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Mazda is revving up for a very busy year, kicking off with the arrival of the new Mazda2, it is a slickly styled and chic-looking supermini rival for Ford's Fiesta. The diesel versions, emitting a low 89g/km of CO2, are the most efficient models in the mini-Mazda range. This is a car with driving behaviour that matches its crisply honed design. Performance is reasonably brisk for a modestly sized hatchback, with a standing start sprint time at around 10 seconds.
There is a decent amount of pull through the gears, and the six-speed manual gearbox has a smooth, precise action that gives it a very agreeable feel as you snick through the ratios. Steering feel is quite direct and informative, better than that of some rivals. The car behaves commendably on a motorway cruise, but that is not its best environment. Show the Mazda2 a curvy country road, and it is in its element. It handles with an eager verve that gives it a feeling of poise and purpose through the bends. It tucks in nicely, is taut and tidy, with good body control and only minimal roll on the tighter corners.
From the outside the car looks good, with sculpted curves in what Mazda calls its 'Kodo' design language. We can't be quite so complimentary about the Mazda2's cabin. It looks nice enough at first glance, with an elegant dashboard architecture, but some of the switches are located quite low down, and there is rather a lot of budget-looking plastic cladding the principal surfaces.
There are some pliant, squeezable materials to posh things up a bit, but even in the higher spec versions they are relatively sparse. The interior isn't too bad for space, with good enough headroom for a tall driver and passengers. It's a bit more of a squash for kneeroom in the back, feeling on the tight side with five on board for any longer trips. The boot space, at 280 litres, is only about average for the class, and 10 litres less than a Fiesta's, for example.
Trim levels for diesel versions start with the mid-range SE-L to Sport Nav at the top end. Standard kit on all derv models includes air conditioning, a seven-inch touchscreen, Bluetooth mobile phone connectivity, cruise control, electric windows all round, front fog lights, 15-inch alloy wheels and DAB digital radio, as well as six airbags, a lane departure warning system and autonomous emergency braking. SE-L Nav models also include satellite navigation with three years' worth of updates. Sport versions add rear privacy glass, automatic headlights, a rain sensor, larger 16-inch alloy wheels, climate control, keyless entry and rear parking sensors, while this flagship Sport Nav edition also features satellite navigation, as well as full-LED headlights and daytime running lights.
The new Mazda 2 is a smart looking and thoroughly likeable small hatchback with very good driving dynamics. It is more fun to drive than most rivals, and feels pretty much on a par with the highly-regarded Fiesta. It isn't the best for interior quality or space, but it is well worth including on the must-see list for anyone considering a car this size.

Model tested 1.5 SE-L Nav Diesel
Price £16,395
Made in Hoofu, Japan
Configuration 5-door hatchback, 5-seats, front-wheel-drive
Drivetrain 1499cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbocharged diesel with stop-start
Transmission 6-speed manual
Power output 103bhp @ 4,000rpm
Maximum torque 162lb ft @ 1,400-3,200rpm
Top speed/0-62mph 111mph/10.1 secs
CO2 emissions (tax band) 89g/km (A) Euro 6
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) 74.3/88.3/83.1mpg
Fuel tank size/range 44 litres/804 miles
Insurance group/BIK rate 15/14%
Size (length/width without mirrors) 4,060/1,695mm
Boot space (minimum/maximum) 280/950 litres
Kerb/max towing weight 1,115/900kg

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