2011 MAZDA 2 REVIEW
Mazda two Step
This article is from our archives and has not been updated and integrated with our "new" site yet... Even so, it's still awesome - so keep reading!
Published on Thu, Sep 15, 2011
By: The LACar Editorial Staff
The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. Some drivers want their cars to do that, without fuss, in the most uneventful manner possible. If that’s you, then the last thing you need is a car to dance the night away. Mazda says its littlest offering is a dancer. But are we talking tango or two-step? LA Car sent Bill Wright and Mark Dorman to go dancing with the Mazda2. . A few months ago, I noted in these pages at how well a particular American SUV handled as I drove it over one of California’s windiest roads—Highway 175, the Hopland Grade east of Hopland in Mendocino County. It could hardly be described as lithe, but it did well. As I approached this same stretch of road while driving Mazda’s smallest offering, the Mazda2 (smallest for the North American market, that is), I was looking forward to a fun drive. You expect certain things from the folks known for Zoom-Zoom, and they virtually always deliver. Imagine my consternation when it became apparent (and not in a good way) that this is not your father’s Mazda. Mrs. Mazda may well have carried this offspring to term, but there is no way that ‘little 2’ has a full complement of Mazda DNA. Who was the father? The mailman? The milkman? Whoever it was, they are lacking in the Zoom-Zoom department.
This looks suspiciously like something that Ford, GM or Chrysler might have done in the distant past. Mazda does have a long history with Ford. Maybe there are a few Ford-trained (pre crisis) bean counters lurking in the underbrush? Note that I stress ‘pre-crisis’, because there’s no way that the Ford of today would take its raison d'être and throw it under the bus. The fact that the handling wasn’t what I was expecting may be due in part to the torsion beam/coil spring combination in the rear, as opposed to the multilink/stabilizer bar combination like one finds in the Mazda 3. The torsion beam/coil spring combination is not uncommon in vehicles at this price point ($15-16,500), but it often is augmented with gas shock absorbers and that seems to make a difference. Of course, we also had two occupants and a full set of luggage. It’s understandable that Mazda feels it necessary to be in this lowend econobox niche where the Mazda2 resides. One wants to grab the consumers that are buying their first new car and move them up to bigger, better, more expensive (better margins) as the years go by. But it may be risky to stray too far from the Zooming path that you’ve carved out with all of your other offerings.
Putting aside the Zoom factor, how does the Mazda2 measure up as a four-door hatchback selling for $16,385 MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price)? I drove the Mazda2 in a variety of conditions—city, freeway, country roads, and except for the rant brought on by the jaunt over Hwy 175, I was very pleased with it. My wife was happy with the passenger seating—and she’s pretty picky when it comes to sitting in a car for longer distances. The interior is comfortable and functional. I like the looks of the Mazda2, including the Cheshire Cat grill. The Mazda 2 Touring comes equipped with most of what one expects at this price point, but I did miss not having cruise control. When you are away from the cities and cruising on the highways, the drive is easier (I would even venture to say safer, but I’m sure that not all would agree … ) and definitely more fuel efficient when one can set the cruise control and focus on other driving issues. There are those who may think Mazda went cheap on the brakes because of the front disc and rear drum combination, but they would be wrong. These brakes are more than up to the task of bringing the Mazda2’s 2306 pounds to a stop safely. It’s interesting how some car manufacturers constant harping on four-wheel disc brakes of the last 30 years has made the consumer expect it in all situations. It’s true that disc brakes have advantages (e.g., they ‘fade’ less because they cool off more effectively), but small, light entry-level vehicles like the Mazda 2 Touring can do fine with a front disc/rear drum combination (and it is of course cheaper). The Mazda2 is a good entry-level car. Yes, it can dance, but it’s more two-step than tango. - Bill Wright
COUNTERPOINT At first glance, the Mazda2 doesn't strike you as a “Zoom-Zoom” car. It looks like a small economy car designed more for high MPGs than high fun. The styling is far less aggressive than that of its little cousin the Ford Fiesta (which shares the same platform). Knowing it’s down about 20 horsepower to Ford’s counterpart, I was a bit skeptical as to how well it would hold up to the Mazda reputation. Upon entering the car, one is greeted by a sea of hard and soft plastics. Some well bolstered bucket seats that fit the average person rather well are situated up front. Starting the car, the little 1.5 liter engine hums to life with a pleasant vroom. The shifter is positioned on the dash, just below the radio, reminiscent of the old Civic hatch of the early 2000s. There are two simple cup holders in the center, with an auxiliary in for your MP3 player. Driving the Mazda2 is more pleasant that expected. Because the car is so light, it has plenty of get-up-and-go. It accelerates well and has brakes that will bring you to a stop in no time. The shifts from the automatic transmission are a bit more pronounced than on the Ford Fiesta but overall pleasant and smooth. And blind spots? What blind spots? If you ever want to know what it's like to be in a fish bowl, just sit in a Mazda2. The windows give you plenty of vision all around, so you are never struggling to see anything that may be within striking distance of the car. Power windows come as an option, but you’ll be hard pressed to find a base model with old-fashioned roll-up windows. With all this going for it and a cool little switch blade style key to boot, this car competes well in its class.
The interior is pleasantly hushed at highway speeds, however it is noticeably louder than its Ford counterpart. A fun little fact that you most would not know is that the spare that come with the car is painted a burnt yellow color, which clashes wonderfully with the lime green model we were testing. Maybe it's designed to discourage people from driving around on their “donut” spare for too long. Either way, we got quite a kick out of it. As far as interior space goes, there’s plenty of it. With my five foot eight inch colleague in the front seat, we were able to fit our six foot five inch partner in the rear seat without too much effort. Headroom is phenomenal, welcoming the tallest drivers and passengers or those with over the top haircuts. The cargo space in the rear is more than ample for trips to the grocery store, going to the beach, or even playing a round or two of golf. Fold down the 40/60 split rear seats and you have even more cargo room to help one of your friends move or throw a couple snowboards in. The stereo is very user-friendly, and you can quickly assign your favorite radio presets. There is also a Bluetooth option for your phone so you don't have to worry about those nasty “no hands free device” tickets or fiddling with a headset while you drive. Yes, this is no luxury car, but for starting under $15,000, you are getting a car with great fuel economy and excellent utility. Maybe it isn't the most “Zoom Zoom” model that Mazda offers, but it is definitely their most practical and affordable one. - Mark Dorman For more information about Mazda products, go to mazdausa.com
SPECIFICATIONS Name of vehicle: 2011 Mazda 2 Touring Price: $14,180 (base Sport model with manual transmission) $15,435 (base Touring) $16,385 (as tested) EPA fuel economy rating: 29 mpg (city)/35 mpg (highway) Engine size and type: 1.5L DOHC 16-valve VVT Inline 4 cyl Horsepower: 100 @ 6,000 RPM Torque: 98 pound-feet @ 4,000 RPM Transmission type: 5-speed manual (automatic optional) Drive configuration: Front wheel drive Steering (type): Power rack-and-pinion with electronic variable power assist Suspension (front and rear): MacPherson strut with stabilizer front and torsion beam with coil springs rear Brakes and tires: Disc front/drum rear wih P185/55R15 V-speed rated all-season radial tires Dimensions Length(in): 155.5 Width(in): 66.7 Height(in): 58.1 Curb weight (lbs): 2306