Buyers of the Mazda 2 have a choice of three petrols - in 74bhp, 89bhp and 113bhp form - or a 104bhp turbocharged diesel engine, all coming in 1.5-litre capacity.
That diesel engine is a little bit gravelly under initial throttle applications, but settles to a remarkably hushed cruise that really distinguishes the car.
Throttle response is relatively soft, but torque comes on strongly between 2000rpm and 3000rpm, making the car feel quite brisk pulling through third and fourth gears. Pulling 39mph per 1000rpm in top, the Mazda 2 diesel has longer cruising legs than most diesel hatchbacks from one or two market segments above.
The range-topping 113bhp petrol variant goads you to rev it to access the performance, making it entertaining if you can keep the momentum going. But it's also a smooth, relaxing machine at lower revs, too. The claimed 0-62mph dash is 8.7sec and the 2 in this guise feels every bit as quick as that.
Standing-start acceleration isn’t the obvious starting point when testing the mid-range version, but the 2 has earned a reputation as an athlete among shopper hatchbacks, and this new one makes promises in a similar vein.
Mazda claims a 0-62mph dash of 9.4sec for the mid-range petrol version. If it really were that quick, it’d command a remarkable 2.5sec lead over most of its competition. It isn’t, although it’s still one of the peppiest cars of its ilk. Our mid-spec test car still managed a one-way 10.3sec clocking to 62mph in dry, fairly warm conditions.
On bigger rims, it might very well have nipped under 10.0sec on the perfect run. And although that’s not quite as sprightly as Mazda claims, it’s considerably faster than similarly powerful versions of the Skoda Fabia and Hyundai i20 have recorded for us in recent months.
The 1.5-litre engine’s willingness to rev is the key to its success here. Pulling fairly vociferously but sweetly from 4000rpm to more than 6500rpm, the engine makes performance feel zesty and fairly forceful in the lower gears.
In the lower half of the rev range, the motor has less to recommend it, with some unevenness and a few apparent flat spots to the power delivery. And you feel them all the more in fourth and fifth gears, which are very tall. But the Mazda carries the penalties of long ratios and questionable low-range tractability well, simply by making swapping cogs a pleasurable process.