It has become increasingly competitive as more British and European drivers have chosen to downsize their motoring needs in recent years and as a result sales have increased.
As those sales have risen so too have the standards within the market, as the cars boast better equipment, refinement and also value for money in terms of what they can offer customers.
That said, there are two ironies here. First, as superminis have improved they have become larger (the current VW Polo has been larger than the original Golf for some time now).
Second, just as in the class above, the rise of the crossover is slowly having an effect on sales of traditional supermini hatchbacks. So just where does that leave this latest refreshed Mazda 2?
We’ve always been fans of the Japanese fi rm’s baby ever since it arrived in 2015. Aside from the fact it was a likeable small car that seemed to remain true to the core values of a supermini rather than trying to pretend to be anything else, the Mazda 2 had a lot to like.
It was diminutive, fun to drive and it had an honest demeanour about it. All traits that would, ironically, equally describe Mazda’s MX5 sports car.
And while the latest changes to the Mazda 2 range are not what you might call extensive, they are present to keep it competitive in a sector that has suddenly become frenetic with the likes of the Citroen C3 and new Nissan Micra and VW Polo, none of which are exactly pushovers.
On the outside those changes are not easy to spot, with the majority of alterations being under the skin. Yet the range has been substantially simplified.
Gone is the diesel engine option (not a huge loss given the limited diesel sales at this level), while there is now just a choice of three 1.5-litre powerplants using Mazda’s Skyactiv engine technology.
On the road, without driving it immediately back to back with the old car, it’s hard to spot any major differences with how it performs. The 2 feels perhaps a little quieter and more refined on the road than before, with certainly less road and wind noise to make it competitive with its younger rivals.
The Mazda2 is holding its own in a market that is bursting with talent
Now there are also GT and GT Sport versions while there are subtle enhancements to improve the way the Mazda 2 drives and its refinement levels – although in truth there was little wrong with either previously.
Under the bonnet, the trio of engine options consist of 75bhp, 90bhp and 115bhp versions of Mazda’s 1.5-litre engine, with the mid-range model expected to be the biggest seller and the most powerful car available only in the GT Sport trim with a six-speed manual gearbox.
Certainly in terms of their on-paper performance, there isn’t that much between them with the 90bhp model capable of the 0-to-60mph sprint in 9.4 seconds and a 114mph top speed alongside 62.8mpg average fuel economy and 105g/km emissions (paradoxically better than the entry-level 75bhp model). By comparison the 115bhp manages the same sprint in 8.7 seconds while returning 56.5mpg and 117g/km emissions.
The ride quality could be a little less fidgety on rougher roads in the 115bhp GT Sport but it definitely feels more mature and well-rounded than before.
The only other downside is that the 1.5-litre engine can occasionally feel a little low on grunt lower down the rev range, rewarding being worked hard rather than the lazier nature of some of its smaller, turbocharged competition.
The Mazda 2 starts from £12,695
The good news comes when you turn on to a twisty B road. This was always the Mazda 2’s forte before and still is.
The Mazda 2 still remains one of the best small cars you can buy today
Those diminutive dimensions on the outside have led to a great feel on the inside and a car that is sharp to turn into corners and rewards the driver with more feedback than a car at this level perhaps has any right to.
Only perhaps a Suzuki Swift comes close to the same level of involvement and undoubted ability to put a smile on your face. As we said, much like the MX5, this is a car that feels like it has been engineered and produced by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, despite the fact that many 2s are likely to do nothing more taxing than short urban runs.
With little body roll through corners and a slick-changing six-speed gearbox, above all, this feels like a fun car to drive whether you are going five miles or 50. Again, that is a line you could easily write about the MX5.
Crucially though the 2 performs just as well when you are not in the mood. The ride on the GT Sport could be better and rival larger superminis are possibly more refi ned on longer journeys, but the downside would be losing that intimacy and sense of fun – the core of what the 2 does best.
That is reflected on the inside of the Mazda 2 as well. With the dials dominated by the rev counter with a digital speedo, it signals its sportier intentions and backs those up with a small head-up display and a great driving position aided by a height adjustable driver’s seat together with a steering wheel that adjusts for reach and height – something not always present on superminis.
The Mazda 2 goes from 0 to 60mph in 8.7 seconds
Good build quality and an infotainment system that is relatively intuitive and easy to use on the move, plus a decent amount of practical space and a deep boot, round out its more practical, everyday abilities.
With about 10,000 Mazda 2’s leaving British showrooms each year, there is no doubt this is a small car with plenty of appeal, even in a market that is not without an array of talent.
A crucial telltale though is that in percentage terms this is Mazda’s biggest selling model for retail sales: people parting with their own money as opposed to their company’s. As with many cars boasting a high level of retail sales, it reveals a car inherently right in terms of its overall appeal and the package it represents.
With these latest changes making a good car better than ever, the Mazda 2 still remains one of the best small cars you can buy today.
Model: Mazda 2
Price range: £12,695-£16,995
Engine range: Petrol – 1.5, 1.5 90bhp, 1.5-litre 115bhp
Power: 0 to 60mph in 8.7 seconds, 124mph top speed (115bhp)
Average fuel economy: 62.8mpg
CO2 emissions range: 105-117g/km
Rivals: Citroen C3, Nissan Micra, Suzuki Swift, VW Polo