2011 Mazda2 Touring Review
SEE ALSO: Mazda Buyers Guide
The Mazda2, Mazda's little box of concentrated Zoom-Zoom, produces many miles and smiles per gallon.
DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD
WITH CAREY RUSS
2011 Mazda2 Touring
Worried about rising gasoline prices? In need of a fuel-efficient, inexpensive yet comfortable car with useful space and can't afford a hybrid? Or don't see the point of the complexity of a hybrid? Consider the 2011 Mazda2.
Although it's new here for model year 2011, the Mazda2 has been available in Europe, Japan, and Australia since 2007. As you might guess by the name, it's smaller than the Mazda3, but there's still space inside for four people and even some luggage, or two and plenty of stuff. The eye-catching exterior is most definitely Mazda, and the interior combines that useful space with style and high-quality materials. Since it's a Mazda, and Mazda takes its "Zoom-zoom" tag line seriously, the Mazda2 is no mere low-budget transportation appliance.
Yes, it can get nearly as far on a gallon of unleaded regular as some hybrids -- EPA ratings are 29 mpg city, 35 highway, and I got 34 in a mix of highway and let's-drain-the-tank-fast non-highway driving -- but it's also a driver's car for a driver on a budget, with more smiles per gallon than most cars, period. Miserly does not mean miserable here.
The American-spec Mazda2 is a four-door (or five, if you count the hatch, as is the marketing custom) hatchback offered in two trim levels, Sport and Touring. There is no bottom-feeder base model; the Sport (at $13,980 bas MSRP) has all of the really important features found on the Touring, including antilock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA) plus traction control and dynamic stability control, power windows, outside mirrors, and door locks with a remote-entry fob, a rear-window defogger, air conditioning, full instrumentation, a good heater, and manual front seats with a 60/40 split rear seat for cargo/passenger versatility. Touring gets you cruise control, alloy wheels (but no larger than the Sport's steel wheels), fancier exterior trim -- foglights, tail pipe, and rear visor spoiler -- leather instead of urethane for the steering wheel rim, auxiliary audio controls on the steering wheel, fancier seat and door panel material, and a trip computer.
Power, in either case, is through the front wheels from a 1.5-liter four-cylinder with 100 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque. Front suspension is by MacPherson struts, with a torsion-beam axle at the rear. Transmissions are five-speed manual or four-speed automatic. That's standard subcompact fare -- but here it's done right, with the careful development and tuning too often forgotten at the low-priced end of the automotive market.
One hundred horsepower is not much by today's supersized standards, but it suits the Mazda2 just fine. I never felt any lack of power or had any difficulty merging into quick traffic during my week with a stick-shift Touring model. The stick may be the trick there, as the willing engine, good shift linkage, and supple but dialed-in suspension give the Mazda2 the sort of character that was the province of the lower-priced Italian imports Way Back When. As Mazda's MX-5 Miata was and is the British sports car without the warts, the Mazda2 hatch is the Euro-fun hatch without the down side.
APPEARANCE: The Mazda2 is the baby of the family, and so presents all of the current Mazda styling cues with shorter, higher, chunkier proportions than the larger Mazda3. Short front and rear overhangs maximize interior space. A small grille at the junction of the hood and front bumper fascia takes visual attention away from the somewhat controversial Mazda "grin" that is the main air intake, and long triangular headlights add eyes to the face. The angular front fenders are familiar from the CX- crossovers and RX-8 sports coupe. The rising beltline adds a dynamic look from the side, and, on the Touring, the five-sided hatch window is topped by a small spoiler. The result is a well-integrated, cohesive look.
COMFORT: Small car done right. There's nothing "cheap" inside the Mazda2 Touring. No chintzy nylon seat fabric, no bland hard plastic trim pieces. Materials -- multi-textured cloth with red piping for the seats, semi-soft touch instrument panel and door covering, silvery plastic steering wheel and door trim, and a leather-wrapped steering wheel rim -- would not be out of place in a car costing $5,000 more. The driver's seat cushion is height-adjustable, and the tilt-adjustable steering wheel has cruise and auxiliary audio controls on its horizontal spokes. The front seats are as good as those found in cars costing far more, and front headroom will not be a problem. The main instruments are easily read and shaded from glare; all important gauges and controls are lit at night. Audio and climate controls are simple. The gearshift lever is placed in an extension of the center stack, high and close to the steering wheel. Very Italian! The rear seat offers good space for two medium-sized (under 5-7) adults. As in most sedans and hatches, width is the limiting factor for a center passenger. Four doors means comfortable passenger access, or with the 60/40 rear seatback folded, simple placement of cargo items. You can't beat a large hatch for cargo access!
SAFETY: The 2011 Mazda2 is the first North American Mazda to feature the Brake Override System, which prioritizes the brake over the throttle should both be engaged simultaneously. "Triple H" unibody construction, side-impact door beams, advanced front airbags, front seat side airbags, and full-length head curtains, a crushable pedal assembly and standard antilock brakes (vented disc front with rear drums) and Dynamic Stability Control are among the standard safety features.
RIDE AND HANDLING: If the Mazda2's basic specification -- transverse front engine, front-wheel drive, independent MacPherson struts in the front and a torsion-beam axle in the rear -- is typical for subcompact, or even compact, hatchbacks, the attention to detail paid during engineering and development isn't. It's much more, with the result that the car has a degree of refinement beyond its class. In the European manner, the suspension tuning is supple for comfort but allows spirited driving, with well-controlled damping and quick steering reflexes.
PERFORMANCE: Today, 100 horsepower doesn't seem like much. But with only 2300 pounds of Mazda2 to move, appropriate gearing in the standard five-speed manual gearbox, and a reasonable 3.85:1 final drive ratio, that's more than merely adequate. Acceleration is not a problem; there's no need to fear short on-ramps into fast traffic. The aluminum alloy twincam four-cylinder engine gets its 100 horsepower (at 6000 rpm) and 98 lb-ft of torque (at 4000 rpm) from its 1.5-liter displacement, with variable cam phasing broadening the torque spread and reducing emissions. Keep it above 3000 rpm for best results, and even then it sips gasoline. EPA ratings are 29 mpg city, 35 highway. In a mix of highway, city, and spirited backroad driving I got 34. No complaint! Note that this is with the five-speed manual. With a bit more weight, different gearing, and likely programming to maximize economy, the four-speed automatic will be noticeably slower in acceleration. EPA ratings are 28/34. Heavy traffic might be less stressful.
MY CONCLUSIONS: The Mazda2, Mazda's little box of concentrated Zoom-Zoom, produces many miles and smiles per gallon.
2011 Mazda2 Touring
Base Price $ 15,435 Price As Tested $ 16,185 Engine Type DOHC 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with variable cam phasing Engine Size 1.5 liters / 91 cu. in. Horsepower 100 @ 6000 rpm Torque (lb-ft) 98 @ 4000 rpm Transmission 5-speed manual Wheelbase / Length 98.0 in. / 155.5 in. Curb Weight 2306 lbs. Pounds Per Horsepower 23 Fuel Capacity 11.3 gal. Fuel Requirement 87 octane regular unleaded gasoline Tires 185/55R15 92V Yokohama Avid m+s Brakes, front/rear vented disc / drum, ABS, EBD, BA, DSC, TCS standard Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut/ torsion beam axle Drivetrain transverse front engine, front-wheel drive PERFORMANCE EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 29 / 35 / 34 0 to 60 mph 9 sec OPTIONS AND CHARGES Delivery charge $ 750