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CAPE TOWN – Mazda’s local passenger-car line-up is made up of some pretty fantastic vehicles at the moment. At the summit sits the unfading MX-5, while the frankly superb CX-3, CX-5 and Mazda3 occupy the middle of the minimalist range. Inhabiting the lower rung is the Mazda2, the Hiroshima-based brand's entry-level offering.

The recipient of a subtle facelift, the 2 features a revised grille and LED headlamps, bringing its appearance neatly in line with the rest of the range. Round back, you’ll find the taillamps have received the same treatment, keeping the pert rear of the hatchback looking fresh. Individual and Hazumi models furthermore receive new 16-inch alloy wheels, finished in an almost satin-like coating. Painted in an Eternal Blue hue, the Hazumi test unit looks suitably upmarket.

The 1,5-litre, four-cylinder engine now produces 85 kW and 148 N.m of torque (a slight increase from the pre-facelift model’s figures of 82 kW and 145 N.m). Paired with a six-speed automatic (standard on the Hazumi), the Japanese supermini is capable of reaching 100 km/h in a claimed 10,40 seconds. On the road, the 2 feels nippy. The naturally aspirated four-pot feels energetic and works well with the quick-shifting gearbox. On the open road, the little Mazda is rather impressive. Not only does it feel wonderfully composed and comfortable, but it has the ability to overtake in a manner suggesting more than 148 N.m living under that petite bonnet. Mazda claims that the 2 sips just 6,0 litres of fuel every 100 km. On the highway, I saw a rather economical return of 5,5 L/100 km on the trip computer. With a bit of spirited driving, this rose to 6,4 L/100 km.

Speaking of spirited driving, the hatchback from Hiroshima positively bristles with glee when confronted with a corner. Steering feel is good and nicely weighted, while grip levels are high. Despite the dynamic prowess of the 2, it rides rather well. It takes bumps and poor road surfaces in its stride and even tackled a short gravel stretch with ease. On the highway, tyre roar and wind noise creeps into the cabin, but this is the case with most cars in the segment. 

The interior of the Mazda2 is a great place to while away the miles. While not as spacious as a Volkswagen Polo or Ford Fiesta, it offers an acceptable amount of room for passengers. The boot is decently sized and will hold the average weekly grocery run with ease. From behind the wheel, there isn’t much to moan about. The transmission tunnel is a little wide (sometimes getting in the way of your left leg), while the beautifully trimmed, comfortable seats could perhaps do with a touch more thigh support. A head-up display (standard on the Hazumi) is a nice touch.

Perceived build quality is from the top shelf, displaying an overwhelming sense of solidity. While the interior has its fair share of harder plastics, there are plenty of other wonderful materials and detailing to distract from the less desirable trim. Take the double-stitched leather swathe that spans the facia, for example. Not only is it a visual delight, but it feels wonderful, too. Numerous other high-quality fixtures give the cosy cabin a real sense of occasion. 

Going against the grain is the MZD Connect infotainment system. Even though touchscreens are de rigeur, it was a delight to use the scroller found in the Mazda. Not only is it easier to operate the various functions while on the move but more intuitive and less distracting, too. An infotainment screen devoid of fingerprints is, of course, a bonus.

Mazda’s smallest offering really is a great little car. It boasts a tremendously built (and designed) cabin, a peppy yet efficient powertrain and, in Hazumi guise, is really well equipped. The facelift has managed to improve upon an already polished package. If you’re thinking about purchasing a compact hatchback or even downsizing, the 2 ought to be considered. 

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