What stands out?

The Mazda 2 looks good, feels nice inside, and is more fun to drive than most city cars. Its 1.5-litre engine is very easy on fuel, and delivers plenty of power. Auto braking is standard, on both the hatch and the sedan.

What might bug me?

Not much – the spare tyre is a space saver, and its 80km/h recommended top speed could bother you if you get a flat far from home. But for a car intended mainly for city use, it’s a defensible choice because it frees up some boot space.

What body styles are there?

Five-door hatchback and four-door sedan.

The Mazda2 drives its front wheels, and it is classed as a light car, lower priced.

What features do all Mazda 2s have?

Full colour touchscreen displaying Mazda’s MZD Connect infotainment system that’s easily controlled with a dial on the centre console.

Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone mirroring, AM/FM/digital (DAB+) radio, Aux and USB inputs, Bluetooth connectivity for phone calls and audio streaming, and audio system with least six speakers.

Reversing camera and rear parking sensors

Cruise control, power windows, air-conditioning, keyless entry and push-button start.

Leather-wrapped gear shift knob, handbrake handle and steering wheel.

Buttons on the steering wheel for operating the cruise control, the sound system, and your phone.

Hill launch assist, which helps you start on an uphill slope by controlling the brakes automatically.

G-Vectoring Control, a Mazda technology that makes the car respond more consistently to the steering wheel.

City-speed autonomous emergency braking (Mazda calls this Smart City Brake Support – Forward), blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist.

Six airbags. Electronic stability control, which can help you control a skidding car and is mandatory on new cars. (For the placement of airbags, and for more on Mazda2 safety systems, please open the Safety section below.)

Every Mazda2 carries a five-year, unlimited kilometre warranty.

Which engine uses least fuel, and why wouldn't I choose it?

The Mazda 2 is only available with a 1.5-litre petrol four-cylinder petrol engine that consumes as little as 4.9 litres/100km with the six-speed manual gearbox or 5.4 litres/100km with the six-speed automatic transmission, based on official test figures.

The engine has a fuel-saving feature that allows it to shut down automatically when the car stops, and start again when you take your foot off the brake to drive away.

The manual gearbox is only available with the cheaper G15 Pure hatch and sedan versions.

The G15 in each variant name reflects the 1.5-litre engine size as part of Mazda’s new naming convention.

What key features do I get if I spend more?

The least costly Mazda 2 is the G15 Pure, which replaced the old Maxx spec and comes with cloth seats, 15-inch aluminium alloy wheels, and the features in all Mazda 2s. It is available as a hatch or sedan, which each costing the same, and comes standard with the manual gearbox. The automatic transmission costs about $2000 extra.

Spend more for a Mazda G15 Evolve and you get the automatic transmission as standard, a head-up display that shows your speed and other driving information on the windscreen at eye level, and traffic sign recognition to help you keep track of the speed limit.

The Evolve also has climate controlled air-conditioning that lets you set a temperature, and LED daytime running lights, inbuilt satellite navigation, shark fin antenna, rain-sensing windscreen wipers.

The Evolve is only available as a hatchback.

The most expensive Mazda 2, the G15 GT has hatch and sedan versions, and gains adaptive cruise control, 360-degree parking monitor, seats trimmed with leather and synthetic suede, front parking sensors and advanced keyless entry that lets you unlock the car without having to take your key out of your pocket or bag.

Does any upgrade have a down side?

The Evolve and GT versions aren’t available with a six-speed manual version, which is more affordable and quite fun to drive.

The Evolve isn’t available with a sedan version that offers a bigger boot than the hatch.

Wheels on the Evolve and GT can’t turn as far left and right inside the wheel arches as the smaller wheels on the lower-spec models, which extends their minimum turning circles by about half a metre.

Five colours are available standard, three more, Soul Red Metallic, Poly Metal Grey Metallic and Machine Grey Metallic, cost about $500 extra.

How comfortable is the Mazda 2?

Elegant design, high-quality plastics and pleasantly tactile controls bring a sense of maturity to the Mazda 2 that is found in few other cars of this size or price.

Front seats provide good support for drives of up to two hours, and the driving position is comfortable – thanks in part to the tilt and reach adjustable steering column.

Tyre noise is a long-time Mazda bugbear. The 2 marked a big improvement when launched, but was not as quiet as the refinement benchmark for the class, the Volkswagen Polo. The tyre roar is most noticeable on coarse-surface country roads – in the city, it’s not such a problem. Mazda added insulation for the update of April 2017, which has helped.

In contrast, the Mazda’s ability to isolate its occupants from a bumpy road surface places it among the most comfortable light cars at open-road speeds.

The Mazda 2 is measured in its steering response. The initial turn of the wheel brings a smooth change of direction – a pleasant change from the previous-generation car’s over-eagerness. Similarly, the car responds progressively to the accelerator and brake pedals.

What about safety in a Mazda 2?

