Has hybrid power taken the Mazda 2 to the next level?
3.0 out of 5
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In a world of newer, higher-tech superminis, the Mazda 2 feels old. Despite updates, it still falls short in pretty much every key area apart from driving enjoyment, although the efficiency improvements have helped. It’s still fun on the right road, but in 2021 that’s not enough to be a class-leading supermini when competitors offer more flexibility, technology and refinement for a similar amount of money.
Mazda recently announced an all-new hybrid Mazda 2 supermini based on the Toyota Yaris will go on sale later this year, but in a slightly confusing move for consumers, its recently updated Mazda 2 will be sold alongside the new, full petrol-electric option – which is what we’re driving here – to give customers more choice.
For the 2022 model year the Japanese manufacturer has given the compact hatchback some relatively significant updates to boost efficiency. Chief of which is the addition of Mazda’s e-Skyactiv G mild-hybrid powertrains.
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There’s also a new exhaust manifold for the 1.5-litre naturally aspirated petrol engine and a higher compression ratio, which has helped cut CO2 emissions by between 11 and 14g/km across the range.
Our 88bhp 1.5 90 six-speed manual model gets the MHEV tech, which comprises a belt starter-generator and a small battery. It’s worth remembering that despite the “hybrid” tag, mild-hybrids can’t run on electricity alone; instead, the BSG and battery allow the engine to cut out earlier when slowing down, helping to save a small amount of fuel. They also fire it up more smoothly again, and the generator can give a small boost in torque when moving off, too.
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That’s a good place to begin our dynamic assessment of the Mazda, because the engine doesn’t use a turbocharger like many rivals. As a result, the Mazda 2 puts out 151Nm of torque at 3,500rpm, which is relatively high up the rev range compared with rival turbocharged superminis.
On the move, this means you have to work the engine and gearbox quite hard. When it comes to the former, it’s not the most pleasant experience, because the engine is noisy and drones at higher revs, which is where you’ll spend a lot of your time if you want to make swifter progress.
The latter isn’t so bad because the transmission’s shift action is oily-slick and far better, more engaging and nicer to use than any supermini’s gearbox needs to be.
The Mazda takes 9.8 seconds to go from 0-62mph, which isn’t actually that slow, but it just feels like it takes a lot of effort, and that means the car isn’t that relaxing or refined to drive day to day. It might also take the edge off the gains in efficiency Mazda has made, even though the 2 claims 60.1mpg and 107g/km.
The engine’s deficiencies are a letdown because, despite its age, the chassis can still cut it with the newest cars in this class. Although the ride is a little firm, it’s composed enough, while the steering has a lovely weighting. The slight edge to the ride does at least means the 2 corners well, offering plenty of grip and an engaging side to its personality.
But supermini buyers these days are rarely after ultimate performance. Practicality and tech are generally higher up on their wishlists, and here the Mazda falls short. The back doors are small, so access to the rear seats could be better, while there’s also not much room back there compared with a Renault Clio or a SEAT Ibiza. A 255-litre boot is nothing special, either; a VW up! from the class below is only five litres down on the Mazda.
As for tech, wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard on GT Sport trim, but the seven-inch colour touchscreen they’re displayed through could be sharper. Mazda’s own infotainment system takes a few too many button presses to access the functions you might want, too.
GT Sport also features rear parking sensors and a reversing camera, climate control, a head-up display, heated seats and a heated steering wheel, so the level of equipment offered isn’t bad.
But given that this model costs £19,225 when similarly specified rivals offer more refinement, practicality, technology and quality, the refreshed Mazda 2 is still a hard sell despite some useful updates to try and improve the powertrain. That new Mazda 2 Hybrid can’t come soon enough.
|Model:||Mazda 2 1.5 e-Skyactiv G GT Sport|
|Engine:||1.5-litre 4cyl petrol|
|Transmission:||Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive|
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