The Mazda2 on test for Changing Lanes in beautiful Soul Red Crystal!
The Mazda2 on test for Changing Lanes in beautiful Soul Red Crystal!

Caroline drives the 2020 Mazda2!

The 2020 Mazda2 is on sale in Ireland priced from €19,755. Mazda’s now well established small car debuts mild hybrid technology for the first time, along with a minor revamp to style and design. Always a little charmer, we were excited to meet the latest edition of the Mazda2.

I first encountered the Mazda2 back in 2016. In fact it was my first time to drive a Mazda. Since then I’ve had the pleasure to explore and discover the rest of the range. I’ve seen Mazda evolve and refine their brand character – sharp as a Samurai sword mix of premium style, quality interiors and top engineering inspired by the Jinba Ittai philosophy.

Mazda is proud of its Japanese heritage yet of all the brands rising from the Far East, Mazda is the one who has most successfully merged the form and function of a Japanese car with a more European style that makes their cars ultimately very desirable this part of the world.

The Mazda2 is on sale priced from €19,755
The Mazda2 is on sale priced from €19,755

What’s new for the 2020 Mazda2?

So it is against this backdrop I meet the Mazda2 again. This is not a new generation model in line with the latest Mazda3 and CX-30. It is a revamp but the brand modernises the smallest in the stable with mild hybrid technology. Of course you are no one in the industry right now unless you are experimenting with mild hybrid tech in your combustion engines. It’s part of Mazda’s multi solution approach to reduce carbon emissions in their fleet; furthermore the brand’s first all-electric crossover the Mazda MX-30 is expected in Ireland in early 2021.

But as a nifty urban runaround, the Mazda2 gives us a neat naturally aspirated 1.5-litre petrol engine, throws in some mild hybrid tech and what comes out? On paper a very economical small car. We will get to its real world performance later in this review.

The Mazda2 of course pounces into my life in the glorious Soul Red Crystal, which will set you back €870. But there is no other way to make a statement with your Mazda. This colour suits the car’s exquisite surfacing perfectly. You can’t help but stand at different angles and admire the view.

Mazda has updated the front and rear bumpers, front grille, headlights and rear combination lights; but you would be hard pressed to know by looking at it. The grille design gets a new stud pattern while the lower front and rear bumpers feature horizontal chrome trim garnishes. There are also newly-designed 16-inch alloy wheels trimmed with high-gloss paint to heighten the premium appearance of the new Mazda2.

Mild hybrid technology debuts in the Mazda2 for the first time
Mild hybrid technology debuts in the Mazda2 for the first time

Inside the Mazda2

Inside the layout of the cabin remains the same with a super stylish horizontal layout. It’s a very handsome interior made all the more special by neat circular vents and soft touch padding stretching the width of the dash.

For 2020 there are three new, distinctive and individual interior schemes. They incorporate new leather upholstery, door and dash trim, and air-conditioning vent louvres to reinforce the premium visual and tactile quality of the updated cabin. For example my GT model featured an elegant navy blue theme.

Like all Mazdas, the controls feel good quality and premium. There is a different vibe to this Mazda2 than say a Ford Fiesta or Renault Clio. Yet the Mazda2 is now under pressure from contemporary rivals like the new Peugeot 208 for example. It’s nice but starting to feel a bit old fashioned in the cabin and the facelift doesn’t really fix that.

In terms of space, the Mazda2 is neither the biggest or smallest in this class of vehicle, but in terms of rear legroom it’s not as cramped as you might imagine for a small car. The boot is 280 litres in total and has some depth to it.

The interior of the 2020 Mazda2
The interior of the 2020 Mazda2

What’s the range like in Ireland?

The range kicks off at €19,755, which is a little more than the cheapest rivals; though Mazda Ireland offers a premium level of standard kit. It’s offered with just one petrol engine with 75 or 90 hp depending on trim level. Trim levels include GS, GS Sport and GT.

GS models have engine start button, LED headlights, 15″ alloy wheels and cruise control. The GS Sport (from €21,065) adds features such as automatic air conditioning, 16″ alloy wheels as well as MZD Connect with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

The top of the range GT model on test (from €22,155) has lane keep assist, lane departure warning, and automatic lights and wipers.