Every Mazda 2 has an autonomous emergency-braking system that Mazda calls Smart City Brake Support – Forward. It relies on a laser sensor and is effective at speeds below 30km/h. If the sensor detects a looming obstacle – typically another car that has slowed suddenly – the car will warn you of the risk, and if necessary apply the brakes automatically. The idea is to save you the indignity, expense, and injury risk, of low-speed.

The Mazda 2 also has a host of additional active safety currently features found in few of its rivals including blind-spot monitoring, rear-cross traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist.

Blind-spot monitoring uses rear-facing radars to detect and warn you of vehicles lurking near your rear corners, which might not appear in your mirrors. Rear-cross traffic alert also looks behind you when you are reversing – say from a driveway or shopping-centre parking space – and lets you know if another vehicle is about to cross behind you.

The most expensive Mazda 2, the G15 GT has adaptive cruise control that uses a radar to help it match the speed of the car in front up to a selected speed and help maintain a safe distance.

Other safety features include stability control that’s mandatory in all new cars, rear parking sensors, seatbelt reminders for all seats, six airbags, and city-speed auto emergency braking – a broadly based safety package that stands out among cars of this size and price.

Thin, well located A-pillars (those either side of the windscreen) afford good vision for tight corners and roundabouts, increasing primary safety – with help from exterior mirrors that are mounted on the doors rather than in the corners of the windows.

The airbags are in the usual places, offering more side protection in the front than in the rear. There are two airbags directly in front of the driver and front passenger; one outside each front seat to protect front occupants from side impacts at chest level; and curtain airbags extending down each side that protect front and rear occupants from side impacts at head level.

The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Mazda2 hatch and sedan five stars for safety, its maximum, in September 2015.

I like driving - will I enjoy this car?

Yes. The Mazda 2 is among the best light car choices for buyers who enjoy their driving. Hatchback and sedan drive like more grown-up cars with good reason: their chassis is a revised version of that found beneath the larger Mazda3.

The Mazda 2 inspires confidence and is fun to thread along a favourite country road. Responsiveness and feedback from the steering increase as you turn the wheel further into a corner.

Mazda 2s on sale since an update of April 2017 benefit from mildly modified suspension aimed at helping the car ride and corner more steadily. In addition they gained Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control, which manipulates the engine imperceptibly when you turn the steering wheel - transferring weight to the front tyres in a way that is said to improve feel and response from the steering.

Even the lower powered, ‘standard-spec’ engine is energetic. It sounds good too, and is fun to rev on the open road.

The Mazda 2’s automatic gearbox chooses the right gear decisively. And the manual gearbox is one of the best at this price level: it is smooth and satisfying to operate.

How is life in the rear seats?

The bench rear seat offers good shoulder and leg room for two, and a comfortable cushion. On the negative side, a rising window line and large front headrests limit vision, which might be a factor for children.

The seat can carry three passengers, with lap and sash belts for all. Squeezing three adults across the back of a Mazda 2 – or any light car – is a recipe for discomfort over the long haul. However, it’s handy to be able to do so for short trips.

How is it for carrying stuff?

The Mazda 2 hatchback, although small, is quite good at swallowing cargo. The boot aperture is smaller than those of some alternatives, however. Mazda quotes cargo capacity at 250 litres with the 60/40 folding seatbacks upright.

The Mazda 2 Sedan has significantly more boot space at 440 litres.

Where is the Mazda 2 made?

The Japanese-designed Mazda 2 is manufactured in the brand’s Rayong, Thailand, plant.

What might I miss that similar cars have?

Turbocharged light cars such as the Renault Clio and Volkswagen Polo respond more eagerly to the accelerator pedal – particularly from low speeds.

Other light cars worth considering include the Honda Jazz, Suzuki Swift, Peugeot 208, and Hyundai Accent.

I like this car, but I can't choose which version. Can you help?

Sure. The cheapest Mazda 2, the G15 Pure, in either hatch or sedan, is our pick of the line-up. Both body styles bring desirable features such as alloy wheels, active safety features and excellent infotainment and it’s the only version available with a choice of manual or automatic transmission.

If you’re sold on an automatic hatchback, the Evolve brings some desirable extras, such as head-up display and climate control air-conditioning, for just $1500 more

Are there plans to update the Mazda 2 soon?

This third-generation Mazda 2 arrived in late 2014 as a hatchback, and a sedan was added in late August 2015. With the arrival of the sedan, cruise control was added to Neo versions of both body styles, and Maxx and Genki models gained reversing cameras.

A more comprehensive update arrived in April 2017, dropping the CD player but bringing Mazda’s G-Vectoring Control to enhance cornering, and making auto-braking standard (it had been optional). Blind-spot monitoring and Rear cross-traffic alert were added at the Genki and new GT trim level.

In December 2019 Mazda gave the Mazda 2 a slight facelift and trimmed down the range to just three specification grades. The entry-level Neo spec was deleted with the Maxx, Genki and GT renamed the G15 Pure, G15 Evolve and G15 GT respectively to be in-line with the brand’s latest nomenclature introduced in the new Mazda 3.

An all-new Mazda 2 is not expected before 2021.