Cars: How Mazda2 kept me on straight and narrow
Small car teaches a big lesson
We wander around a lot when we're driving, you know. Have you noticed how other drivers find it hard to keep between the lines sometimes?
It's never us is it? Always the other guy/girl. I certainly didn't think I was an offender. However, I've had to revise that opinion and, I hope, improve after my latest test drive.
I've driven several cars before with what they call Lane Departure Warning. It has become almost a ritual now for auto makers to include it as part of their optional 'technology packs' at launches.
Essentially it detects when you're close to drifting over the lane line and, depending on make and model, it beams up a warning on the dash, beeps or in some cases tries to steer you back.
It doesn't do any of those if you are indicating because it reckons you intend changing lanes anyway. Makes sense.
It is ingenious but, honestly, I'd come to take no notice much. Until I drove this week's test car, the Mazda2 supermini.
Merciful God, it kicked up an awful row. First time I threatened to stray, I thought I'd gone on to a rumble strip with megaphones. Got a right fright. Second time, I thought there was something wrong with the car. Third time, I knew.
The good thing about it was that I hadn't, in reality, crossed the broken white lines. I was just getting too near for comfort, according to the system's calculations.
So it emitted a noise resembling something between a flat tyre and manic snare-drum thudding. Most unpleasant.
The daughters were disgusted. They said they couldn't live with that. I'm not sure I could either.
But that's a good thing, you see, because if it was in my car, and I was driving every day, I would be far better at keeping on the straight and narrow. Anything bar the drum roll. Indeed, by the time my drives were complete, the alerts were far and few between. In other words, I'd become less of a drifter.
It just goes to show how your driving can be influenced. It also highlights how quickly cars are developing that the likes of the '2' - it's a supermini in the Fiesta, Polo, Yaris, Fabia, i20 class - and others of its ilk have it. Important to remember, however, it is not standard on the Mazda's two lower grades.
I had the high-spec GT version which costs €19,495, a stiff enough price for a supermini but that's the market for you now.
The GT badging meant it had stitched leather as an insert on the dash, for example, and stylish bits and pieces around the cabin. Bit ostentatious to be honest, though.
It is a smart car to look at, inside and out, and roomier than I remembered. However, I wasn't impressed with some of the final touches, especially the poorly finished bottom-of-front-seat plastic wraparound.
And I know I talk too much about engines when all most people want is a decent little machine but the 1.5-litre petrol (90bhp) in this ran out of (extremely moderate) puff early in fourth and fifth gears. When I drove it abroad, I thought it much peppier.
A couple of other things I noticed again; I really had to stretch to close my door - it swings a long way out and the little dip to let you open the boot could hold rain if you park on a slope. Small things but worth noting.
On the bigger canvas: the 5spd gear-change was excellent and the stop/start system is standard. It was a perfectly fine little drive, comfortably and easy around town and through the winding country roads of Kildare, Laois and Wicklow. I have the impression that, like many Mazdas before it, the '2' will be around for a long time; they do tend to last the pace.
In many ways it is a bit like the lane departure alert in that it keeps very much within the genre. It doesn't break moulds or cross lines and isn't madly exciting - but it never strays far from being a fine little supermini.
Facts & figures
Mazda2 5dr supermini, GT trim, 1.5-litre petrol, 90bhp, 5spd manual, 105g/km, €190 road tax, test car 5.1/100km.
Test car (GT trim) had Lane Departure Warning, 16ins alloys, front fogs, LED day-time running lights, auto air con, several airbags, 7ins touchscreen display, DAB radio, CD, AUX, USB port, six speakers, Bluetooth, electric/folding mirrors, rain/light sensors, two ISOFX brackets in rear seats. Satnav an option.
Prices start at €15,995 for the 75bhp SE. The GT tested costs €19,495. Delivery/related charges are extra.
My side of the road
We really need more places to pull in for a rest or break on our motorways/dual carriageways. So few really. So many drivers risking a lot with tiredness as the kilometres slip by.
With this weather, with strong sun glare, it is easy to nod off or lose concentration on long journeys. Give yourself a break. Get off the road for half an hour's rest. You'll return a safer driver.