Mazda 2

What is it?

The Mazda2 is the smallest hatchback that the Japanese company makes and it's a rival to the likes of the Ford Fiesta and the Volkswagen Polo. It's been in its current guise for around two years now, so Mazda has decided to give it a very mild facelift to keep it looking fresh.

It's difficult to spot the differences between the new car and the outgoing version, but it was already a fine little car. On the outside, it has redesigned front fog light surrounds; new 16-inch alloy wheels and 15-inch steel items with new hubcaps; two more colour schemes (Aquatic Blue Mica and Burgundy Red Mica); and Sport models add a small body kit in the form of side skirts and a rear roof spoiler.

Mazda has also made some minor tweaks to the interior. There are touches of piano black trim and more durable materials on the most commonly touched areas.

Is it any good?

One of Mazda's trademarks is cars that are good to drive, and the 2 is very much in keeping with that ethos. The company has made some tweaks to the suspension and other areas to tighten up the handling, but it's difficult to notice them without driving a new and an old version back-to-back.

The steering is very precise and the gear change feels chunky and satisfyingly mechanical. Throw it into a corner and the little Mazda hangs on well but it's also quite comfortable - it irons out speed bumps and rough surfaces competently for a small car.

We drove the 1.5-litre petrol version, which needed a bit of revving to get going, but responded well to a heavy right foot. Mazda has also mildly revised all the engines in the 2 for lower emissions and better fuel economy. The smallest 1.3-litre petrol engine is now two percent more fuel efficient and emits five percent less CO2. The 1.6-litre MZ-CD diesel unit also uses two percent less fuel and emits only 110g/km, while the 'dirtiest' model of the lot is a 1.5-litre petrol unit in conjunction with an automatic gearbox, which creates 146g/km - which still isn't much.

Should I call the bank manager?

He certainly won't be complaining if you do. The new Mazda2 starts at £9,995, which is hardly pricey. It costs a few hundred pounds more than the previous entry-level car, which isn't a big hike in the grand scheme of things, but it does make you wonder exactly what additions you're paying for.

Summary

You really have to squint to notice the differences, but the Mazda2 was hardly a bad car in the first place, so those few minor tweaks can't do it any harm. It's great to drive and certainly one for driving fans on a budget who also need a dose of practicality.

The interior isn't quite up to the standards of the Ford Fiesta or other European rivals, but apart from that there's little not to like about the Mazda2. It would certainly be on our shopping list of affordable hatchbacks.

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