What really sets the scene, though, is the five-speed manual ’box. Whereas the Fabia’s gearlever lolls about like a newborn baby’s leg, the 2’s engages with a satisfyingly short-throw swish-clunk. Moving away isn’t quite so effortless, but there’s a big-car sense of everything working with purposeful, precisely machined seriousness.
That said, in town, there isn’t much to choose between them. The praise we’ve heaped on each model elsewhere doesn’t dissipate when they’re driven back to back around a one-way system.
All have the standard supermini exam cracked: easy to drive, moderately quiet, comfortable – tick, tick, tick. It’s much the same news on the motorway, too. All tackle outside-lane speeds without complaint and none steers without a confidence-inspiring sense of straight-line stability.
This speaks to the costly development and the quality of tuning applied with a ladle by each manufacturer. If you were looking for a dud among the three to cross off your shopping list, there simply isn’t one here – and should your requirements of a supermini be limited to urban driving and/or motorway commuting, you could do worse than merely pick the one you most like the look of.
However, our idea of roundedness – and yours, too, no doubt – includes roads and speeds and expectations somewhere between 30mph and 70mph, where the differences between the three are more telling.
Here, to begin with, on a goodly length of B-road, the Fiesta threatens to do what it has done countless times before: skewer the opposition on the pointy end of its handling finesse.
To spare you some suspense, the jaunty, oily and symbiotic relationship that Ford succeeds in fostering between the steering wheel and the front tyres is, again, unrivalled. Nor, incredibly, do the Fabia or 2 quite equal the tactfulness of its ride quality. Years of tinkering have left the Fiesta with an isolating layer of spring and damper blubber that no bump I hit ever once threatened to pierce. The accompanying hush that descends on its running gear is almost eerie.
But, for once, it doesn’t now have it all its own way. As assuredly as its rivals radiate newness from the cabin, so, too, do they exude it from their bone structure.
Both are discernibly more rigid than the venerable Fiesta. Whereas the Ford’s body still has an old-fashioned tendency to loll about over open ground, the Mazda and Skoda settle almost immediately.
Read the 2015 Mazda 2 review
The Fabia, on 16in wheels, has a bit more bite but never lets its convenient theme slip for one second. Its easily managed control surfaces and the most polished drivetrain of the three make it endlessly breezy and supremely manageable – as if driving it were as much an unconscious act as breathing.
Only by pushing that bit harder can you reduce the Skoda’s amenability to the sum of its parts. Grip, accuracy and predictability it has in spades, yet no amount of speed makes them combine in a way you’d call involving or gratifying. The components that make up the 2, on the other hand, combine splendidly at pace.
Mazda is fond of talking about the shared experience of a horse and its rider when characterising its reached-for chassis dynamic and, for once, the 2 goes some way to justifying the description. It really is very easy to put almost no effort in at all and still find yourself sweeping from corner to corner in an appreciative haze, requesting (and getting) a wonderfully nuanced response from the steering and pedals and the mechanicals behind them.