IAIN ROBERTSON 

Mazda

Mazda

If the latest CX-30 is a tad too costly, reports Iain Robertson, yet the idea of living with a Mazda is compelling, perhaps you ought to try one of the cutest compacts currently on sale, as a well-equipped Mazda2 may suffice in ways you never thought.

Harbouring a penchant for the smaller car, something that technically should not comply with my two metres of height, is not as unusual as may be contemplated. Compact models, which include the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris and Kia Rio, are among the most satisfyingly understated, yet most appositely well-packaged models in the new car scene. As you may recall (it’s in the archive otherwise), I enjoyed living with an excellent Suzuki Baleno for almost three years.

While sub-compacts tend to be too compromised and some medium sector contenders are now falling into a class of cars that cannot fit comfortably into town centre car park slots, the B-sector (as outlined above) has the benefit of reduced dimensions, usually some highly efficient engine and gearbox choices, allied to trim levels that are comprehensive, yet eminently affordable. When budget plays its part and, let’s face it, escalating fuel, tax and insurance costs help that argument, a model like the Mazda2 comes into its own.

Mazda

Mazda

Having owned Mazda models in my motoring past, I can admit to a strong and positive appreciation of the brand values that even extends to a more recent hankering after any one of the firm’s most recent additions. However, there is a primary aspect that is worth consideration. Mazda design is, in my view, one of the finest available. Where some carmakers will spend a fortune giving the frontal aspects the star treatment, far too many of them fail the visual tests towards the rear ends, which look more like scar treatment. Mazda performs a complete task.

From jewel-like front headlamp units to matching tail-light assemblies, every model from 2 to 6 and the company’s growing mix of SUVs possesses a familial appearance that ventures beyond mere grille outline. The result is styling coherence that is all but ignored by some lesser brands, yet reflects upmarket aspirations that lead inevitably to comparisons with Audi, which is an undeniable style champion. However, Mazda scores points by factoring-in character that the ever-so-clinical Audi, by Germanic definition, tends to obscure.

Mazda

Mazda

The Audi ‘thing’ continues within all Mazdas and the latest upgrade on the Mazda2 serves to underscore the material quality treatment. To be fair to Audi, it has its higher-end and higher price attributes to attend to and, thus, uses a lot of real alloy trim pieces within the cockpit of, let’s say, the size comparable A1 model. Although produced from plastic, the metallised finishes within the Mazda2’s cabin are of exceedingly high merchantable and durable quality, so much so that they look like the ‘real’ thing. The centre console trim and eyeball air-vent surrounds carry off the illusion most competently.

The dashboard design has been refined to reflect improvements made across the rest of the company’s model line-up and a brand-new seat design has been installed. The front seats feature a more advanced structure and shape that better supports the body and helps to maintain a posture, in which the pelvis is upright and the spine maintains a natural S-shaped curve. The comfort of all occupants has also been considered with a host of upgrades designed to improve refinement and interior quietness. New noise damping materials have been added in the cabin and a reduced gap around the base of the B-Pillar further improves sound insulation, as do revised sealing rubbers between the roof panel and the boot.

Mazda

Mazda

However, design should never imply fussiness, or inordinate excess, and the interior of the latest Mazda2 is as refined and tidy as any Dior, or other French designers’ daily couture. Mazda has always (and studiously so) ignored the frills and fripperies of some carmakers’ interior detailing…oh, there was a time, when Japanese cars featured absurd scrolls and graphics impressed and moulded deeply within their plastic-clad interiors, but Mazda, while indulging slightly at the time, has invariably played at other agendas.

Beneath the bonnets of most of the latest Mazda models is engine technology that Mazda describes as Skyactiv-G. Not dissimilar to ‘Kodo Design’, it is another example of ideology turned into practice that involves a lot more than just the rotating oily bits. Restricting the engine choice to only the 1.5-litre capacity, four-cylinder, normally aspirated petrol unit, manual transmission models gain from the application of a belt-driven starter-generator (B-ISG) as part of a mild-hybrid enhancement. This has the positive effect of reducing CO2 emissions to around 94g/km, while increasing fuel economy figures. It also returns recovered brake energy to a compact lithium-ion battery pack, which is reapplied to provide crisper acceleration and bottom-end torque to the engine.

Mazda

Mazda

Two power options are available, 72 and 88bhp, which are assuredly not performance orientated. However, thanks to lightweight body construction and leggier gearing, attained acceleration and top speed figures remain respectable, aided by fluent aerodynamics. The Mazda2’s handling envelope has been improved by incorporating polyurethane top mounts to the front suspension struts but, more importantly, extending the use of chassis vectoring technology that uses the brakes to intervene and keep the car on an even keel in less than welcome climatic conditions.

Pricing starts at £15,795 for the entry-level SE-L model (72bhp) that comes as standard with both climate and cruise control, alloy wheels and LED headlights. The more upmarket SE-L Nav, Sport-Nav and GT Sport Nav versions (88bhp) get the sat-nav, touchscreen, 16.0-inch diameter alloy wheels and both City Brake Support and Lane-Keep Assist. GT Sport Nav benefits additionally from head-up display, rear camera and both front seats and steering wheel heating.

Personally, I can understand why other buyers are joining the dots and coming around to liking Mazda. Its cars are handsome and very user-friendly, while not ignoring the charisma that many motorists still desire in their vehicle choices. Thank heavens for that!

Conclusion:      I shall be testing the GT Sport Nav version of the Mazda2 early in 2020. It should be interesting to see how it manages a typical British winter.