The previous Mazda 2 probably deserved more attention than it got in the UK, even if it was because it was ahuge improvement on the boxy first generation. The supermini segment is a tough nut to crack, but being good to drive, decently practical and very pretty really ought to be enough.

But, much like being William Baldwin when Alec is available, the 2 turned out not to be the sibling people wanted. Instead, the Ford Fiesta, with the same co-developed platform and similar body, reaped all the glory, becoming Britain’s most popular car and the long-term class leader.

Now there’s a new-generation 2, its transformation symbolic of Mazda’s maverick choice of direction since its partnership with Ford came to an end in 2008. Mazda makes much of this 2’s Skyactiv technology and Kodo styling, unfortunate jargon that actually signifies plenty.

The Skyactiv philosophy – Mazda’s umbrella term for reducing the kerb weight and sourcing greater powertrain efficiency – has been instrumental in the new 2’s development. Mazda claims that it “aimed to shatter all notions of the class” when it came to remake the 2, which is its way of saying that the model, like many of its rivals, has been scaled up and moved upmarket.

Consequently, it is a little bigger. The new platform, shared with the CX-3, upgrades the 2 from dinky runaround to a more substantial-looking five-door hatch. The three-door version is no more. Mazda also says the refinement, handling and equipment have all been enhanced.

Buyers choose from either petrol or diesel versions of the Skyactiv 1.5-litre four-cylinder engine and, in the UK, from a trim line-up that starts at £12,495 for an SE and ends at £17,395 for a diesel Sport Nav.

We’ve stayed faithful to the middle and tested a mid-range petrol SE-L Nav, which, at £13,995, probably represents the 2’s best chance of finally putting its sibling rivalry to bed.

Top 5 Superminis

  • Ford Fiesta
    Fiestas sold in Europe are ostensibly the same as those sold in America and Asia

    Ford Fiesta

    1
  • Mini Cooper 5-door hatch

    Mini 5-door hatch

    2
  • The Mazda 2
    The Mazda 2 name dates back to 2002. This latest version showcases the firm's Skyactiv technology and 'Kodo' styling

    Mazda 2

    3
  • Volkswagen Polo

    Volkswagen Polo

    4
  • Renault Clio
    Distinctive styling details are taken from the showstopping Renault Dezir concept car

    Renault Clio

    5

First drives

Find an Autocar car review

Driven this week

  • Lamborghini Aventador S
    First Drive
    21 January 2017
    Is an upgrade to 730bhp and the addition of four-wheel steering enough to realise the Aventador's potential?
  • Ford Focus RS Mountune FPM375
    First Drive
    20 January 2017
    Does an official Mountune upgrade of 25bhp and 30lb ft, improve the already rampant and rather magnificent Ford Focus RS?
  • Audi S5 Sportback
    First Drive
    19 January 2017
    The Audi S5 Sportback is more bruising GT than practical sports car, but it makes sense for those wanting a fast executive saloon in coupé get-up
  • First Drive
    18 January 2017
    Despite receiving a cosmetic and mechanical refresh, Lexus's compact executive saloon still fails to provide much driving involvement
  • 2017 Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV 5h review
    First Drive
    18 January 2017
    Big-selling plug-in SUV gets a light refresh in the face of new challengers to offer decent economy but only average driving dynamics