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An automatic choice.

Byline: IAN DONALDSON

SOME cars drop beneath the radar and vanish in a market crowded with newcomers shouting 'buy me, buy me!' Take the little Mazda2. It's a car worth considering by any young family wanting a runaround that won't consume too much cash and still be good to drive.

It is also about as undemanding a companion as you'll find, thanks to an automatic gearbox that turns the Mazda into a steer-accelerate-brake machine; perfect for busy town work.

It forms one of a mere four different models in the Mazda2 range, which, as well as limiting choice, shows a very different approach to sales to that adopted by some like Ford, which dominates sales in this size of hatch.

A quick count notched up 49 different Fiestas on sale, helping to make it the UK's best-selling car for months on end.

Building a car that's great to drive helps too but the Mazda shares some Ford DNA, acquired when the two companies forged a now-broken alliance. And it drives nicely too.

Peugeot's new 208 is available in 47 different guises and lots of them now scurry about on our roads as well. With a mere four to choose from, there are never going to be hordes of little Mazdas.

We first saw this Mazda2 in 2007 so, in car industry terms, it's well into middle age. That means some potential buyers might have forgotten it even exists, countered (hopes Mazda) by the introduction of a new version.

The Venture Edition costs from PS13,295 and comes with extra equipment (TomTom sat nav, 16-inch alloy wheels, parking sensors, climate control, auto lights and wipers and black mirror housings) and uses a 1.3-litre petrol engine.

That's not the car tested today. That has a larger, 1.5-litre engine and automatic gears, so can't compete with the Venture Edition on economy. I did, however, manage a creditable 43mpg on a shortish test run while driving in what I hoped was a typical 12 owner's style. And that meant no racing from the lights or crazy overtaking; difficult to manage anyway in a car built more for relaxed transport than playing the Silverstone refugee. 44.8 CO2 BIK 3yrs/ The automatic comes well equipped, with air con, alloy wheels, electric folding and heated door mirrors and even a splash of piano black plastic to lift the look of the dash.

That makes it look positively good value against the obvious opposition. It will cost PS2,250 more to get into the cheapest comparable Fiesta automatic.

Yes, the Fiesta is still the nicer car to drive, but by a much reduced margin and looks more modern inside and out, if that bothers you.

But the Mazda has a grown-up maturity about it, especially inside, where you'll find lots of well-made black plastic and generally easy to read and use controls. Some will call this dull, others head for 'sensible'.

The sensible buyers will also note Mazda's fine reliability record and the prospect of effortless journeys with no clutch to bother about and conclude that this version ought to shout a little louder to be heard.

fast facts MODEL: Mazda2 1.5 TS2 Automatic PRICE: PS12,995 MECHANICAL: 102bhp, 1,498cc, 4cyl petrol engine driving front wheels via 4-speed automatic gearbox MAX SPEED: 105mph 0?62MPH: 11.9 seconds INSURANCE GROUP: 12 COMBINED MPG: 44.8 CO2 EMISSIONS: 145g/km BIK RATING: 21% WARRANTY: 3yrs/60,000 miles

CAPTION(S):

The Mazda2 has a grown-up maturity about it, which will appeal to the 'sensible' buyer.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Coventry Evening Telegraph (England)
Date:Feb 21, 2014
Words:591
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