Road tests by motoring journalist Tim Saunders
Above: Tim Saunders with Vicki Butler-Henderson
By Tim Saunders
The art of deception is a difficult thing to master.
The Victorians were particularly adept at this when building their terrace houses that appear small from the outside and are often far larger than expected on the inside. I know because I live in one. But the modern houses of today are very small in comparison.
Some car manufacturers are able to replicate this with their vehicles. I am particularly thinking of the Kia Venga, which is certainly spacious. I am not expecting anything great though from the Mazda 2 because after all it is a supermini and they are small aren’t they?
It’s not much bigger than my Ford Fiesta yet I am pleasantly surprised by the reasonable amount of space found inside in terms of front and rear legroom. This becomes even more appreciated after spending time testing the tiny Peugeot 108 and Citroen C1 city cars where if my daughters are to travel in the back the front seats have to be pushed uncomfortably far forward.
It is typically well styled in the usual Mazda fashion with not a straight line in sight, a quality that has appealed to me about this Japanese manufacturer since the early ‘90s.
First impressions, from the rear, are that it is a well designed and attractive five door hatchback but there is nothing super exciting about this package, a bit of a conservative plain Jane. But then I revisit it the following day and discover that there are some unique qualities to the design. There is an area in the top middle of the rear bumper to accommodate a hand for lifting the tailgate. This somehow adds a touch of Americanism to the design for me, the bumper seems a little bigger perhaps than others on similar vehicles, better for any pedestrian impact. There is a sweeping curve down the side of the vehicle adding some character to the overall side profile. And I do like the front, which juts out in a similar way to some Maseratis and American vehicles. It also carries a standardised Mazda grille, the same design of which can be found across the range; in a similar way to other manufacturers. The 2 is a very good lesson in appreciation; it is only when you care to open your eyes and look deeper that you find some very pleasing characteristics. The chrome Mazda logo is placed on the front and rear and can also be found on the steering wheel.
On first glance at the interior I am not blown away because apparently there is nothing that special about it. But revisit it and there you will find a minimalist and uncluttered dashboard where all controls have been helpfully placed for the driver. There is a marriage of analogue and digital where the speedometer sits in pride of place above the steering wheel and when the engine starts the digital rev counter and fuel gauge magically appear.
There is a push button start in the 2 and it takes some time to discover that it sits to the left of the steering wheel, obscured by the steering wheel stalk. To start, just push while your foot is on the clutch. The smooth sounding 1.5-litre petrol engine is coupled to a five-speed manual gearbox. That gearbox I find to be thoroughly decisive and one of the better ones on the market. There is a good driving position and the seats are supportive and comfortable. But the dashboard and finish itself does feel a little too black plasticky for my liking as you can see in the video at testdrives.biz. However, I do like the fact that the powered wing mirrors can be electronically folded. I also like the fact that the test model is fitted with satellite navigation.
Equipped with electronic stop/start Mazda claims that this vehicle will return 56.5mpg and I cannot disagree with this because the fuel gauge did not move all week.
So, not so plain Jane after all, and many hidden surprises if you care to delve deeper.
Citroen C1 Flair VTi 82
By Tim Saunders
“It’s the same car isn’t it?” asks a friend as he looks at the Citroen C1 parked alongside the Peugeot 108. They even share the same glass tailgate and handles.
But in the same way that a Terrier dog is one of many different breeds such as the Airedale (my favourite dog), Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Yorkshire Terrier, Jack Russell Terrier etc. the Citroen C1 might share similarities with the Peugeot 108 but it is a quite unique car in its own right. It’s all about temperament and style.
Firstly, while both are available in a choice of eight exterior colours, they are eight entirely different colours. But like the 108 the C1 is also available in funky two tone colours. The C1 I am testing is finished in an eye-catching, and arguably feminine, Blue Lagoon with Caldera Black Roof. If you want a blue 108 it is available in Tahoe Blue, which is a much lighter shade.
Again just like its relative, the C1 is a city car and the model I am testing is a three door hatchback. Both share the same 1.2-litre three cylinder lawnmower sounding engine, which needs revving hard to make progress, and like the 108 the C1 is a great little car to drive. The model I test is fitted with black leather interior and although it shares exactly the same black dashboard with its Peugeot counterpart there is a striking white section in the centre around the touch screen and around the air vents. Where the 108 I recently tested had a reversing camera this C1 does not. And I don’t think it’s a great loss either because although I find that the rear pillars do block my view a little, I don’t feel a reversing camera is necessary in such a small car. There is a seven-inch multimedia touch screen system which includes radio, Bluetooth, video player and on-board computer (like in the 108).
Other little touches to set it apart from its rival are the distinctive alloy wheels and of course the Citroen grille. However, much like the Peugeot the Citroen pleasingly incorporates chrome on its grille and wing mirrors.
There’s a reason why it looks so similar to the Peugeot 108 and indeed the Toyota Aygo and that is because it is built in the same plant as both counterparts, with the engineering handled by the latter company. However, the new C1 is the most solid supermini from the French firm yet.
The C1 was introduced in 2005 and Citroen has sold more than 760,000 of its supermini.
“The firm has upped the quality the baby Citroen offers,” writes Parkers, the car experts.
“You’ll also notice keyless entry, hill-start assist, climate control, heated seats, reversing camera and memory settings for the front seats on the standard and optional kit lists. Buyers looking for some personality with their C1 should check out the Airscape model, which boasts an electrically folding fabric roof that runs the length of the cabin – offering wind in the hair motoring without any of the scuttle-shake shortfalls. Otherwise the C1 is available in three trims; Touch, Feel and Flair with the 800mm x 760mm fabric roof Airscape option offered on Feel or Flair only. There are eight exterior colours to choose from, along with the option for that Airscape roof to be either Black, Grey or Red to contrast or match the bodywork. Inside the dashboard, air vent trim, gear lever base and door panel trims can be specified in brighter colours to live up the cabin.”
Facts at a glance: