Mazda first out of blocks as Skoda and Smart join offensive in battle for small car market

New 2, Fabia and ForTwo revealed

Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 01:00

Like buses, you wait ages for a significant new small car to come along and then three show up at once. Mazda, Skoda and Smart have all launched, or at least partially revealed, their new small challengers this week, with Mazda first out of the blocks with the new 2.

Based very closely on the Hazumi concept car that we saw in Geneva this year (exceptionally closely in fact – all that separates concept from production appears to be wheels and wing mirrors) the 2 is a striking looking small car that will be the debut model for Mazda’s crucial new 1.5-litre SKYACTIV diesel engine. Based on the existing 2.2-litre diesel already in use in the 3, 6 and CX-5, the new compact unit will be crucial to building Mazda’s sales in Europe and will hopefully erase some of the doubts expressed over the real-world fuel consumption of its larger brother. It will also be available with the 1.5-litre petrol SKYACTIV-G engine and, says Mazda “gets the company’s innovative MZD Connect in-car connectivity system, a class-beating range of i-ACTIVSENSE active safety technology and a remarkably spacious and refined interior”.

Not to be outdone, Skoda has revealed the first sketch of the new Fabia, due to land in dealers later this year. If the styling seems evolutionary (slightly more sharp-edged than before, but recognisably a Fabia), then so too is the engineering – the new Fabia will continue to use the same basic underpinnings as the current model despite that chassis dating back to the early 2000s. The core engine range, like that of the updated VW Polo, will revolve around a family of naturally aspirated and turbocharged 1.0-litre petrol units.

Finally, there’s the new Smart ForTwo and ForFour. Smart has been a trickling drain on Mercedes-Benz’s resources since its launch, consistently failing to rack up significant sales and losing as much as €3 billion. Merc is now hoping that a new two-seat ForTwo and a ForFour that shares its structure (and factory) with the new Renault Twingo will finally boost sales to competitive levels. “Forecasts expect the microcar market to grow to about one million vehicles by 2020, up 38 per cent from today, and we definitely want to grab a significant piece of this growing pie,” said Mercedes boss Deiter Zetsche. Both use either a 71hp naturally-aspirated 1.0-litre engine or a 90hp turbocharged 900cc unit, mounted in the back and powering the rear wheels. For the first time ever on a Smart, a manual gearbox will be offered. There won’t be a diesel option but an all-electric version is, once again, in the works.