Mazda2 1.5 TS2 Automatic review
by David Finlay (22 July 2011)
Having devoted several minutes to this, I can't think of any motoring writer who regularly expresses a preference for small cars with automatic transmission. They are just not the kind of thing likely to appeal to someone who, at least to some extent, wants to be excited every time they take the wheel. Small automatics just don't provide that level of interest.
They're also quite rare, which suggests that not many real people like them either. But that's not to say that there isn't a market. If you drive mostly in town, you don't need a big car and you are, for whatever reason, below averagely flexible, or you just don't see the need to use three limbs to change gear when the car could do this for you, a small automatic might suit you perfectly.
Mazda sells just one example, and apart from the fact that Mazda has cursed it with the horrid name Activematic (which I'd prefer not to use any more if that's okay with you) it's really rather good.
The automatic gearbox itself is conventional - none of your fancy DSGs or CVTs or what have you here - but it shifts from one gear to another reasonably smoothly and allows the car to pull away from rest without any fuss. (You may think that last bit is a case of damning with faint praise, but it's not. Most semi-automatic transmissions do that particular job much less well.)
Round town the automatic suffers from the same problem as all other Mazda2s, namely that it's unnecessarily difficult to see out of. The actual act of driving it, though, is achieved very simply - partly because the steering is quite light - and that's just the way things should be in a car of this type.
On the open road it's less convincing, partly because the ride tends towards the jiggly. For that you can blame the relatively low-profile tyres which are included in the TS2 specification.
Longer drives on faster roads also emphasise the inevitable increase in fuel consumption, though in fact this isn't as alarming as it might be. The first thing to say about this is that the automatic 2 is available only with the 102bhp 1.5-litre petrol engine which is the most powerful in the range (and chosen, I assume, so that the auto can retain some semblance of performance). It's also the least economical, with a combined figure of 48.7mpg in versions with a manual gearbox.
It may be that the Mazda transmission is more efficient than other automatics, but for whatever reason it leads to a relatively small fuel consumption penalty, the combined figure in this case being 44.8mpg. According to the test car's trip computer I missed this by just over 10%, only just scraping over 40mpg; not a great result, but not a very bad one either, especially since it seems fair to assume that most buyers won't rack up a high mileage over the course of a year.
CO2 emissions are also close to those of the manual at 146g/km, making the automatic 2 just £15 more expensive to tax each year (£130 versus £115) than the 1.5-litre manual.
As well as being slow and uneconomical, automatics tend to be expensive to buy, but in fact this one is £880 cheaper than the admittedly better-equipped 1.5 manual Sport (there's no 1.5 manual TS2) an no less than £2390 cheaper than the 1.6 Sport diesel. That's another way in which the 2 automatic turns out to make more sense than a biased observer might at first believe.