Mazda2: Initial impressions

  • Mazda's compact hatchback impresses
  • Interior feels well-built and is comfortable
  • Enough equipment to make life easier

Choosing to use a small car for motorway commuting can be a bit of a gamble.

After all, small cars are typically designed for inner-city and town use. They’re usually sparsely equipped, have low-powered engines and aren't built to cruise at speed. As a result, they’re generally not as capable or as relaxing on the motorway as larger cars.

So, it was with some trepidation that I pressed the Mazda2 into service. I was concerned that, coming from a comfortable and refined Focus, it might be a bit of a shock to my system. As my commute covers 110 miles a day, it didn't take very long to find out what it was like.

Initial impressions were very good. Contrary to what I was expecting the Mazda2 feels well built, with some surprisingly substantial and quality-feeling materials used in places. In some respects the Mazda’s interior is superior to the equivalent Fiesta, with better detailing and a more restrained and upmarket look.

It’s not an uncomfortable place to be, either. The seats are firm but relatively supportive, and wind and road noise are low for a car of its class. It’s not the last word in refinement, but I certainly don’t have any problems with driving long distances in it.

The Mazda2's engine is proving capable, too. The 1.6-litre diesel engine does have to work hard to accelerate the car, but once you're moving it's quite flexible. Thanks to 205Nm of pulling power you aren’t forced to change gear all the time, and even at motorway speeds you can put your foot down in top gear and the Mazda will pick up speed.

The engine can be moderately noisy though, particularly under load. Fortunately, when cruising, its somewhat raucous note settles down into an unobtrusive background thrum.

So far I’m not feeling overly tired at the end of my commute, but the effects of covering longer distances in the Mazda are noticeable compared to larger cars. The suspension borders on the overly firm, and it has a tendency to bounce over bumps instead of smoothing them out. This, combined with the sharp steering and increased cabin noise, does mean you feel the effects of each mile slightly more than you would in a bigger car.

Another thing that I've noticed is an increased level of vibration through the controls and floor, compared to larger cars. These minor vibrations can leave you feeling slightly fatigued after longer drives. Some of this is probably a result of this being the diesel model, as diesel engines tend to be less smooth than petrol engines.

By no means are these issues unique to the Mazda2, nor are they reasons to avoid it. They are, however, worth bearing in mind if you're thinking about downsizing to a smaller diesel car to use on longer trips.

On the plus side, it has enough equipment to keep me comfortable. Besides things like climate control, automatic lights and remote central locking, it also has cruise control. It’s standard equipment for this Sport model, and a saving grace if you sit on the motorways for prolonged periods. Equipment like this makes the car easier to live with on a daily basis, and it can make all the difference to your ownership experience.

What particularly interests me at the moment is to see if the Mazda’s build quality holds out as its age and mileage increase. Larger cars tend to endure lots of motorway driving without issue, but smaller cars can take a bit of a pounding when used for sustained high-speed commuting.

Time, as is usually the case, will tell.

Current mileage: 2,682 miles

Average mpg: 41.59mpg