By KBB.com Editors
KBB Expert Rating: 7.1
Small cars are big news these days. Not because they are small, but because today's economical petrol misers are loaded with style and features never before seen on entry-level models. The 2012 Mazda2 hatchback is just such a car. Long regarded overseas for its attractive looks, frugal fuel economy and appealing features, the 2012 Mazda2 hatchback is now working its magic on Americans. Although the 2012 Mazda2 shares its underpinnings with the equally-new Ford Fiesta, Mazda gave its little car its own unique powertrain options, as well as a sportier suspension and a single, 5-door hatchback design (the Fiesta offers a sedan and 5-door). And, while some rivals, including the Chevy Sonic and Kia Rio5, may offer more horsepower and more modern automatic transmissions, they don't have the same fun-to-drive feel of the 2012 Mazda2.
If you're looking for a small, inexpensive car that is big on fun and fuel economy and has some great exterior colors, the 2012 Mazda2 hatchback should do nicely.
Other than a one-mile-per-gallon increase in fuel economy, there are no major changes for the 2012 Mazda2 hatchback.
Driving Impressions While its 100-horsepower won't make the 2012 Mazda2 hatchback the quickest car in its class, its well-tuned suspension and direct power-assisted steering deliver on the "Zoom-Zoom" promise of this 2,300-pound...car. We spent the day pushing the little Mazda2 through its paces and came away scratching our heads: How can such a small car with such limited horsepower have us giggling like mischievous school children up to no good? On winding mountain roads, we pushed the little 15-inch tires well beyond what we thought they could take, but they held firm. Our 2012 Mazda2 rounded corners with utter confidence and the little engine, though working hard, delivered acceptable acceleration when needed. The brakes are strong and the steering response is nearly MX-5-Miata-like (note – we said "nearly"). All of this lightness doesn't mean a compromise in comfort, though, as the Mazda2's cabin is surprisingly quiet even at highway speeds. But, when tasked with rapid overtaking of slower traffic or quick sprints up steep hills, we were quick to realize that the Mazda2's main strength is driving fun and not brute power. Plan your passing maneuvers accordingly.
After hours of driving and no soreness to complain about, we were surprised at how comfortable the 2012 Mazda2 hatchback's seats were. Most cars in this category have stiff seats with virtually no bolstering.
5-speed Manual Transmission
Partnered up with the peppy engine, the slick-shifting 5-speed manual makes the most out of the car's athleticism.
For such a small car, the 2012 Mazda2 hatchback's interior is refreshingly large and airy. The dash design, with its bright orange backlighting and a circular center control motif, is a remnant from Mazda's design past, mimicking the dash designs of the now-discontinued RX-8. However, we like the look and it definitely works here. At this price point, one can forgive the hard plastics and dull colors, so long as one doesn't peek inside a Kia Rio5 or Ford Fiesta. The 2012 Mazda2 hatchback's front bucket seats are firm and fairly supportive, but the oddly-shaped rear-seat head restraints must be extended upward or run the risk of becoming uncomfortable lumps in the shoulder blades of rear-seat passengers. The 2012 Mazda2 hatchback's cargo area isn't as generous as that of the Nissan Versa or Honda Fit. Folding down the 60/40-split rear seat increases cargo volume from 13.3 cubic feet to just over 27 cubic feet.Exterior
While the 2012 Mazda2 hatchback's teardrop silhouette is nothing radical, the lines and curvatures that flow across the car's body have a distinctly Mazda feel. Big fender flares and swept-up side sculpturing bring visual interest below the Mazda2's raked beltline, while expansive front-door side windows provide excellent outward visibility. Following Mazda's latest styling theme, the 2012 Mazda2 hatchback features a wide, grinning front grille similar to, but not as obnoxious as, the Mazda3's front end. The entry-level Sport trim comes with 15-inch steel wheels with full covers, while the Touring trim rolls on 15-inch alloy wheels.
The 2012 Mazda2 hatchback's entry-level Sport trim comes with the essentials including air conditioning, power accessories (windows, door locks, and side mirrors), 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 2012 Mazda2 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. On the outside, the higher trim level 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, aftermarket Bluetooth phone connectivity, a center armrest with storage bin, floormats, a cargo net and Crystal White paint.
