Big Hopes

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The all-new Mazda2 is no cock and bull attempt to make a car more desirable and user friendly. And it breaks with tradition in a world where bigger is said to be better in lining up in the car park smaller, lighter and distinctly more user friendly than the mini MPV-like Mazda2 it replaces. What we have here is a car that uses the basic underpinnings of the yet to be seen new Fiesta, one of the world's best sellers. And the little Mazda gives the impression that it would quite like to get in on the act. It brings the zoom-zoom experience to the small car end of the range, and Mazda expect to see around three times more of them that its predecessor. It's neatly styled, offers a good amount of interior space for four adults and from the rear view, the chunky looks gives the impression of a car well planted on the road. Which it appears to be.

I drove three of them (1.5 Sport, 1.3 TS2 and the 'only one of its kind in the UK and not on sale yet' 1.4 diesel version which arrives later this year) on a lengthy - and it has to be said gloriously scenic - test route through the Scottish Highlands last week on the sort of roads that sort the men out from the boys, and the youngster ticked most of the right boxes. I say most because on the rougher part of the route the firm ride set up was possibly a bit too firm, although there was no thumping and crashing from the underpinnings. Just the feeling of being a little over-firm at times, although it comes into its own on the smoother A roads and puts in a very accomplished and less jittery performance. Its road-holding was never in jeopardy, even on our long run to the north coast.

For the money it is a very well equipped car with little on the options list save for metallic paint. And it's an economical machine as well. My colleague on the day put my 28.7mpg to shame (in my defense I did have the more desolate, press-on part of the route for my spell behind the wheel) with a thrifty 45.9mpg against the quoted figure of 47.9 combined - and we had the aircon on as well. On the inside the interior is well finished, with a neat cluster of switches and dials for the radio and heater controls centrally situated with the big main speedo and smaller rev counter right in front of you line of vision.

Prices start at ?8,499 and there's a choice of three engines and three equipment levels (TS, TS2 and Sport). Factors buyers will doubtless consider are its good fuel economy, low CO2 emissions and the fact it's actually fun to drive. It drops into a sector of the market that accounts for some 25 per cent of all sales and will have far greater appeal to younger buyers than its boxy predecessor. And it wouldn't be a bad car to consider for anyone downsizing either.


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