Anthony Lewis and Chris Wright in Paris

The new Mazda2 small car will go on sale in the UK early next year and is scheduled to be produced in Europe.

Some 40,000 a year will be built in Spain at the Valencia factory owned by Mazda's parent company Ford.

Replacing the Demio, Mazda2 is the second of a new generation of cars from the Japanese carmaker and has been targeted at Europe with specific versions which differ from those sold in its home market in terms of colour and trim as well as powertrain and suspension configuration.

Four engine versions will be available when the car is launched in the UK around next March, 1.2, 1.4 and 1.6-litre petrol plus a 1.4-litre common rail diesel. As well as manual transmission there will also be the option of an innovative 'automated manual' gerarbox on the 1.4 petrol and diesel models.

Based on a functional 5-door layout, the Mazda2 features good interior space with easily adjustable seats and steering column for ease of access.

A new concave door trim increases elbow room and a high roof line can accommodate taller drivers.

While the Mazda shares its underpinnings with the Ford Fiesta, research and development chief Joseph Bakaj, promised a very different car to drive. "The body is all Mazda as is the ride and handling," he said.

"While we work together with Ford from an early stage on the platform we are very careful about the fine tuning, particularly in the areas of steering, braking, ride and handling."

Also on the stand at the Paris Motor Show was the MPS concept car, a high performance study based on the Mazda6, launched in the UK earlier this yea, powered by a 2.3-litre direct injection engine.

Mr Bakaj said: "We will be watching the reaction from the public very closely on this car. It is certainly a direction we would like to take the Mazda6, we are getting a lot of inquiries about whether we are going to make a high performance version."

Power from the 280bhp engine is transferred to the road through an electronically-controlled four-wheel-drive-system.

Published : 27/09/02 Author : Melanie Carter

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