There are perks to buying a wallflower.
The 2 is a stalwart in the Mazda line-up, having been introduced to critical acclaim in 2014. It has never set the sales charts on fire, though, which is a shame
Three years into the third-generation model’s life and all the cars in the range have been subtly refreshed with blink-and-you’ll-miss-them touches such as new seat fabrics, a new steering wheel and new door mirrors with wraparound indicators.
There’s also been extensive deployment of sound-deadening material under the bonnet and in the cabin, as well as noise-insulating windscreen glass. New GT and GT Sport trim levels are also on the menu, throwing the kitchen sink at the specification list.
The new range consists of eight models – Mazda says it’s a simplified range, but bear with us – the cars all come with the single 1.5-litre petrol engine in three states of tune: 74bhp, 89bhp and 113bhp. The 74bhp car comes with pauper trims SE or SE-L, the 89bhp car comes with SE-L Nav, Sport Nav and GT trims, while the 113bhp model exclusively gets GT Nav and a six-speed gearbox. Phew.
We've driven the new top-spec GT Nav here, and the kit list is most welcome – the heated seats are great, the reversing camera makes parking a cinch and the head-up display quickly makes itself indispensable. You needn't look at the instrument dials again.
Otherwise it's business as usual inside the 2; The cabin is quietly stylish and mostly solid quality, but overall rather nondescript. The Japanese manufacturers seem to struggle with premium feel – even after 20 years it feels like Lexus is just getting there, and the German manufacturers remain the benchmark.
There’s a pleasing simplicity to a Mazda cabin, though – everything is intuitive and easy to find. That said, the infotainment feels slightly behind the times, like it’s a cheap aftermarket system from Halfords.
How does it drive?
The drive is the strong point in the Mazda 2 – it steers very well, the ride is of good quality and there’s a lovely mechanical feel to the gear change that isn’t to be sniffed at these days. It’s a well-sorted supermini, not a sports car in city car fancy dress – Mazda has the MX-5 for those kinds of shenanigans – but the 2 is certainly more fun to drive than much of the competition.
The 113bhp engine is perky, as well it should be given it's the most powerful of the three 1.5-litre petrols available. Having all of those horses under your right foot makes for worse fuel consumption though, so you really ought to have a think about what your priorities are when buying your 2.
Having six gears on such a small car is a delight, though, and the efforts at reducing noise and boosting refinement have paid off – the 2 is a great companion on a dual carriageway. Overall it's easy to get on with.
Should I buy one?
All 89bhp and 113bhp engine cars get Smart City Brake Support and Lane Departure Warning System as standard as well as the 7.0-inch touchscreen display with Mazda’s infotainment system, sat-nav and DAB radio.
Further up the specification sheet, the Sport Nav, GT and GT Sport models get privacy glass, rear parking sensors, climate control and keyless entry. The entry-level 74bhp engine misses out on all the fun, so that’s one to scratch off the list straight away.
The GT Sport model we tested is a clear range-topper, so it does get pricey – but it features a number of big-car touches, including LED headlights and DRL, leather interior, colour head-up display and a reversing camera.
It’s expensive for what you get, though – at this price you're well into Ford Fiesta 1.0-litre Ecoboost territory and that's the sort of fight the 2 doesn't want to pick. If we're going to go for the Mazda 2 then we'd be looking a little further down the range – an 89bhp GT would do the trick.