Mazda2 1.5 105ps

Sport Nav Diesel

Mazda2, front static
Mazda2, rear static
Mazda2, side static
Mazda2, above with boats
Mazda2, dashboard
Mazda2, boot
Mazda2, rear seats
Mazda2, trip reading

SOMETIMES less is more, simpler is better, and a stop at Knutsford services on the M6 proved the point.

Or rather, a lingering glance at the fuel economy readout of this Mazda2 made the point.

It read 88mpg, the sort of stratospheric economy you might hope for from an expensive coming together of electric motors and a raft of batteries.

But the Mazda has nothing to do with electric drive, thank you. No, in the case of this particular Mazda2 a simple diesel does the work and produces the sort of economy you have to experience to believe.

Well, not that simple, actually. For starters it is a 1.5 litre diesel, which sounds much too big for such a modestly sized car. Ah, but that's the point; with so little metal to move it can relax and take things (relatively) easy.

Then - and please excuse the technical bit that follows - Mazda has given the new engine the lowest compression ratio of any diesel fitted to a current car. That helps it rev harder than usual and combined with measures to warm it up quickly translate to a power unit that meets the strict new tailpipe emissions limits without the fiddly exhaust injection systems of many rivals.

Actually, the 88mpg was achieved on the sort of run economy minded drivers dream about - keeping to a pretty constant speed on the motorway.

And this motorway (surprise, surprise) was flowing at an economy flattering 40mph on a busy Sunday evening. The air con was turned off too, although you hardly noticed on a cool autumn afternoon.

So what did the little Mazda manage in more representative driving, with air con on and crowded towns and empty outside lanes doing best to drag things down? How about 74mpg? And that, really, is a figure any modestly careful driver might hope for in day-to-day running.

There has got to be a downside, I hear you say. Well, you have to pay for this remarkable economy with a car that costs £700 more than a faster, petrol powered equivalent. But ditching the diesel brings the official average economy down from 83mpg to 56mpg, so you can do the sums if you feel in accountant mode.

Simply put, a big mileage user is going to see savings pretty quickly by taking the diesel route, helped by zero road tax, even if the diesel's emissions no longer qualify for free entry to the London congestion zone.

It gets better, for the diesel Mazda2 is a fine car to drive, with enough power for safe overtaking and an engine that is as smooth and refined as diesels get at this end of the car market.

Special praise goes to a gearchange that might have been lifted from the sporty MX-5, such is its snick-snick precision.

It feels sporty on corners too, with suspension that turns a bit firm on bad roads but gives the car a nicely poised feel on anything else. Steering and brakes pass without comment, which means they're both fine.

There is plenty of room up front, where driver and front seat passenger face a dash that looks restrained and stylish and is equipped with dials instead of the increasingly popular touch screen for heating and radio controls. They are so much simpler to use, so thank you Mazda for bucking a trend.

Not much room in the rear, though, for a couple of strapping adults, although their luggage will fit in a boot that's moderately sized but regularly shaped.

As befits a top spec model, this Mazda2 comes dripping with kit, from a clear sat nav system (that went to sleep a couple of times, but woke itself up again) to climate control, DAB and Bluetooth (with the speediest link to my mobile phone yet) and remote central locking and cruise control.

But it's that extraordinary fuel economy that will linger longest in the mind. There is much life left in diesels, if Mazda has a say.

FAST FACTS

Mazda2 1.5 105ps Sport Nav Diesel

Price: £17,395

Mechanical: 104 bhp, 1,499cc, 4-cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-spd manual gearbox

Max Speed: 111 mph

0-62mph: 10.1 secs

Combined MPG: 83.1

Insurance Group:16

C02 emissions:88 g/km

Bik rating: 15%

Warranty: 3yrs/60,000 miles

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