Mazda 2

You may be thinking that the Mazda2 has no right to be flaunting itself on The Mud Life, it isn’t a 4×4, it has appalling ground clearance and there’s no option for mud terrains.  However, it’s a very practical and fun car to drive and therefore deserves its place here.

There’s another reason too, I know quite a few off roaders who, although they love to drive their massive 4×4’s on a regular basis, it isn’t always practical to do so.  A good example is, if I’m driving to the NEC in Birmingham a couple of times a week, Wales then over to Leicester to see Lee, rather drive my Discovery it’s far more economical and convenient to take Muddy Madams Skoda Fabia, so small cars have their place too.

The Mazda2 has been around for a while and is now on its fourth incarnation, and like the rest of the Mazda range this year, it’s getting a significant upgrade with enhancements in standard equipment as well as refreshed external and internal styling.

With on-the-road prices ranging from £11,995 to £17,395, you can choose from 16 Mazda2 models that include SE, SE-L, SE-L Nav, Sport and Sport Nav.  They’re packed with goodies including a standard comprehensive safety package that includes Hill Hold Assist, Tyre Pressure Monitoring System, Dynamic Stability Control and Traction Control System.

Performance is best from the 115ps petrol, but I’m reliably informed that the less powerful 90PS and 75ps petrol models and the 105ps diesel aren’t to be discounted either.  The diesel offers great in gear performance thanks to a 220Nm torque output, but at £17,395, it’s £2,390 pricier than the range topping petrol.

With competitors ranging from the Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Corsa, VW Polo, Peugeot 208, Audi A1 and Mini, the ‘2 has some stiff competition and in my my opinion at least, manages to hold its own.

Enough waffling, what’s it like?  Well, after making myself comfortable and adjusting the seat, mirrors and steering wheel, my first impression was that the 115ps petrol Sport Nav was a really nice place to be, even with my large frame.  The seats were comfortable and a suitable driving position was easily achieved.

The deep-set instrument panel told me everything I needed to know, but was made redundant by the excellent heads-up display panel mounted on top of the dash above the instrument cluster.  I also liked the retro style air vents that could’ve been lifted straight from my old 1970 Mini, a nice touch.

A couple of people I know complained about the plastic used on the dashboard, and ok when you tap it, it appears cheap, but in all honesty, when you’re driving to work, to the shops or away for the weekend, how often do you look at it and think, ‘Hmm, I wish they’d used leather.’

I mentioned earlier that it was a very comfortable driving position, and pushing the A-pillar back by 80mm in conjunction with an 80mm boost in wheelbase, Mazda have created a more spacious and accommodating cabin. Using slimmer seat backs and a space-efficient dash design has resulted in more space between the driver and front passenger as well as 19mm of additional knee room for rear passengers. You could argue that 19mm isn’t a lot, but give that to a Land Rover Defender driver and they’d be in heaven!  Boot space has also increased by 30-litres to 280-litres, which in turn increases 950-litres with the 60:40 split rear seats folded down.

Getting out on the road and accelerating through the smooth 6 speed ‘box put a genuine grin on my face, it was a joy to use. Even meandering along the A38 with the cruise control set to 56mph and the windows open was pleasant.  The Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS) did a good job of letting me know that I had to stay focussed by an audible rumble and a warning sign on the Heads-Up Display. This happens if you wander into another lane without indicating.

It was at this point my only issue with the ‘2 arose, it was the hard plastic door trim that caused a welt just below my right knee, and it was sore for a while. Though to be fair, that could be put down to the way I spread my long legs!

After the A38, the majority of roads I found myself on were the single lane, unclassified type, and apart from nearly getting skewered by an unobservant tractor driver with a bale spear, a great time was had.

At the end of the test I was slightly regretting the decision to opt for the fastest version, as anything else I drove would be a bit of a let down, and then I changed my mind as no matter what vehicle I’m buying I would always be tempted to go for the biggest and best. So, the 115ps petrol version would the one I’d go for, it’s decent on power and the 6 speed box was a joy to play with, I also averaged 47mpg, which wasn’t bad considering our pace!