Test Drive: 2011 Mazda2 Subcompact

The Mazda2 is long overdue. This car should have been brought to the United States in 2007 when Mazda was selling the previous generation of this model in Australia and Asia. I know, I know, 2007 was the fin de siecle for big gas guzzlers – when dinosaurs still roamed the Earth in automotive form. But the Mazda2 is like the new mammals – small, quick-witted, and efficient. It’s the inevitable next step in evolution.

The Mazda2 has the right stuff for 2011 and beyond. I’ll start with the bottom line, and tell you that it’s a truly nice car, and you can have one for about $14,000. Mazda wisely limited the Mazda2 to just two trim levels and two transmission choices. Apart from an ample selection of colors, you’re looking at just four possible configurations. But this is good news, because it means that even the basic “sport” trim level has a good feature set.

The upgrade “Touring” trim level adds alloy wheels, nicer seats, and just a few other bells and whistles. The smart money move would be to buy the base model and then select a nice set of aftermarket wheels.

What you care about with the Mazda2 is the engine, suspension, exterior looks, and the interior, and this is where Mazda got it all right.? The engine has the least power in the B-segment at 100 horsepower. Say what? Isn?t Mazda supposed to be the sports car automaker? But the Mazda2 is also lightweight at 2300 pounds and the gears (4-speed automatic or 5-speed manual) are well-matched to the engine, so the performance is what you hope for in a small hatchback.

Mazda is known for producing the sportiest of the economy imports, and they brought every thing they had to the Mazda2. The result is a car that rides much bigger and smoother than it really should. The Mazda2 corners flat and rides over rough roads as well as anything on the market at twice it’s size. The steering is tight and the little car is just generally a joy to drive.

On the outside, the Mazda2 looks fun and sexy where other B-segment cars look like frumpy minivans. The 5-door format makes the car useful and convenient, and Mazda borrowed design cues from their successful RX-8, Mazda3, and Mazda6 platforms. The interior is completely devoid of cheap, offering quality touch surfaces and classic piano-black trim accents. The dash, stereo, and controls are nicely laid out and useful.

No car is totally perfect, and there are two features I wish the Mazda2 offered ? a navigation system and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. But apart from those items, I like the Mazda2 just the way it is. For the money, this is a great car – one that people will buy for themselves not because they have to, but because they want to.


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