2011 Mazda MAZDA2
By now, everyone in America knows that the sub-compact Ford Fiesta
will appear on dealer lots this year; the far-reaching marketing campaigns have been relentless and clever. But peeking out from behind the Ford’s shadow, ready to spring itself on us is the third-generation – but first in America – 2011 Mazda 2, Mazda’s answer to our growing demand for smaller cars with better fuel economy and budget pricing. The Mazda 2 is as sub-compact as they come, shorter than the Honda Fit
, Nissan Versa
and Fiesta, and brings with it driving dynamics befitting a company that prides itself on its racing tradition. Yep, you heard right, the Mazda 2 is a B-car that drives well. And it’s a good thing that it does, because that – and the nearly $1,200 price difference – is what separates it from the Fiesta. A 1.5-liter engine, great brakes and a suspension that holds its own over torn-up city streets lead us to believe that the Mazda 2 might be the best-driving subcompact at this price. If only the interior lived up to the drive quality. There are a touch too many hard plastics and not nearly enough tech features – odd, considering their tech-savvy target audience. But this is all part of Mazda’s big plan for the small car. They’ve set the price low and focused on the drive to rein in a different buyer – and that’s smart.
What's to Like
Mazda made the drive a priority when developing the Mazda 2, and it shows. Keeping trim levels simple – there are only 24 possible ways to build the car – will ensure the model you want will be sitting at the dealership. Pricing is spectacular, undercutting the Fiesta and Fit, at $13,980 to start. Better yet, you can’t spend more than $17,000 on this car.
What's Not to Like
Interior doesn’t hold a candle to others in the segment; fewer hard plastics would have made a world of difference. A lack of tech features that come standard on competitors – like Bluetooth and an iPod connector – means the Mazda 2 is already outdating itself. Rear space is will be cramped for taller passengers.
DriverSide Driving Impressions
Performance of sub-compact cars is historically underwhelming. Even those with more power sometimes don’t know how to manage it. The Mazda 2 has taken very little horsepower – 100, to be exact – and put it to work, delivering a solid drive. Weight reduction is the key here, and Mazda has shaved pounds wherever they could – it’s more than 200 lbs lighter than the Fiesta. As a result, the Mazda 2 feels peppy and competent – with acceleration that won’t deter you from passing slow-moving tractors. The well-tuned suspension is forgiving without being sloppy and stays on-point in corners, which is helped by the remarkably true steering. We encourage at least trying the five-speed manual; with an engine this small, swapping gears yourself adds more excitement to the drive, especially with the Mazda 2’s proficient gearbox. If an automatic is your weapon of choice, Mazda has eschewed more gears (and thus more fuel efficiency) for longer ratios, and it seems to be the right choice for this car.
Engine and Drivetrain
As the sub-compact market grows, be prepared to see more small displacement engines like the Mazda 2’s 1.5-liter inline four. It produces 100 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque, which seems meager until you get behind the wheel of this 2,300-lb lightweight. Both trims come with the choice of a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic.
Interesting Vehicle Features and Options
For the base price, the Mazda 2 is considerably well appointed. Standard are an auxiliary input jack, center display, four-speaker CD/MP3 stereo and remote keyless entry. Opting for the Touring trim will add cruise control, steering wheel-mounted controls and a trip computer. Sun worshippers will lament the lack of a sunroof on either trim.
Key Technology Evaluation
To help keep the sticker price from skyrocketing, many tech options are only available as accessories, including Bluetooth, an audio cable for the aux jack and a Garmin Nuvi GPS. It’s a bizarre choice to exclude these items. However, traction and stability control and ABS are standard on all trims.
Green Evaluation/Gas Mileage
Most of the segment seems to have fuel economy numbers that hover in the high 20s, low mid-30s range, and the Mazda 2 is no different. The manual returns 29 mpg city and 35 mpg highway and the automatic brings in 27 mpg city and 33 mpg highway.
A Closer Look: Vehicle Details
You’ll find more comfortable interiors in the competition and an arm rest is only available for extra cost, but the Mazda 2’s cabin space isn’t without its charms, namely those found in the clean looking center display and sporty red lighting. The 60/40 split folding seats give the Mazda 2 more cargo space than the Fiesta. With nearly identical head and legroom numbers to cars inches longer than it, the cabin feels more spacious than you’d think.
The Mazda 2 is a full 27 inches shorter than the Mazda 3 and adopts a toned-down version of the familiar nose and gaping grille. 15-inch wheels are standard and look plenty big enough for this diminutive car. Fog lights and a rear roof spoiler are added to the Touring trim to round out its look. Look elsewhere for a sedan body style as the Mazda 2 is available only hatchback form – a very good-looking one, we might add.
Market Segment and Pricing
A key part of finally bringing the Mazda 2 to the U.S. is keeping its base price securely below the Mazda 3’s. In any of the 24 configurations, a Mazda 2 can’t top $17,000, and it starts at just $13,980 for the Sport and $15,435 for the Touring. Four models go head-to-head with it, including the $15,120 Ford Fiesta Hatchback
, $13,520 Nissan Versa
, $12,905 Toyota Yaris Five-Door Liftback
and $15,899 Suzuki SX4
What We Think
Overnight, the sub-compact car segment has seemingly doubled in size, which means the Mazda 2 will need its strong performance, exterior styling and smart pricing to stand out from the pack. Many will still head to Ford and Honda dealerships, but it would be wise of those who place priority in performance and price to check out the Mazda 2.
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