HEELS ON WHEELS: 2011 MAZDA2 REVIEW
By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel
INTRO TO THE MAZDA2 VEHICLE
At 32-MPG, the 5-passenger 2011 Mazda2 hatchback might cause shoppers to rethink hybrid vehicle options. And its little 100-horsepower 1.5-liter 4-cylinder surprisingly knocks the performance socks off electric-gas powered engines, too. The Mazda2 is sporty and has modern technology conveniences and decent cargo depth – all wrapped up in a spirited compact design.
I drove a 2011 Mazda2 with the 100-horsepower 1.5-liter DOHC 16-valve 4-cyinder engine and a 5-speed manual transmission. Available in a base, Sport and Touring trim, my Mazda2 Touring test drive came with the following mentionable standards: rear roof spoiler, leather steering wheel, audio controls on wheel, intermittent windshield wipers, keyless entry, upgraded Touring cloth seat material, AC with pollen filter and 6-speaker audio system. Total vehicle price came to a very impressive $15,435.
With gas prices looking to make new record highs, more and more little hatchbacks like the Mazda2 are catching the eyes of consumers. And the small compact market has never been more competitive now that Ford made a big to-do with launching the more street-smart Fiesta (base starts at $16,520) and the Honda Fit (base starts at $15,100) remains very popular for having the most compact cargo space. Having driven these top competitors – and having liked them both immensely – I can say what stands out about the Mazda2 is that it comes off as a more performance-oriented vehicle.
HEELS ON WHEELS REVIEW CRITERIA
Stylish But Comfortable Results: Steering wheel audio controls and more cargo space than you’d expect are two standouts when you consider the price and size of this compact. The attractive aerodynamic exterior shape will probably impress more than what’s going on with the interior (the rear legroom is a particular challenge). Although consumers will appreciate Mazda’s straightforward trim lineup, the top trim (Touring) is still very limited with a very meager audio system, climate control dials and advanced technology. The compact isn’t out to spoil you but to impress performance-wise.
Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) gives the 2011 Mazda2 crash test ratings of “Good” in frontal and roof, but just “Acceptable” for structural side impact. The Ford Fiesta is the only Minicar on the 2011 IIHS list that is a Top Safety Pick. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not yet rated the vehicle. Safety features on the Mazda 2 include: dynamic stability control; traction control; LATCH for children; 3-point safety belts; anti-lock braking system; tire pressure monitoring system; electronic power assist steering system; and independent front suspension.
Cost Issues: At under $16 for the nicest (or Touring) trim, the Mazda2 is truly an affordable car and much cheaper than any hybrid on the market but you are still being kind to the earth at 32-MPG. There also aren’t a lot of confusing extras that up the price, either, making the Mazda2 one of those vehicles where you truly get what you see.
Activity & Performance Ability: The tiny Mazda2 is definitely a part of the “zoom-zoom” family: it’s aggressive, planted and a go-getter – even with just a 100-horsepower engine. It feels nimble and stable at the corners with more spirit than the rest. The 5-speed manual is a must, as the 4-speed automatic transmission is in dire need of revising. Road noise is pronounced but unavoidable with cheaper compacts.
The Green Concern: The Mazda2 might not make as small of a carbon footprint as a diesel or hybrid, but 32-MPG is remains a significant number to feel good about.
FINAL PARTING WORDS
If you can handle not having a lot of modern interior technology options, the straightforward 2011 Mazda2 compact will deliver with a performance-oriented 1.5-liter 4-cylinder engine that retains 32-MPG and for under $16k.
©2011 Katrina Ramser