Mazda 2, motoring review: Could do better on bends but perfect on the straight and narrow

The latest Mazda 2 is a strong contender for "best in class" supermini

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Price: £15,995
Engine capacity: 1.5-litre petrol
Power output (BHP @ RPM): 113 @ 6,000
Top speed (MPH): 124
Fuel economy (MPG): 56.5
CO2 emissions (G/KM): 117

Mazda has always been among my favourite car makers. That's primarily because the mum of a primary school friend gave me a lift in a topless MX-5 when I was about nine. I loved that car more than I liked my childhood buddy, but in recent times my loyalty to Mazda stems more from an admiration of a run of cleverly engineered cars that are just that little bit different from the mainstream.

From the attractive Mazda 6 saloon, which easily rivals the rather dull Ford Mondeo, to the surprisingly joyful to drive CX-5 SUV, Mazda can't do much wrong these days in my book. I even liked the Golf-rivalling Mazda 3, which I reviewed here before the summer.

The latest Mazda 2 is a bigger challenge, though. It competes in the tough supermini sector against the Ford Fiesta and VW Polo. My test model, for a run to Kent and a lot of city driving, was the more powerful petrol model and it didn't disappoint.

Even the entry-level model comes with 15-inch alloy wheels, electric windows, cruise control and a digital radio, while the higher-spec "Nav" model I tested came with satellite-navigation (obviously), a lane departure warning system and emergency braking. Most important, though is Mazda's alternative engineering approach, which focuses on modernist lines combined with subtle design innovations, some hefty weight loss and improved petrol engines to bring economy and performance gains. The Japanese firm calls this approach Skyactiv.

The result is an impressively compliant ride for such a small car and nippy performance, that occasionally dares to enter hot-hatch territory. In fairness, the driving experience isn't quite as sharp in the bends as the Ford Fiesta and it's rather loud on the motorway, but this is a strong contender for "best in class" supermini nonetheless.

Economy and emissions – a touchy subject this week for car makers – are also competitive, as if to suggest that shedding weight is a far more practical way to reduce pollution that fiddling diesel emission figures in a cars' computer. And in an age where car firms use technological tricks to boost emissions ratings, one can only hope that Mazda's continued reliance on engineering, not spin, will keep it on the straight and narrow at a time when I can't help feel that the car industry has rather lost its way.

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