The 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine that comes under the hood of all 2013 Mazda2 models isn't that impressive from a numbers standpoint, as it only makes 100 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque. Furthermore, that horsepower and torque is farther up the rev range than some other modern small-car engines.
Considering that, the five-speed manual gearbox makes the most sense with this high-revving engine, and provided you don't mind making it a habit to rev the engine a bit above 3,500 rpm. A four-speed automatic transmission is available, but it has widely spaced ratios and tends to shift too early to provide much perkiness on demand--and it lacks a true manual-shift mode.
Handling is where the real "zoom-zoom" happens in the Mazda2; behind the wheel, you'll forget you're in a small hatchback with a pretty tall stance. The Mazda2 feels lower and wider than it is from inside, with a beautifully balanced chassis and suspension tuning that's firm but well damped. Even the electric power steering gives the impression that the Mazda2 is a hot hatch in disguise. And we'll go so far as to say that the Mazda2 feels like a less-expensive alternative to the base Mini Cooper.
That said, the Mazda2 feels very much in its place on tight city streets and congested areas, displaying lots of grip and poise despite its small, narrow 195/50 tires. While it feels just as composed at higher speeds, that's where the engine's inadequacies start becoming an issue. The engine doesn't have a lot of power to spare, so the engine noise and required downshifting to move rapidly on highways can be a bit fatiguing if you want to keep up the same energetic pace at higher speeds.