Car Review: Mazda - 2  Series 07 (4 stars)

The Mazda 2 is lighter, more fun to drive and more economical - not to mention more stylish - than before

Mazda has always been something of an enigma as a car manufacturer - never quite able to pull it together across the whole range, but with moments of brilliance in the form of zippy sports cars like the MX-5 and RX-8. Part-ownership by Ford has boosted the firm's output in recent years, lending its family and small cars a certain amount of engineering credibility.

One area where Mazda has never really been a contender is in the supermini segment - but that has changed with the advent of the 2. Gone are the slightly perplexing Japanese styling of old, and in comes a very smart looking hatchback. The strong, athletic looking lines set it apart in a class filled with strong competition from the likes of Ford's Fiesta and Vauxhall's Corsa.

At the time of its launch, Mazda stole a march on the rest of the industry by making the newer 2 about 200kg lighter than its predecessor - getting smaller rather than larger from generation to generation. That's really an achievement to brag about, especially in a car that comes with more equipment and is safer to drive than ever before.

Once you're aboard there is plenty of space up front for the driver and passenger, and reasonable space behind for two more passengers. Rear and boot space is certainly competitive for the class. Dashboard materials are robust, but don't feel cheap - they could be improved, but you don't feel cheated like in some other cars.

That comfort, and the 2's maturity at motorway speeds mean that the car is surprisingly good for longer distance journeys. The ride can occasionally get a little firm, but the Mazda offers a great all-round package, because it's as good to drive as it promises from the dynamic styling. It's entertaining to drive and resists body roll well, the steering offering a reasonable amount of feel.

There are two petrol and two diesel engines on offer in the 2's range - none of the engines are bad, although the 1.3-litre petrol can feel a little underpowered at times. The smaller 1.4-diesel is good around town, with low-down torque, but our favourite is the 1.5-litre petrol. It matches the 2's fizzy character, providing an enjoyable soundtrack and offering brisk acceleration.

Mazda has managed to build a supermini that is both practical to own and fun to drive - suddenly the firm has a genuine contender on its hands.

Mazda 2 Series 07 StatisticsCar Reviews

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