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Old 08-31-2006, 05:20   #1 (permalink)
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UK:Mazda 2 1.4 Antares

Mazda 2 1.4 Antares

Is Mazda’s facelifted supermini too good ‘2’ be true?

By Ross Pinnock
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Is Mazda’s facelifted supermini too good ‘2’ be true? The neat Mazda 2 has always lagged behind the class leaders, but a range of tweaks aims to bring it up to speed. Its task has been made more difficult, though, by new arrivals from Fiat, Renault and Peugeot. So, how does the revamped model fare?

On the outside, the low-key changes include stylish new headlamps, fresh alloy wheels and a wider choice of body colours. At the back, there are revised tail-light clusters and narrower metal C-pillars, which give the little Mazda a much cleaner profile.

Inside, higher-quality trim materials combine with a smart titanium-style centre console. It looks good, and every-thing seems well screwed together – and there’s plenty of space, too!

Visibility from the lofty driving position is excellent for scooting around town. But less suited to city streets is the firm ride. While it’s never uncomfortable, it lacks the smoothness of its rivals.

Where the 2 does match the class leaders is with its steering. Despite the cheap feel of the wheel fitted to our Antares-spec model, the Mazda’s set-up avoids the over-assisted sensation of the Renault Clio and Fiat Grande Punto.

Performance from the 1.4-litre powerplant won’t set the pulse racing, but it’s perfectly acceptable for driving around town, and offers reasonable fuel economy. Longer journeys won’t be a problem, either, although the tweaked 1.4-litre diesel, which Mazda claims returns 60mpg, is a better bet. On the move, the five-speed gearbox fitted to our test car was light, with a positive action. You can also choose the firm’s automated manual, which is a £400 option on the 1.4-litre petrol model.

However, in the final analysis, the improvements aren’t enough to elevate the Mazda 2 to the top of the class. It does few things badly, but other superminis offer a wider range of engine options, more style, a greater passenger carry-ing ability and are more entertaining to drive, too.

FIRST OPINION
While the Mazda 2 has always been a decent car, there was little to help set it apart from the competition – and the revised model is more of the same. The fresh diesel engine and visual tweaks boost its appeal, yet for all its value, it still rates as an also-ran in what’s becoming a very crowded supermini class.

AT A GLANCE
While it’s no powerhouse, the 1.4-litre petrol motor offers enough pace to keep up with city traffic. There’s a frugal 1.4-litre diesel available, too.
Engine: 1.4-litre, 78bhp
Econ/CO2: 42.8mpg/157g/km
Price: £9,200


Cabin is light and airy, while silver finished centre console lifts the dash


While it's no powerhouse, the 1.4-litre petrol motor offers enough pace to keep up with city traffic. There's a frugal 1.4-litre diesel, too
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