Remember the old Mazda2?
Nope, me neither.
By all accounts, it was instantly forgettable.
I had to Google it to remember what it looked like.
But in the time it took to click from internet browser to word processor, I’d forgotten again.
Thankfully, its replacement, also called the Mazda2, is a rather pretty little thing.
Mazdas of late have all been rather stylish in their own way, and I think the 2 is possibly the best looking of the lot.
It manages to pull off “cute but sporty” in a way that these days, hampered by safety concerns and ‘experimental’ designers, few vehicles seem to get right.
This is an instantly good start for Mazda, as in the supermini market, cute is good.
Cute is memorable.
Which is perhaps why you don’t see many old model Mazda2s on the road – whatever it was, I’m sure it wasn’t cute.
Speaking of on the road, hopes have been high that the new 2 will be as good to drive as it is to look at, based as it is on the forth-coming new Ford Fiesta.
The Blue Oval has an enviable reputation for making cars that are fun, and the chassis on the 2 is excellent – nippy and firm around corners without having a boneshaking ride.
The same can’t be said of the steering, unfortunately.
It’s nicely weighted, but rather vague, which gets annoying on twisty roads where the initial degree of steering input requires little corrections all the way around the bend.
It’s just too hard to tell what’s going on with the front wheels, a problem highlighted all the more by the quality of the chassis.
Power in the car tested comes from the middle petrol engine available – the 1.3-litre with 85bhp.
Also available is another petrol-powered 1.3 with 74bhp, a 1.5-litre with 101bhp and a 1.4 diesel engine with 67bhp.
The petrol engine tested certainly sounds the business, and around town is rather peppy, but once opened up is lacking mid-range power and needs to be revved senseless to get any decent performance out of it (62mph from standstill takes the best part of 13 seconds).
This tends to dent the official fuel consumption figures of 52.3mpg.
All the engines are mated to a five-speed manual gearbox, which is excellent – a snappy, short shift with a simple, ergonomic gear knob.
However, the lack of a sixth gear means that motorway journeys are sometimes rather loud.
The driving environment is perfectly decent.
The dash is very similar to those of other Mazdas, which isn’t a bad thing but means there’s little to get excited about.
The design is clean but unadventurous, and while the plastics used are a bit on the scratchy side, they feel solidly assembled.
So, there’s a lot to like in the new Mazda2.
My only other quibble is that the steering wheel doesn’t adjust for reach, which is almost unheard of these days.
This is a car that deserves to succeed – it looks good and handles well, which should be enough to ensure that it stays in people’s memories this time.
P11D value : £9,834
CO2 emissions (g/km): 129
BIK % of P11D in 2007: 15%
Graduated VED rate: £115
Insurance group: 4E
Combined mpg: 52.3
CAP RV (3yr/60k): £3,775/38%
Monthly lease (3yr/60k): £209
The Mazda, Fiat and Vauxhall are similarly priced, but the Mazda2 has the most equipment, including 15-inch alloys.
The Grande Punto also has alloys, but the Corsa and 207 have steel wheels.
The 207 is more expensive but doesn’t make up for it with more equipment or power.
Grande Punto: £9,885
Emissions and tax rates
The Mazda has the lowest CO2 emissions, but still fits in the same tax band as the Corsa and the Grande Punto – all three will land 22% taxpayers with a £27 a month bill.
The 207 is again far behind and consequently costs more at £33 a month.
Grande Punto: 139g/km/15%
A chink in the Mazda’s armour – it is the most expensive car to run.
Over a fleet life of three years/ 60,000 miles, it will cost more than £400 more to service, maintain and repair than the first-placed Vauxhall.
The Peugeot is fractionally cheaper than the Fiat but both are some way behind the Corsa.
Corsa: 1.68 (pence per mile)/£1,008 (60,000-mile total)
Grande Punto: 2.18/£1,308
The Peugeot is a bit of a guzzler, with a combined mpg of just 44.8.
The Mazda comes top again, travelling an impressive 52.3 miles per gallon.
The Vauxhall and Fiat are closely matched, but the Corsa’s 48.7mpg just beats the Grande Punto’s 47.9.
Mazda2: 8.67 (pence per mile)/£5,202 (60,000-mile total)
Grande Punto: 9.47/£5,682
A strong showing in almost all areas means the Mazda is comprehensively the cheapest to run.
The Peugeot did well in the SMR section, but poorly in all other areas, and is last by a sizeable margin.
The Vauxhall and Fiat were fairly evenly matched, but the Corsa edges it.
Mazda2: 21.18 (pence per mile)/£12,708 (60,000-mile total)
Grande Punto: 22.95/£13,770
It’s the cheapest to buy and run, and with a potent engine, stylish looks and good levels of equipment, the Mazda is a runaway winner.
None of the competitors can match it on anything other than SMR costs.
The 207 is particularly outclassed, the Punto has poor residuals and only the Corsa is remotely in touch.
Drivers and fleet managers alike should be satisfied.