REVIEW DATE: 18 Jan 2008
A Mazda2 with a 1.4-litre diesel engine is an economy car that doesn't constantly make you feel cheap. Andy Enright reports.
Is it possible to drive a small diesel car without coming across as a cheapskate? It's a tough question. Most oil-burning tots are driven by the sort of people who phone you on their pay-as-you-go mobiles and then hang up after one ring, hoping you'll call back. The sort who'll head straight for the loo as soon as they enter a bar to avoid buying a round. They'll know which household gas provider is the cheapest and will make a detour to find the cheapest fuel in their neighbourhood. These people are no fun. You should avoid them at all costs; not something we'd say about the Mazda2 1.4 diesel.
Even with just 68bhp on tap, the Mazda2 is a genuine entertainer and brings with it the minimal running costs of a city car with the handling you'd expect of a properly sporty hatchback.
The 1.4-litre diesel engine is quite a modest little thing, generating its 68bhp at 4,000rpm, with its peak torque figure of 160Nm arriving at a low 2,000rpm. This means that there's plenty of pull when you need to make a quick getaway off the line. Yes, the acceleration soon drops off but in town it's usually those first few yards that count. The five-speed manual gearbox is slick and has some decently chosen gear ratios to make the most of the diesel engine's additional torque. Against the clock it looks less impressive, 60mph coming and going in 15 seconds with a top speed of 101mph.
As some of you may well have guessed, Mazda isn't going it totally alone with the latest Mazda2 range. It shares its underpinnings with the next generation Fiesta, so in that respect little has changed. What is novel is that this time round, Mazda get a run at the market before the Ford is launched - it's similar in many respects to Volkswagen letting the Skoda Fabia off the leash with the all-new Polo chassis first. The chassis itself is simple but very rigid, Mazda using MacPherson strut front suspension and a torsion beam at the back to keep costs down.
".this is one car that's nailed on for class honours"
The car that Mazda whipped the dust sheets off at the Geneva Motor Show in 2007 was undoubtedly a very tidy piece of styling. With a sharply rising waistline that suggested a three-door bodyshell, it was clear that the company had managed to give the car a lithe profile while keeping the practicality of five doors. Top marks on that score, although a three-door model is due.
At the front, there's the traditional V-shaped Mazda grille and the headlights are very deftly smeared into the front bumper assembly. Likewise the tail lights are neatly integrated into the tailgate which, from a practical perspective, doesn't have the widest aperture as a result. Still, when budget small cars like the Proton Satria Neo now look as good as they do, the expectation for a company such as Mazda is cranked ever higher.
The interior features a number of welcome design touches such as a glove box with integrated magazine rack. There's also a floor console between the front seats with a large rear tray affixed. In total there's 250 litres of storage space which isn't half bad for a supermini. Silver on black detailing on the fascia gives a rather more grown up look and feel than many key rivals. Many of the design themes of the Mazda2 follow on from the SASSOU concept car that was first seen at the 2005 Frankfurt Motor Show.
The Mazda2 diesel range isn't that hard to get a handle on. There are two engines offered, this 1.4-litre and an 89bhp 1.6. With the 1.4-litre unit we look at here, there's a single trim level; TS2, plus three and five-door bodystyles at prices starting at around £11,000. This compares favourably model for model with the current Ford Fiesta and the SEAT Ibiza. Mazda is bullish about its prospects, a marketing source noting "while styling is one of the most important factors in the buying process, consumers are increasingly aware of the environmental issues and demand for small capacity diesels is growing. We expect the new diesel models to account for 12 per cent of Mazda2 sales."
That doesn't sound a lot compared to the 60-odd per cent slice of the pie accounted for by diesel cars in the medium range family sector but with small cars the incremental premium of a diesel engine is that much harder to absorb. Still, at least the TS2 models are well equipped, coming with anti lock brakes, electric front windows, twin airbags, electric door mirrors, a CD stereo with an auxiliary input, alloy wheels, side and curtain airbags, wheel-mounted audio controls and air conditioning.
So where's the catch? There is one rather significant caveat when it comes to buying the 1.4-litre Mazda2 diesel. The 1.3-litre petrol model in TS trim packs 74bhp, feels even more sparkling to drive and can be yours for less than the diesel. It'll still do 52.3mpg on the combined cycle compared to the diesel's 65.7mpg, so unless you're willing to rack up serious mileages - which is unlikely for this sort of car - you won't recoup that money back in terms of fuel bills. Where the diesel car does score is in its low emissions, the sub 120g/km emissions meaning cheap taxation and exemption from congestion charging.
There's also good news in the form of beefed up residual values and very low insurance ratings. Metallic or mica paint for both models and manual air conditioning for the TS trim level are the only options so it's impossible to go silly with the extras. One other benefit of choosing a diesel is the enormous range of over 600 miles between fills.
If you don't mind paying extra over the cost of a broadly comparable petrol-engined Mazda2, the 1.4-litre diesel model makes a lot of sense. As you might expect, it's super economical, returning over 65mpg and its 114g/km carbon dioxide emissions figure is also going to prove a key factor. What's not so well known is that it's still very good fun to drive, the diesel engine weighing just 25kg more than the petrol unit, and it's versatile enough to work as a couple or small family's only car.
What's perhaps most refreshing about the Mazda2 is its philosophy. Where most cars get flabbier and more profligate with each successive generation, the Mazda2 is lighter than its predecessor, this car's 980kg weight being exemplary for a supermini. In fact, it's even lighter than something like a Lotus Europa. Small wonder that this is one car that's nailed on for class honours.
The results below show the top MAZDA2 deals on buyacar
|Mazda 2 1.5 Sport 5dr hatchback|
|Mazda 2 1.3 Tamura 5dr hatchback|
|Price £7,260||Save £3,307|
|Mazda 2 1.3 TS2 3dr hatchback|
|Mazda 2 1.3 Takuya 5dr hatchback special edition|
|Mazda 2 1.3 TS 3dr [AC] hatchback|
|VIEW MORE DISCOUNT MAZDA2 DEALS|
|For MAZDA2 DIESEL|
|OVERALL||7.3 OUT OF 10|
|Space / Versatility||7|
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