The Mazda2 supermini range aims to offer all the electrification options a supermini customer might need. Jonathan Crouch takes a look at the improved version of the mid hybrid model.
Ten Second Review
The Mazda2 is a strong option if you're looking for a quality supermini and has been usefully improved in recent times. Here, we focus on the mild hybrid version, plus if you want full-Hybrid technology, then Mazda has a re-badged version of the impressive Toyota Yaris to offer you. It's the e-SKYACTIV-G mild hybrid range we look at primarily here though, based on a third generation 'DJ/DL'-series design that dates back to 2015 but is aging well. This model packs in some big car features into a pertly-styled body and features great real-world economy. It's still a real contender to the likes of the Fiesta, Corsa, 208 and Clio.
The Mazda2 is still going places. The first Mazda2 sold 410,000 units between 2003 and 2007. The second generation model had a seven year run at the market, but had already eclipsed its predecessor's total midway through 2010. Both cars owed a lot to Ford's strategic partnership with Mazda, effectively being rebodied Fiestas which, as anyone who's ever driven a modern Fiesta will happily admit, is no bad thing.
For the third generation version, this current car, launched in 2015, Mazda went it alone, this MK3 model '2 riding on its own SKYACTIV chassis technology, updated at the end of the decade with the mild hybrid e-SKYACTIV-G technology that features in the car today. The brand doesn't have a full-Hybrid engine in its portfolio, so has borrowed one from rivals Toyota, which is sold as the Mazda2 Hybrid but is essentiually a separate product sold alongside this one. Our focus here though, is on the mild hybrid models, here usefully improved.
All manual versions of the Mazda2 feature Mazda's M Hybrid mild-hybrid system and now wear the e-Skyactiv G badge. As before, buyers choose from three versions of the 1.5-litre SKYACTIV-G petrol unit with 75, 90 or 115PS on tap. Power is transferred to the front wheels and with the two higher output models, there's a choice between six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic. The full-Hybrid Mazda2 (not our focus here) is very much a separate product, based entirely on a Toyota Yaris, which means it gets that car's 1.5-litre self-charging engine mated to a 80PS electric motor, giving a total system output of 116PS.
Here, we're going to look at the mild hybrid variants, which in recent times have benefitted from a range of dynamic updates, with changes that include use of a urethane top mount in the rear dampers and revisions to the power steering to improve response and feel. In addition, there's G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus) - the evolved version of Mazda's GVC system, which uses the brakes to apply direct yaw movement control in addition to engine control. Basically, it helps you get grip down through the bends.
As before, the suspension has been set up to be Volkswagen-firm which you'll feel on poor surfaces, but the flipside of this is that the Mazda2 offers reassuring body control in corners. The steering is an electrically-assisted system, so don't expect bucketloads of feedback, but you can count on clean response and perfect accuracy. In recent times, front and rear damper settings have been revised to enhance ride quality, while to improve body control, the front anti-roll bar bushing has changed and the structure of the front lower suspension arm has been modified. Additionally, a small recalibration of the electric power steering is supposed to result in improved steering feel. Overall, with a sporty feel and easy manoeuvrability, the Mazda2 is more than just a city scoot. It's got a welcome element of long distance versatility too.
Design and Build
This is the first time this third generation Mazda2 has had any significant visual changes - though they're not especially far-reaching. With this mild hybrid model, there's a re-styled grille that sees the signature Mazda wing surround pass beneath rather than below the number plate, leaving space to accentuate the now sportier lower bumper trim. Additionally, to give a sharper look, the signature wing grille surround cuts into the leading edge of the headlight rather than passing underneath, while asymmetrically placed colour accent tabs feature on the front grille and rear bumper across all models.
The 'Centre-Line' and 'Exclusive-Line' variants have a front-end design that features a large coloured panel across the lower section of a grille that has a small yellow accent tab. This is something that's repeated at the back where the revised rear bumper features a now full width black lower moulding with the yellow accent tab. 'Centre-Line' cars feature 15-inch silver alloy wheels as standard, while 'Exclusive-Line' versions step up to 16-inch bright alloy wheels. Further up the range, the 'Homura' version has a black honeycomb grille with a red accent tab, matched to gloss black door mirrors, 16-inch black alloy wheels and a black shark fin roof antenna. At the back, the red accent sits on the lower right hand side of the black bumper trim strip. At the top of the range, the 'Homura Aka' model has the same black honeycomb grille with red accent and black mirrors, but features 16-inch black and silver metallic machined alloy wheels and a gloss black roof to further enhance the sporty colour contrasting look.
