, slick throw that makes it generally a joy to use.

Mazda 2 rear cornering

Interior

The interior layout, fit and finish

You get a good range of adjustment for the seat and steering wheel in the Mazda 2, and with height adjustment on all versions, even tall drivers should be able to find a comfy position.

The pedals line up well with the seat, but the hard seat cushions are not ideal for long journeys. As with most small cars none of the seat adjustments are electric.

Your view forwards and to the side is pretty clear, thanks to relatively slim window pillars. Rear visibility is less generous because the sloping roofline and the rear styling leave you with a smaller-than-average rear screen. Mazda gives you rear parking sensors as standard, while Exclusive-Line adds a rear-view camera. Top-spec Homura Aka with the 115 engine gets front parking sensors and a 360-degree parking camera. 

All versions of the Mazda 2 come with a colour 8in infotainment screen with DAB radio, along with wireless Apple CarPlay and wired Android Auto smartphone mirroring. The screen works as a touchscreen and is responsive when you're not driving, but stops responding when the car is moving, forcing you to use a rotary controller to interact with it. That's a good thing because it's less distracting than using a touchscreen when you're driving.

The interior is a pleasant place to be, with soft-touch materials that feel quite classy on top of the dashboard. Adding to that feel, all versions of the Mazda 2 come with a leather-wrapped steering wheel and gearknob, both of which feel good to hold.

Accompanying those trim pieces are a fair amount of lower-rent scratchy plastics, especially in the cheaper trims. Those hard plastics aren’t as well hidden as they are in the Peugeot 208.

Mazda 2 dashboard

Passenger & boot space

How it copes with people and clutter

Despite its small dimensions, the Mazda 2 offers plenty of space for two adults in the front. There’s enough leg and elbow room, and even six-footers won’t find their heads against the roof-lining.

Mazda gives you a couple of cupholders that are big enough for large takeaway cups, as well as a cubby for your phone with two USB-C sockets ahead of the gearlever.

The rear is more akin to what you’d expect from a small car with leg room that adults will find a little tight. Indeed, tall passengers will likely find that their knees are resting on the front seat backs and their heads are touching the roof lining.

The rear seat bench is more comfortable for two adults than three. Shoulder room is tight and the middle passenger has a raised transmission tunnel to contend with. 

The sweeping rear windows restrict the view out, making it feel slightly dark and claustrophobic. There are plenty of cars that offer more rear space – including the Seat Ibiza and VW Polo – while the Dacia Sandero is in another league entirely.

The driver and front passenger seats both have manual backrests and fore-and-aft adjustment, and all trims offer a height-adjustable passenger seat. The rear seats don’t offer any sliding or reclining ability, but they can be split and folded in a 60/40 configuration.

The Mazda 2’s boot space is not the car's greatest asset. It's much smaller than the Skoda Fabia boot, and the Ibiza and Polo get more space too. The opening is quite small, and the rounded off shape and high loading lip make lifting in bigger items awkward.

If you fold down the rear seats, the extended space is smaller than rivals can muster. The boot floor isn’t height-adjustable, and there's a big difference in height between the boot floor and the backs of the folded down seats, making it tricky to slide in heavy items.

Mazda 2 boot open

Buying & owning

Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is

The Mazda 2’s pricing is broadly in line with equivalent versions of the Skoda Fabia and it's a little cheaper than the VW Polo. Across the line-up, it’s one of the less-expensive small cars but the Dacia Sandero is still much cheaper (and impossible to beat for value in this class). 

The Sandero is also predicted to hold on to its value better than the Mazda 2, as is the Polo. In fact, only the Seat Ibiza and the Fabia are set to depreciate faster over three years, and that can have an effect on PCP finance rates, pushing up your monthly payments. To get the best price, make sure you check our new Mazda deals page

When it comes to fuel economy, the mild-hybrid e-Skyactiv G engines are more frugal than the regular Skyactiv G alternatives, and are also a little more economical than the turbocharged engines offered by rivals. That said, a Mazda 2 Hybrid (or Toyota Yaris) is even more efficient, managing up to 74.3mpg compared with the e-Skyactiv’s 60.1mpg. It’s more expensive though. 

The cheapest trim, Centre-Line, is very well equipped for an entry-level model. It comes with 15in alloys, automatic LED headlights, cruise control, climate control, automatic wipers and a touchscreen infotainment system. Combining this trim with the 90 engine adds extra safety kit, and makes it the trim we’d go for. 

Stepping up through the trims adds a reversing camera and larger wheels, along with styling changes. Top-spec Homura Aka adds more equipment, including heated front seats, a heated steering wheel and a head-up display.

We’d avoid the entry-level trim and entry-level engine, because it comes with less standard safety equipment and missed out on automatic emergency braking (AEB). All other versions get AEB, lane-departure warning and lane-keeping assistance as standard. Top-spec Homura Aka adds more kit to the list, including blind-spot monitoring and a driver attention alert system.

When it was tested by the safety experts at Euro NCAP in 2015, the Mazda 2 scored four out of five stars. That rating  has now expired, making it impossible to compare it with rivals, but it’s worth noting that the Ibiza and Fabia have both scored five stars in more recent years. 

In terms of reliability, Mazda as a brand did reasonably well in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey finishing 13th out of 32 manufacturers ranked. That’s slightly below Dacia, but above Seat, Skoda and Volkswagen. 

For added peace of mind, all new Mazdas come with a three-year/60,000-mile warranty, which is par for the course in the small car class. It can't match Hyundai’s five-year warranty, Kia’s seven-year warranty or Toyota’s industry-leading 10-year warranty (provided you service at an approved centre). You can extend the Mazda 2’s warranty for a fee.


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Mazda 2 driver display

FAQs

  • While it certainly has attributes that appeal, such as efficient engines and an appealing interior, the Mazda 2 isn’t as good as the best small car rivals, including the Seat Ibiza and Skoda Fabia.

  • The Mazda 2 Hybrid is based on the Toyota Yaris while the Mazda 2 is a different car built by Mazda.

  • No. The Mazda 2 is the smallest model in the Mazda car range so it's not as big as the Mazda 3 (which is a family car rather than a small car).

At a glance
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RRP price range £18,625 - £23,845
Number of trims (see all)4
Number of engines (see all)3
Available fuel types (which is best for you?)petrol
MPG range across all versions 52.3 - 60.1
Available doors options 5
Warranty 3 years / 60000 miles
Company car tax at 20% (min/max) £919 / £1,267
Company car tax at 40% (min/max) £1,838 / £2,534
Available colours