What is it?
The one and only turbodiesel version of the new Mazda 2, which officially went on sale in the UK earlier this month. We’ve already reviewed the car in a couple of petrol guises, but the diesel offers something markedly different – both from its rangemates and most of its competition.
Using a new 1.5-litre all-aluminium turbodiesel engine built of Mazda’s ‘right-sized not downsized’ philosophy, the car develops a healthy 104bhp and 162lb ft – in a class where it remains rare to find a diesel option with more than 90bhp.
As a result of that power, as well as the lightness that Mazda added in the design and engineering of its third-generation supermini, this car is almost two seconds quicker to 62mph than plenty of its competition. And thanks to the low compression ratio and associated efficiency, it’s also just as frugal and CO2-efficient as those rivals, bettering 80mpg and squeezing in less than 90g/km of CO2 at manufacturer claims.
We tested the car in range-topping Sport Nav trim, giving us a chance to sample the richer features and touches available on the car. The standard specification includes 16in alloy wheels, automatic lights and wipers, parking sensors, a 7.0in colour multimedia system with sat-nav and DAB radio, and both climate and cruise control.
What’s it like?
Long-striding, refined, stable and frugal at high speed: a small car with the ground-covering ability of something much bigger.
You could happily spend a lot of time in one of these, not least because the cabin is so pleasant. With its black cloth and dark plastics, our test car did reveal Mazda’s predilection for monochromatic interior design. Headline petrol versions are offered with lighter leather trim as an option, which breaks up the vast expanses of gloomy blackness, but for some reason it’s not offered on the diesel.
That apart, the fascia looks modern, uncluttered and appealing to the senses, with tactile and colourful inserts used in places and good material quality apparent on the climate controls. Cabin space is good but not great, with larger adults likely to find the back seats in particular tight on both knee and head room.
But in just about every other way, this Mazda 2 does an uncanny impression of a much larger family hatchback. That diesel engine is a little bit gravelly under initial throttle applications, but settles to a remarkably hushed cruise that really distinguishes the car. Throttle response is relatively soft, but torque comes on strongly between 2000rpm and 3000rpm, making the car feel quite brisk pulling through third and fourth gears.
That it feels less muscular in fifth and sixth has little to do with the engine and more the unusually long gear ratios that Mazda has chosen. Pulling 39mph per 1000rpm in top, the Mazda 2 diesel has longer cruising legs than most diesel hatchbacks from one or two market segments above.
Motorway overtaking is therefore best attempted with a downshift, while country road passes require a couple of them. The trade-off is outstanding, fairly effortless real-world fuel economy. Economy in the mid-60s is very easily achieved on a mixed route, and we can believe a return starting with a ‘7’ would be possible with the right driving style.
Spritely handling, delivered with a modicum of enthusiasm, was something we liked about the last Mazda 2, and there’s verve and engagement about this new one, too, although perhaps not quite as much. Mazda’s new electromechanical power steering set-up has added directness to the rim but at the expense of some feedback.
The car is fairly moderately sprung and corners keenly with decent balance, typical grip levels and good body control, but its damper tuning could be more subtle. The twin-tube shocks fitted as standard to the car lack progressiveness and make body control become a little abrupt as the lumps and bumps you’re crossing get bigger. At other times the ride can seem hollow, allowing more road roar and surface patter into the cabin than you’d like.
Should I buy one?
Europe’s supermini heavyweights – Ford Fiesta, Volkswagen Polo and Renault Clio specifically – all offer a more rounded dynamic mix of fluency, feel, comfort and engagement. But none of them come in a diesel form that can quite match the real-world performance, good manners, CO2 efficiency and cruising economy of this new 2.
As with its larger models, Mazda has created a multi-talented diesel option with the real-world thrift of an economy special but the grunt of a lightly warmed performance model. The concept will have more limited appeal to traditional supermini clientele than it might to the higher-mileage drivers of bigger cars such as the 2.2-litre Mazda 3 and Mazda 6.
But for those to whom a small diesel hatchback really does make sense, this car deserves plenty of attention.
2015 Mazda 2 1.5 Skyactiv-D review
Location Surrey; On sale Now; Price £17,395; Engine 4 cyls, 1499cc, turbodiesel; Power 104bhp at 4000rpm; Torque 162lb ft at 1400rpm; Gearbox 6-spd manual; Kerb weight 1115kg; Top speed 111mph; 0-62mph 10.1sec; Economy 83.1mpg; CO2 rating & tax band 89g/km, 16%
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