The only engine offered in the 2012 Mazda Mazda2 is a 1.5-liter 4-cylinder that produces 100 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque. It can be matched with either a 5-speed manual or 4-speed automatic. While these are not the most impressive transmission choices, the Mazda2's light curb weight makes up for any shortcomings 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 @ 6,000 rpm
98 lb-ft of torque @ 4,000 rpm
EPA city/highway fuel economy: 29/35 (manual), 28/34 (automatic)
A base 2012 Mazda2 has a starting Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) just over $15,000, but opting for the automatic transmission adds about $800. The higher Touring trim level starts at about $16,600 and is a little over $17,000 with the automatic. As you might guess in a hotly competitive segment, the 2012 Mazda2 hatchback 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. However, dollar-for-dollar, the Kia Rio5 and Hyundai Accent offer more features and technology for the money. Be sure and check the Fair Purchase Price to see what others in your area are paying. As for resale value, we expect the 2012 Mazda2 to hold its value on par with the Kia Rio5 and Toyota Yaris and do better than the Ford Fiesta, but fall far below the Honda Fit.
By sunrunner68 (MO) on Wednesday, December 04, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 58,000overall rating 3 of 10rating details
Pros: "decent gas mileage, fast pickup for 4 cylinders"
Cons: "HIGH maintenance frustrating"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I have had this car for 2.5 years. In that time I've had 6 flat tires with normal use. Of those 6 flats, 3 of them required buying new tires at $140 per tire. Because they are an odd size tire, there is only one place in Kansas City that carries them. Even the dealer doesn't keep them in stock. I was told they are high performance (read very thin rubber), and because of the odd/narrow size, most flats aren't going to be fixable. Top that off with needing full-synthetic oil making oil changes cost $50-$80 at the BEST... well, the maintenance costs on this vehicle outweighs any good in my opinion!"
By Bushleague (FL) on Tuesday, October 29, 2013
I don't own this caroverall rating 1 of 10rating details
Pros: "It wasa $12 rental."
Cons: "Noisy, vibrates, no OAT gauge."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 1
"I grabbed a Mazda 2 from a rental place in Ft. Myers last week. The engine started and ran well, albeit noisy, and the transmission seemed to take forever to shift up under normal acceleration. I found the seats uncomfortable, and after a short period of time, my lower back began to ache. After getting out on I-75, I wound her up to 70, the published speed limit. The front end immediately began to vibrate, so I had to complete my trip at 65 mpg. Being a black on black car, the A/C system seemed taxed, and I could not locate the outside air temperature gauge. Bummer. For fit, finish, and quality, stick with Toyota."
By Grayline88 (WA) on Saturday, August 24, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 15,000overall rating 7 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fit & finish, ride & handling, braking, electrical"
Cons: "Laggy AND gutless in auto tranny version"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 2
"There's a terrible lag between pressing on the accelerator pedal and when it actually moves. It's dangerous turning left across traffic. You try to ease on the gas and it just wont cooperate. I used to race motocross and this hits like an old 2-stroke dirtbike. At first it does almost nothing when you step on the gas. Then it moves a little. So you keep depressing the gas pedal and nothing happens until... it HITS and over-revs. But it's so underpowered it just makes a lot of over-rev noise before it finally lunges ahead. MPG is 28 mixed. All else with the rig is great."
By Sierra Driver (CA) on Monday, July 29, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 35,000overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Fun to drive and handles well. Turns on a dime."
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 10
"This is the third Mazda I've owned. The reason I keep going back for more? Reliability. I live in the mountains off a dirt road. The drive into town and back is over 100 miles and the highway to and from is busy. I require a car that starts up each and every time. After all, who's going to come out to start my car when I live so far out and I sure don't want to be stranded in town."
1 person out of 1 found this review helpful
By tj59 (CA) on Monday, July 29, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 13,500overall rating 8 of 10rating details
Pros: "Looks good, good MPG, cheap to own"
Cons: "Does not pass cars well"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"This is the third Mazda I have owned. The other two were the Mazdaspeed 3, and a 1990 truck (back when Mazda built them). I have been really satisfied with all three vehicles. Mazda does a good job with their steering and handling. The Mazda 2 has the same great handling and steering (for a car priced this cheap). It does not have great acceleration as it only has a 1.5 liter engine. I have driven it over the mountains here in California and had no issues whatsoever being able to keep up with traffic. My average MPG is 32. When I drive to the coast I get about 37 MPG since the speed limit is 55 almost the entire way. The cruise cotnrol works well in this vehicle also. Sound system is not bad, I get good bass from speakers. I really like the looks both inside and out as well."
2 people out of 2 found this review helpful
By Hot (CA) on Sunday, May 19, 2013
I own this car - My approximate mileage is 5,059overall rating 10 of 10rating details
Pros: "Size, fun to drive"
Cons: "Needs a bigger gas tank"
Likely to recommend this car? (1-10): 9
"Love the size of the car. Work in San Francisco and love the way it fits into small parking spot. No problem so far. Only one neg. the automatic tran is a bit rough in stop and go traffic"