By Joe Santos - Updated Date: 4/1/2011
The 2011 Mazda2 makes its way into the small-car category with a big smile and a small engine. Although it shares the same underpinnings as the Ford Fiesta, the Mazda2 carries its own unique powertrain options, suspension setup and sense of interior and exterior style. While its main rivals are the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta, other competitors include the Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris and Chevrolet Aveo (as well as its forthcoming Sonic successor.) In this crowd we admire the Mazda2 for its sporty spunk in a field of grocery-getters.You'll Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a small car with sporty driving dynamics, simple packaging and a budget-friendly sticker price, the Mazda2 is worthy of consideration.You May Not Like This Car If...
In a class where options like Bluetooth connectivity and navigation are important to potential buyers, the Mazda2 fails to offer either, which makes rivals like the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta more appealing.What's New for 2011
The Mazda Mazda2 jumpstarts the low-priced end of the line-up by offering an affordable, fun and neatly-packaged means of transportation that doesn't stray from the brand's "zoom zoom" mantra. The Mazda2 comes in two trim levels, a well-equipped Sport trim and an even better-equipped Touring variant.Driving It Driving Impressions
The Mazda2 isn't the fastest car in its class but it is an impressive performer. Mazda focused on saving weight when building the car, and the effort becomes apparent when driving it spiritedly. We put the Mazda2 through its paces in a variety of driving scenarios, and it frankly surprised us. Whether it was driving through curvy mountain roads, getting onto the freeway or passing other cars, the Mazda2's sure-footed suspension, grippy tires and eager little engine were up to the task. The steering is responsive, and the brakes are good, too. All of this lightness doesn't mean a compromise in comfort, though, as the cabin was surprisingly quiet even at highway speeds. But we were quick to realize that the Mazda2's main strength is driving fun.Favorite Features
After hours of driving and no soreness to complain about, we were surprised at how comfortable the Mazda2's seats were. Most cars in this category have stiff seats with virtually no bolstering.
Five-speed Manual Transmission
Partnered up with the peppy engine, the slick-shifting five-speed manual makes the most out of the car's athleticism.
The Mazda Mazda2's interior is roomy, well-appointed and, for a small car, reasonably well-isolated. Although hard plastic can be found nearly everywhere in the cabin except for the seats and armrests, the overall sense of functional style makes up for it. The Mazda2's interior is all business with clearly-legible analog gauges and well-placed, user-friendly controls. Along with the comfortable front buckets, the 60/40-split rear bench seat offers room for two adults or three children. Cargo space is minimal compared to that of the Honda Fit and Ford Fiesta, but the cargo area is numerically larger than that of the Toyota Yaris, with 13.3 cu-ft of space with the rear seat up and 27.8 when it's folded.Exterior
While its teardrop shape is nothing new to the "b-segment" category, the Mazda2 does bring its own blend of subtle, yet sporty styling. The Mazda2's bodywork incorporates some "zoom zoom," exemplified by bold fender flares and swoopy side sculpting. A distinguishing feature is Mazda's familiar "smiling" grille. The less-expensive Sport trim version of the Mazda2 offers standard 15-inch steel wheels with full covers. The up-level Touring trim is equipped with similar-sized alloy wheels. "Aggressively cute" might sum up the Mazda2's design overall.Notable Standard Equipment
The 2011 Mazda Mazda2's base Sport trim level comes with the essentials including air conditioning, power accessories, tilt steering column, keyless remote entry and a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 sound system. Safety features include stability/traction control, antilock disc/drum brakes with Brake Assist and Electronic Brake Force Distribution and six airbags.
Opting for the up-level Touring trim adds some functional interior features, including cruise control, trip computer, upgraded cloth seats with red piping trim, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio and cruise controls and two additional speakers. And on the outside, the higher trim includes a rear roof spoiler, fog lights, chrome exhaust tip and alloy wheels. Options are minimal and are limited to dealer-installed accessories such as an auto-dimming rearview mirror with a compass and Homelink, floormats, a cargo net and Crystal White paint.Under the Hood
The only engine offered in the 2011 Mazda Mazda2 is a 1.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 100 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque. It can be matched with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. These aren't especially impressive items, but the Mazda2's light curb weight makes up for them and contributes to the car's overall sprightliness and nimble response. While the manual transmission would be the top choice for driving fun, we did get a chance to try the automatic and found that it was more than capable around town and on the freeway.
1.5-liter in-line four cylinder
100 horsepower @ 6000 rpm
98 lb.-ft. of torque @ 4000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/35 (manual), 27/33 (automatic)
A base 2011 Mazda Mazda2 has a starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) under $15,000, but opting for the automatic transmission adds about $800. The higher Touring trim level starts at about $16,500 and vaults to a little over $17,000 with the automatic. As you might guess in a hotly competitive segment, the Mazda2 costs about the same as the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Nissan Versa and is a bit more expensive than the more utilitarian Toyota Yaris. As for resale value, we expect the Mazda2 to hold its value on par with the Honda Fit and exceed that of the Ford Fiesta.