Driving the Mazda2

Mazda has made a few engineering updates to improve the Mazda2 experience behind the wheel. The 2020 Mazda2 also adopts the latest developments in Mazda’s Skyactiv-Vehicle Architecture to enhance the Jinba-Ittai driving experience. An updated suspension system promises smooth vehicle movement and a comfortable ride – it works. There is also a new front seat design that Mazda says offers ideal occupant posture to reduce head sway and minimise fatigue for easier driving – that’s attention to detail! G-Vectoring Control Plus (GVC Plus) that debuted on the Mazda3 back in 2019 also features for even more stable vehicle behaviour at speed.

Refinement has been boosted with a thicker cabin ceiling headliner, the addition of back door seal lips and vibration damping material on the inner rear wheel housing. Damper improvements and newly developed tyres also suppress road surface vibration and reduce road noise.

What results is one the most premium, refined and fun to drive small cars in 2020. Mazda makes much of their Jinba Ittai driving philosophy, which roughly translates to the feeling of oneness between a horse and its rider. This is how they want you to feel behind the wheel of a modern Mazda – whether it’s a supermini like the Mazda2 or the MX-5 roadster. I can tell you that you will enjoy driving your Mazda2 even if you’re not sure exactly why!

The controls all knit together exceptionally well. There is no flimsiness to this car. It’s solid…but fun. The gear change is so short and slick and satisfying, just like an MX-5! The car goes around corners like a pro skater, gliding, gripping effortlessly.

The Mazda2 has also had some improvements to the driving experience for 2020
The Mazda2 has also had some improvements to the driving experience for 2020

What’s so great about Mazda mild hybrid?

The new Mazda M Hybrid system gives the 2020 Mazda2 MHEV (Mild Hybrid Electric Vehicle) capability. It combines electric motor assistance with recovered energy recycling to improve fuel efficiency, reduce CO2 and offer a smoother driving experience after start stop is initiated for example.

There is just one engine available in the Mazda2 – a 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine with 75 or 90 hp that sees emissions as low as 94 g of CO2 with the addition of mild hybrid technology. This means in Ireland the Mazda2 qualifies for motor tax of just €180 per year. This car is also exceptionally frugal, with it very much possible to beat the 5.3 litre per 100 km official fuel consumption figure!

However efficiency is not the the only story to tell about this car. The engine in the Mazda2 is a bit of an enigma. You will love it for its quiet nature, the fact that it’s smooth and efficient; but still long for a bit more drama when you press the accelerator. While rivals now offer more turbocharged small capacity petrol engines in superminis, Mazda goes no-turbo with a higher capacity engine. There is a fundamental difference in power delivery in that there is no low down shove of torque as you would get from a turbo unit that makes you think that you are flying. 0 to 100 km/h in the Mazda is 9.7 seconds, which is decent. But with just 148 Nm of torque available you will find yourself working the gearbox a lot while driving it.

It is fantastic at low speed urban driving, nipping in and around town. You don’t notice any real shortcomings and it is astonishingly efficient. But on motorways you can struggle to maintain a comfortable cruising speed on a long journey without dropping a gear or two to maintain revs.

Did you like it?

The Mazda2 will appeal to anyone who appreciates quality in their small car. This car feels wonderful on the road, fun to drive and refined. The engine available is super efficient and cheap to run, ideal for town or city use, but doesn’t offer the most thrilling performance.

With the spec and build of this vehicle, Mazda offers a good value small car all things considered. There is nothing radically new for this Mazda2, but buyers will find a solid small car with lots of style and class.

The Mazda2 is a super efficient small car with plenty of style and class
The Mazda2 is a super efficient small car with plenty of style and class

Caroline Kidd

Model tested: Mazda2 M Hybrid GT
€22,155 (from €19,755)
Engine: 1.5-litre petrol
90 hp
Torque: 148 Nm
9.7 seconds
Top speed: 183 km/h
Fuel economy (WLTP): 5.3 l/100km
CO2 emissions (WLTP): 120g/100km
Motor Tax:  €180 per year