If Doctor Who drove a car, he’d feel perfectly at home in a Mazda 2.

Granted, it’s not capable of time travel, but it does share one appealing trait with the Doctor’s Tardis – it’s bigger on the inside than it is on the outside.

You see, externally, and in every direction, Mazda’s supermini is smaller than a Ford Fiesta.  But internally, it offers more head, leg and shoulder room than its blue-badged rival.

Ok, it’s unlikely this particular feat is possible because Mazda have discovered how to bend the laws of physics, but is instead the result of some exceedingly clever packaging.

Thankfully this trick doesn’t require the Mazda 2 to look as boxy on the outside as the good Doctor’s usual conveyance.  Indeed, to our eyes, it’s quite appealing, with a cheeky face, bulging wheel-arches, and a sporty window line that kicks up towards the rear.

The sides of the Mazda 2’s bodywork are cleverly sculpted with a pair of subtle creases to suggest forward movement even when at a standstill; one starts from the front wheel and intersects the door handles before wrapping around the rear lights, while the other curves up from the bottom of the driver’s door and blends into the rear wheel-arch.

Higher spec models spice the shape up further with projector-style headlights, dark tinted windows, and a styling kit that includes a sportier front bumper, side skirts and a rear spoiler.

Step inside, and the interior has an agreeable sense of airiness to it.  Forward visibility is excellent, courtesy of its large windscreen and deep side windows, while four adults will feel more than adequately accommodated thanks to its Tardis-like interior dimensions.

There’s enough space for their luggage, too, with 250 litres in the boot rising to a maximum of 787 litres loaded to the roof with the seats folded.

The instruments are clear and easily visible through the steering wheel, and the controls in the centre console – which includes a TomTom navigation system on some models – have a welcome simplicity to them.

Three petrol engines are available: two 1.3-litre units with either 75PS or 84PS, both of which emit 115 g/km of CO2 (VED Band C, £30pa) and achieve 56.5mpg on the combined cycle, plus a 1.5-litre with 102PS that’s mated to a four-speed automatic transmission, recording 44.8mpg and 145g/km (VED Band F, £140pa).

The automatic 1.5 is the nippier of the bunch, with 0-62mph in 11.9 seconds and a 105mph top speed.  The two 1.3s complete the same sprint in 14.9 and 13.6 seconds respectively, with top speeds of 104mph and 106mph.

We preferred the 84PS 1.3 during our test.  Not just because of its smooth-shifting five-speed manual gearbox, but because of its surprising refinement.  Indeed, once the engine had warmed up, it was barely audible at idle, and even rubbing its nose against the redline didn’t result in anything you’d call coarse.

While the figures show it’s perhaps not overburdened by its 121Nm of torque, it is remarkably responsive at low revs making smooth pull-aways easy even if you’re being lazy with your clutch control.

The steering is fabulously light at parking speeds, making the task of executing a tight parallel-park a cinch, but beefs up usefully at speed to produce a feeling of stability.

The ride is forgiving around town where it needs to be, having been softened in a recent update, but there’s none of the usual trade-off in the form of excessive body roll during cornering.  Indeed, it’s not too much of a stretch to call it sporty.

Coupled with the quick and direct steering (2.7 turns lock-to-lock, same as an MX-5), its short gear-shift action and excellent body control, the Mazda 2 is an engaging little mite to pilot about the place.

Four grades are available, starting at £10,995 with the TS Air Con which includes electric one-touch windows, electric door mirrors, remote locking, CD player with USB connectivity and air conditioning.

The £12,295 Tamura adds 16-inch alloy wheels, sports styling kit, sports headlights, split-folding rear seats, leather steering wheel, an extra pair of speakers, and rear privacy glass.

The 1.5 TS2 Automatic weighs in at £12,995 and features a similar spec to the TS Air Con but with the addition of 15-inch alloy wheels, split-folding rear seats, stability and traction control plus a few trim tweaks.

The range-topping £13,295 Venture Edition builds on the Tamura with sporty black door mirrors and red seat stitching, plus rear parking sensors, automatic headlights and wipers, TomTom satellite navigation and Bluetooth connectivity.

In this segment of the market, it’s not unusual for cars to be a little… well, joyless.  The Mazda 2, however, has been injected with a little extra zeal that comes across in everything it does – the keen driving experience, the willing engines, the convention-defying interior packaging, even the perky styling.

And, given that the Mazda 2 is one of the few superminis made in Japan rather than a far-flung low-wage alternative, it’s unlikely the Doctor would need to use his sonic screwdriver at any point.

Base Price £10,995 Price as tested £13,295
Engine 4-cylinder petrol, 1349cc Transmission Five-speed manual
Power 84ps @ 6,000rpm Torque 121Nm @ 3,500rpm
0-62mph 13.6 secs Top speed 107 mph
Economy 56.5 mpg CO2 115 g/km
Dimensions 3920 x 1695 x 1475 (LWH) Kerb Weight 1035 kg