Buyers in the small car class have a whole host of new cars to choose from at the moment. The all-new Mazda 2 is the latest, and follows shortly after the launch of the new Vauxhall Corsa and face-lifted VW Polo.
The Mazda 2 is the fourth car in the company's range to get the Skyactiv fuel-saving engine technology, previously seen on the CX-5, 6 and 3. This means the Mazda 2 is up there with the class best for fuel efficiency, with CO2 emissions starting at 89g/km for the diesel and 105g/km for the petrol.
What's the 2015 Mazda 2 like to drive?
The previous Mazda 2 was let down by its harsh ride and poor refinement, but this all-new model looks to address both of those issues – and it does so relatively successfully.
Although there weren't many poor roads on our test route in Spain, the 2 coped well with the occasional pothole and imperfection. The ride is still relatively firm, but changes to the front and rear suspension and the increased body rigidity mean that bumps don't crash through the cabin.
The new 2 is much quieter than its predecessor, too. Yes, there's a fair amount of wind noise from around the door mirrors at motorway speeds, but the engines – especially the diesel – are remarkably hushed.
The diesel versions has 104bhp, and it's the headline-grabber as far as emissions are concerned, with a CO2 output of just 89g/km. That's up there with the current best in the diesel supermini class, including the VW Polo and the Renault Clio. It's obviously tuned for economy, because it feels slightly ponderous at lower speeds despite an official 0-62mph time of 10.1 seconds.
There's also a 1.5-litre petrol engine, available in three different power outputs (74bhp, 89bhp and 113bhp). The 89bhp version is expected to be the best-seller in the UK, and it's the most efficient, with CO2 emissions of 105g/km when paired with the standard five-speed manual gearbox.
It's a sprightly engine, although isn't turbocharged, so if you do want to accelerate quickly you'll need to keep the revs high. Based on our experience with the engine, the lower-powered 74bhp version is likely to feel a bit sluggish.
The handling is safe and dependable, making the new 2 closer in character to the VW Polo, rather than more entertaining Ford Fiesta. The 2's steering is accurate and consistent, and the body stays largely stable around corners.
What's the 2015 Mazda 2 like inside?
Go for a high-level trim like the test cars we tried, and you'll get a cabin that looks great. The dashboard looks a lot cleaner and less cluttered than many rivals', for example, with round Audi-style air vents.
The soft-touch fabrics on the dash also feel surprisingly classy, although even allowing for the fact that this was a pre-production car, some other bits of the interior feel rather cheap, particularly the area around the USB socket in front of the gear lever, and the carbonfibre-effect plastics on the inside of the doors.
At least it's easy to get comfortable behind the wheel, with huge amounts of adjustment in the steering wheel and, in particular, the driver's seat. The seats are also very supportive, and while head- and legroom weren't great in the previous 2, this new version has enough space for four six-footers.
Sadly, the boot isn't so impressive. For outright capacity, it matches the VW Polo at 280 litres, but it's marginally smaller than the Fiesta's (290 litres) and the Renault Clio's (300 litres).
Fold down the rear seats, and that space grows to 950 litres, which is less room than you get in all three main rivals. There's no adjustable boot floor, either, and there's a large step in extended load bay.
What's more, although Mazda says the boot opening is wider and squarer than before, it's still not the largest of apertures, and there's a high lip to lift stuff over.
Mazda won't confirm final specification and prices until closer to the 2's launch next year, but it has said that even the basic cars in the UK will get the seven-inch screen you can see in our test car. It can be operated as a touch-screen when the car is stationary, or by using a rotary dial when you're on the move.
It is a similar system to that in the Mazda 3, so isn't as intuitive as the system in the latest VW Polo. It does, however, allow you to download an app (from Apple or Android stores) that allows you to run internet radio, sat-nav, and social media apps through the system. Top-level cars will also get a head-up display.
The level of safety equipment on offer in the 2 is also very impressive, with a blind-spot warning system, lane departure warning, a city-brake system, and automatic headlight to be offered.
Should I buy one?
It's tricky to give a definitive answer to this without knowing how much the new Mazda 2 is going to cost. Prices look set to range from £12,000 to £18,000, which means the 2 is likely to be more expensive than many of its rivals, so it'll need to come well equipped.
However, assuming that's the case, it has the attributes to take on the very best small cars – it's good to drive, smart inside and competitive on CO2 emissions and fuel economy. For now it gets four stars, but the pricing could change that rating.
What Car? says...
Mazda 2 1.5 Skyactiv-G
Engine size 1.5-litre petrol
Price from £13,000 (est.
Torque 109lb ft
0-62mph 9.4 seconds
Top speed 114mph
Fuel economy 62.8mpg
Mazda 2 1.5 Skyactiv-D
Engine size 1.5-litre diesel
Price from £15,000 (est.)
Torque 162lb ft
0-62mph 10.1 seconds
Top speed 111mph
Fuel economy 83.1mpg