Inside the changes are again trim-dependent. In 'Centre-Line' and 'Exclusive-Line' cars, there's a new decorative dash panel, offered in different colours according to your chosen paint finish. In the 'Homura' model's cabin, black cloth seats with red accents combine with a black gloss dash panel with contrasting red air vent surrounds. The top 'Homura Aka' variant features black half leather seats with red accents, a soft touch black dash panel with red stitching and a heated leather steering wheel with red stitching.
As before, the interior has a driver-centred focus, with a seat structure that better supports the body and helps maintain a posture in which the pelvis is upright and the spine maintains a natural S-shaped curve. The centre infotainment screen has a lower rotary controller, which is unusual in segment. As before, cabin quality is a level above what most other superminis provide.
Rear seat room is adequate by class standards - intended mainly for kids. Plus this mild hybrid model's boot is deep and boasts 280-litres of room with the seats in place - or 960-litres when they're folded.
Market and Model
There are two kinds of Mazda2 you can choose these days: the conventional version, which features the brand's 'e-SKYACTIV G' mild hybrid petrol powerplant. And a full-Hybrid model, which is essentially just a re-badged Toyota Yaris but costs a fair bit more. It's the conventional mild hybrid variants which are our focus here. Now priced from just under £18,000, the Mazda2 e-SKYACTIV-G range features a single five-door bodystyle and four revised trim levels.
'Centre-Line' and 'Exclusive-Line' focus on a fun and casual nature, while the 'Homura' and 'Homura Aka' variants have been designed to give the Mazda2 a sportier look and character. All models feature cruise control, integrated Bluetooth and climate control. And even with base trim, you get rear parking sensors, 15-inch alloy wheels and LED headlights, plus 'Mazda Connect' navigation with a seven-inch colour touch-screen, plus 'Apple CarPlay' and 'Android Auto' smartphone-mirroring. In addition, the safety equipment tally runs to Front Smart City Brake Support, Lane Departure Warning and Lane-keep Assist.
Be careful with your choice of exterior colour. With the aim of giving customers more colour combination choices, on 'Soul Red Crystal', 'Snowflake White', 'Platinum Quartz', 'Polymetal Grey' and (new) 'Air Stream Blue'-painted cars, the grille panel is body coloured, while on 'Machine Grey', 'Deep Crystal Blue', 'Ceramic Metallic' and the new 'Aero Grey' colour, the grille panel is in 'Jet Black' to give a smart contrasting look. 'Jet Black' cars also have a 'Jet Black' grille panel.
Cost of Ownership
Across all mild hybrid Mazda2 models, the 1.5-litre petrol engine has been refined in recent times to offer considerable efficiency improvements. The compression ratio has increased from 13.1 to 15.1, with the exhaust upgraded from a 4-1 to a 4-2-1 manifold. As a result CO2 emissions have dropped by 11 to 14g/km depending on output and transmission. As an example the popular 90PS-spec 'Homura' manual model has dropped from 120g/km to 107g/km, while across the range the corresponding improvements in economy further enhance the Mazda2's excellent cost of ownership credentials. As for fuel consumption, well the base 75PS manual model manages up to 58.9mpg on the WLTP combined cycle; for the volume 90PS manual, it's up to 60.1mpg - or up to 52.3mpg for the auto version. For the 115PS manual variant, it's up to 56.5mpg.
All manual 90 and 115PS Mazda2 models benefit from mild-hybridisation thanks to the use of the Mazda M Hybrid powerplant. Utilising an antegrated start generator (B-ISG) and brake regeneration, this powerplant mobilises the B-ISG's power generation to make the most of the energy stored in the capacitor to reduce load on the engine and enable quick restart to help lower emissions and improve fuel economy with extended auto engine stop time.
As for peace of mind, well given the reliability of Mazda products, you'd have thought the company might have wanted to improve upon its usual three year/60,000 mile package and take on the Korean brands. Not so. That familiar standard warranty remains in place for this car. Still, the cover provided does continue to include three years of European roadside assistance.
Good things often come in little packages. Here's one of them. It's a small car that's been developed with an extraordinarily large amount of care and as a result, remains a class act. Arguably, few other rivals offer a better all-round blend of performance and efficiency, plus this improved third generation Mazda2 in mild hybrid form delivers extra efficiency, smart looks, reasonable pricing and an interestingly-styled cabin offering premium segment features and some lovely quality touches.
The bottom line is that if you thought all superminis were the same, it's well worth trying one of these. Life, you might find, is full of surprises.