Car Test   R0325
 
March 2003
First Drive Mazda 2
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Rivalry on the surface, collaboration underneath Ė thatís the name of the game in todayís international motor industry.
  
   Take the Mazda 2, for example Ė itís the product of a Japanese manufacturer, but it draws heavily on the (Anglo-American) Ford Fiesta, uses a French (Peugeot) diesel engine and is built in Spain.
  
   However, this approach has produced a very competitive alternative to the Fiesta and Fusion; its length and width match the Fiestaís, but (like the Fusion) itís taller. This results in easier entry and egress, as well as more rear passenger room than in Fiesta, although luggage space behind the back seat is actually less, with the load cover in place. Remove it, though, and Mazda 2ís load aperture is better than even Fusionís, with a vestigial load sill to ease in heavy objects.
  
   Itís easy to handle long items because (like Fusionís) the front passenger seat backrest hinges forward, but (unlike Fusion) seat folding canít be achieved without (temporarily) sliding the front cushions forward, as well, which is a pain. The Demio had the same problem.
  
   The driving seat and stance provide a supportive, in-command feel, although (fixed) lower-spinal support isnít as good on the 1.6 Sport's seat and drivers attracted to this version, especially, may find the fixed-reach steering wheel too close for comfort, if theyíre shorter.
  
   The TS lacks electric door mirrors and rear windows, air-con and alloy wheels, so budget-conscious buyers will do well to consider the basic, 1.25-litre S version; its engine is the previous Fiesta mainstay thatís no longer available in the Ford. OK, so itís no fireball, but itís very smooth and flexible, and willing to rev with no fuss. Alternatively, more hearty low-speed pulling is served up by the diesel, which is noisier at tickover, but has a lovely relaxed and remarkably subdued cruising gait.
  
   At the other end of the range is the 1.6; unfortunately offered only in top (most expensive) Sport trim. Itís enthusiast-overtones donít extend to suspension tweaks Ė only lower-profile tyres, which seems to have no repercussions in terms of ride comfort. It grips and corners well, although all versions reveal a tendency to hobble and wobble over uneven lumpy roads, with signs of directional vagueness.
  
   This 1.6, like its smaller counterparts, is pleasingly flexible, handling 30mph pullaways in top gear, and is less raucous and thrummy than the 1.6 Fusion when going faster.
  
  
AT A GLANCE
  considering size, price and rivals
Controls/displays
Handling/steering
Comfort
Space/practicality
LIKES ...
  • buttons for radio on steering wheel - needed, too
  • good oddments spots around facia, plus lidded-top box
  • clearer displays than Ford's
  • no scuff superb gearchange and clutch action
  • all engines pull cleanly from low revs
and GRIPES
  • radio/CD lacks Ford's no-nonsense ergonomics
  • rear seat's nether-regions just painted
  • no scuff-strips to protect bumper-shields
  • offside mirror's limited outward adjustment (for tall)
  • fixed-reach wheel too close for some
VERDICT
Both in price and interior packaging, the Mazda 2 strikes a good compromise between the Ďconventionalí Fiesta and the MPV-style Fusion. It also has cheaper insurance than either and we guess that, whichever version you choose, it will be worth more than either Ford at trade-in time. Although we wish the 1.6 was available with a lower (cheaper) level of trim, this highly practical, taller hatchback has a lot in its favour.


THE MAZDA 2 RANGE
size and type supermini-sized (mid-priced) MPV-style estate car   trim levels S, TS, TS2, Sport
engines petrol: 4 cylinder/1.25 litre/75bhp, 4/1.4/80, 4/1.6/100
diesel: 4/1.4/68
  drive 5-speed manual, front-wheel drive (autoshift synchromesh option with 1.4 versions)
notable features remote control central door locking with alarm and deadlocks, integral roof-rails, twin airbags, steering wheel-mounted radio controls on all versions, Group 2 insurance on 1.25S, rear doors open to 80 degrees, twin Isofix mounts at rear with top tethers, facia box with removable lining


SPACE AND PRACTICALITY
  in centimetres (5-door MPV-style estate)
  outside
  length 393
  width - including mirrors 191
    - mirrors folded 174
  height (with roof bars) 155
  load sill height (inside/outside) 2/53
  steering
  turns lock-to-lock 2.8*
  turning circle (metres) 10.2*
   
  easy to park/garage?
  inside
  front - legroom 89-108
    - headroom 100-106ß
  rear - typical legroom 102
    - typical kneeroom 71
    - headroom 96ß
    - hiproom 128
  load area(all seats in use)
  load space
(litres/cu ft)
300/10.8
  load length 55-116#
  load length to facia 230
  load width 99
  load height (to shelf/to top of aperture) 55/94
ß no sunroof  * Fiesta figures  # rear seat folded
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