Stockport Express

The latest on four wheels with Steve Howarth

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SOMETIMES in this job it is hard to be objective when you have had a week at the wheel of a luxurious 4x4 with all the toys and then are suddenly driving around in a far more basic family hatchback which is half the size… and price.

That is what could have happened with this week’s second test car, the newly-launched Mazda 2, but it is such a cheery, competent little motor that I was instantly impressed.

With its uncluttere­d, easy-to-use dashboard layout and willing 1.5, 89bhp petrol engine (and a list price of just £14,395) there is a lot to like.

And then there’s the standard sat-nav (with 3-years free European map updates) and DAB radio operated via a large-ish dashtop screen plus cruise control in our SE-L Nav version.

It’s a Mazda and so feels well-built and for the same reason it will be reliable. I had an early RX7 for almost 20 years and – apart from finally succumbing to its Achilles heel (that quirky rotary engine) at 111,000 miles – it never went wrong.

While the Mazda 2 is a little noisy if pushed – and you have to rev it to get the best from that 1.5-litre, traditiona­l four cylinder engine – it makes the most of the 89 horses on offer getting you from 0 to 62 in a respectabl­e 9.4 seconds and on to a 114mph top speed.

But here’s the really good bit… a combined mpg of almost 63, which is diesel engine territory!

In fact, if you take into account the lower cost of unleaded and the fact that petrol cars are cheaper to buy, this Mazda 2 is probably more economical to run than many comparable small diesel hatchbacks.

As you would expect from the people who make the world’s most popular sports car, the MX5, handling is excellent as is the electric power steering and the seating position is spot on too.

Standard kit across the range includes 15” alloy wheels, powerfold heated door mirrors, speed limiter and cruise control plus Bluetooth.

Our SE-L Nav version also adds that large screen sat-nav with ‘Multimedia Commander’ and DAB radio, lane departure warning and ‘Smart City Brake Support’.

The Mazda 2 only went on sale a few weeks ago but again I expect we’ll be seeing a lot of them, especially as the range starts from only £11,995 for the 1.5, 74bhp SE version – making it a real rival for supermini market leaders the Fiesta, Polo and Corsa... and it is more fun to drive.

There are three 1.5 petrol engines and one diesel in the 11-model line-up. The more powerful 1.5 SE-L 103bhp is £15,995 and the range-topping diesel Sport Nav is £17,395, but our test SE-L Nav 90 is probably the best one to go for as economy is so good plus it comes with sat-nav and is a reasonable price.

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