THE last rock between us and America is an unusual place to go for a drive.
After all, it's surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and 1,000 miles away from anything.
But go to the trouble of escaping to the Azores and some of the most spectacular roads in the world lie ahead.
The tiny archipelago sits a third of the way across the Atlantic on a line between Lisbon and New York and the place Mazda chose for the latest in its series of Epic Drives - this time to show off the revamped Mazda2 supermini.
Priced from Â£12,695 Mazda's alternative to the likes of the Ford Fiesta has just been refreshed with improved sound insulation, some tweaks to the suspension and better quality upholstery.
More significant is the introduction of Mazda's G-Vectoring system which improves the driving characteristics considerably.
There are also some GT models joining the line up and they deliver plenty of fun as demonstrated during a circumnavigation of Sao Miguel - the largest of the nine islands that make up Macroanesia as the volcanic outcrops in the Atlantic are more properly known.
Some 40 miles long but only 10 miles at its widest, Sao Miguel is home to almost half of the quarter of a million people who inhabit the Azores.
Ponta Delgada towards the south westerly end of the island is the main city and home to the international air and sea port, the latter featuring on many a cruise ship's itinerary.
Born out of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago the Azores sit on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge - the junction of the three tectonic plates of North America, Africa and Europe.
In reality, the islands are the summits of a vast submarine mountain range that is 12,000 feet high with the peaks jutting some 3,000 feet out of the ocean.
Despite their potential geological volatility, the Azores are relatively stable although still a volcanic hotspot.
Towards the eastern end of Sao Miguel sulphur springs spew steam into the air. The last eruption was recorded underwater in the western parts of the region in 2000, two years after an earthquake measuring 5.6 on the Richter scale shook the area.
What the epochs of vulcanicity have created is a fantastically varied landscape ranging from water filled calderas in the western parts of Sao Miguel to a backbone of mountains that stretch to the east.
In the middle is a saddle of fertile pasture that allows Sao Miguel to support cattle as well as crops and beautiful sub-tropical vegetation in a climate that is a British summer all year round.
Average temperatures are in the mid-70s from July to September and no lower than mid-50s in the winter.
In the main, the roads are no more than country lanes and most are lined with incredible displays of hydrangeas interspersed at this time of year with delightfully pink Belladonna lillies.
It is a carnival of colour that is continued in the towns and villages where many of the buildings are brightly painted.
The Azores are Portuguese territory and largely unspoilt by the excesses of tourism - think of the Algarve of 40 years ago and you get the picture.
Topographically, the countryside is as varied as it is awe inspiring - a journey akin to travelling from Devon and Cornwall to the wilds of Scotland with a bit of Iceland thrown in for good measure.
At every corner, the variety of vistas is amazing. Sao Miguel is very green with the mountains covered in trees giving way to rolling meadows and grassland and all surrounded by a deep blue sea.
Beaches are few and far between, the majority of the coast rising vertically from the Atlantic which itself varies in ferocity as you travel around the island.
Our route took us from Ponta Delgada to the twin calderas of Setes Cidades near Mosteiros, now two vivid green lagoons and backdrop to the Rally Azores, an annual round of the European Rally Championship.
With virtually no traffic the drive is a delight.
Stop off at the derelict Hotel Monte Palace, a former five star destination that closed down in 1990 and climb carefully to the roof for an astonishing view of the one-time volcanoes before heading towards the north coast.
Hairpin corners and steep ascents are a good test for the Mazda2's 1.5-litre engine and its newly-installed torque vectoring technology.
On such roads the Mazda made a fine fist of touring and the GT model lives up to its name.
Criss-crossing the centre of the island there are simultaneous views of both the northern and southern coastlines - stunning scenery with Sao Miguel being just five miles wide at this point.
From there we travel along the south of the island towards the hot springs which boil from the land near Furnas. Enterprisingly, these natural ovens have been commandeered by local restaurants to create meals with a difference.
From there the roads tighten, almost Alpine-like in their demands and the landscape becomes more extreme.
Across the north coast heading back to the centre of the island there is one of the few highways on Sao Miguel but again virtually deserted. Driving in such conditions is not only a rarity these days but also a welcome pleasure allowing full appreciation of the Mazda2.
Dropping down into Ponta Delgado it's time to experience an Azorean rush hour which can be considered little more than an orderly queue.
All in all our journey was 150 miles and took the best part of eight hours, such is the pace negotiating the twists and turns but something the Mazda2 lapped up.
In GT trim the car costs from Â£16,395 and includes sat nav with very realistic landscape graphics, a high definition reversing camera, head up display and automatic air conditioning - all of which played a part in making the island tour comfortable and easy going.
Our average of 51mpg was impressive given the demands on the 90ps engine which officially is rated at 62.8mpg with emissions of 105g/km. Economy is helped by a stop/start system and a gear shift prompt in the instrument panel which is smart enough to suggest ‘gate change' style selections if appropriate.
The 1.5-litre SKYACTIV engine is the only engine on offer in the Mazda2 and is available in three settings ranging from 75ps to 115ps.
Performance figures for the five-speed manual GT are 0 to 60 in 9.4 seconds with a maximum of 114mph, good enough for most and the car is well appointed with leather/alcantara upholstery, heated front seats and some classy-looking leather trim across the dash.
A handy feature, especially for adventures such as our drive in the Azores, is the ability to switch the instrumentation from miles to kilometres at the push of a button the dash, changing the digital speed readout and trip data in an instant.
Boot space ranges from 280 to 950 litres which is par for the course for superminis and sufficient to live up to the GT name if packed wisely.
For such an expedition the Mazda2 lacked little, accomplished and sweet to drive across country and easy going in towns and villages where manoeuvring space can be tight.