By KBB.com Editors - Updated Date: 12/13/2011
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.You'll Like This Car If...
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.You May Not Like This Car If...
If you're looking for a small car with big features such as navigation, leather seats, factory-installed Bluetooth or high-end audio, you'll need to look to the Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, Chevy Sonic or Kia Rio5.What's New for 2012
Other than a one-mile-per-gallon increase in fuel economy, there are no major changes for the 2012 Mazda2 hatchback.Driving It 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.Favorite Features
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.Notable Standard Equipment
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.Notable Optional Equipment
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.