2011 Mazda2

In case you haven’t heard, the little British “Zoom Zoom” kid with the big ears wants you to know that the 2011 Mazda 2 has joined the mushrooming subcompact class of cars. Mazda says the new 2 is Zoom Zoom “concentrated,” but more accurately it’s really a single Zoom. Not that the sprightly little hatchback isn’t fun to drive, because it is.

The 2011 Mazda 2 may be new to the U.S. but like the Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris before it, the 2 has been sold in Europe and Asia for several years. It has been named Car of the Year in more than 20 countries and voted 2008 World Car of the Year by international automotive journalists.

A product of a Mazda-Ford collaboration, the 2011 Mazda 2 and the 2011 Ford Fiesta are design cousins. Unlike the Fiesta, with a sedan and hatchback body styles, the 2 is offered only as a four-door hatch with two trim levels, Sport and Touring. Both have a single engine offering, a 1.5-liter four cylinder, and two transmission choices, a standard five-speed manual and an optional four-speed automatic.

When it comes to the Mazda 2’s fuel economy, the EPA gives a polite rating of 29 city/35 highway/32 combined with the manual gearbox; 27 city/33 highway/29 combined with the automatic. While the numbers aren’t a fuel economy home run, the 32 mpg combined matches the Toyota Yaris and is better than the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa.

Exterior And Interior

Adopting design cues from its big brother, the Mazda 3, the Mazda 2 retains much of the sleek hatchback styling that the 3 is known for. A drastically swept-back windshield and up-swept body side creases give it a wedged shape, while front fender bulges add an aggressive dimension. The smile-shaped black honeycomb grille doesn’t look as goofy as it does on the 3, in fact, it comes off as being somewhat cute.

Inside, the swoops and creases of the exterior are replaced with the pleasing, simple lines of the dash. The layout is a throw back to when ”less is more,” and function of gauges and controls were apparent from appearance and location. The cabin may be Spartan in appearance, but it doesn’t feel like a stripped down econobox. Hard plastics have an attractive grain and panels fit tightly together. That said, things could be a little more comfortable if the armrest on the door panel where padded.

The arched roofline of the Mazda 2 affords taller occupants adequate headroom front and rear. For longer-legged drivers, there is enough seat travel, aided by a telescoping steering column and height-adjustable driver’s seat, to allow a comfortable fit behind the wheel. Rear-door openings are small and the rear seat is tight on legroom and toe space. Adults won’t look forward to a long ride in the back seats.

Mazda 2

If a toddler is a frequent rear seat passenger, installing a child safety seat can be a challenge because the lower Latch anchors are tightly embedded between the seat cushion and seat back. The 13.3 cubic feet behind the seat can easily accommodate a stroller along with accompanying necessities. Fold the rear seats and the 27.8 cubic feet of space can swallow, with a little maneuvering, a mountain bike without removing the wheels.

On The Road

Weighing in at 2,306 pounds, the 100 horsepower output from the 1.5-liter four cylinder isn’t as anemic as it might sound. Because of its light weight, the Mazda 2 feels quite peppy. And, with 90 percent of the engine’s 90 foot-pounds of torque available at only 2500 rpm, the throttle pedal is quite responsive. From stop to 60 mph arrives in about nine seconds, which is on par with others in the class. Running through the gears of the manual-equipped test car, acceleration feels more brisk than that, but beyond 60 mph the little all-aluminum engine starts to run out of breath. On the Interstate, once 70-75 mph is reached, things settle in and the 2 becomes a competent cruiser.

If you’re wondering where the Mazda Zoom Zoom, or in this case, Zoom, comes into play, it’s on two-lane country roads. The chassis and steering setup result in an uncommonly connected driving experience. The gearbox, operated via a dash-mounted shifter, isn’t Miata snick, snick, but throws are relatively short and the clutch operates with a smooth firmness. The little Mazda corners with precision, and even at speed it doesn’t often call on its stability control, tucking into bends with enthusiasm.

While fun on twisty lanes, the Mazda 2 will most often be used for urban motoring where its small-size maneuverability really shines—it scoots easily through city traffic, fits into small parking spaces, and can complete U-turns in the width of a typical side street.

Nearly all of the 201 miles we drove were, shall we say, a little more spirited than normal. This showed up when our fuel economy numbers averaged 30.2 mpg. That’s not bad, but less than the EPA’s estimated combined of 32 mpg. We’ve asked for another test driver and will update this with expected improved fuel economy numbers.

Economics

A look at the interior of the 2 says this is Mazda’s way of providing a minimalist approach to modern motoring. However, that doesn’t preclude the base Sport starting at $14,180 from coming with a nice array of standard features. These include remote keyless entry; air conditioning; power windows, locks, and outside mirrors; tilt steering column; height-adjustable driver’s seat; a 60/40 split folding rear seat; and an AM/FM/CD audio system. Driver and passenger sunvisor vanity mirrors also are included; a feature not always included in other subcompact base models. The only options are $200 for pearl paint and $800 for the automatic transmission.

Mazda 2

When comparing other vehicles, you’ll find the Toyota Yaris four-door hatchback is nearly $1,000 less. But, except for air conditioning, all the standard features on the Mazda 2 are available with extra-cost option packages or steps up the model lineup. The 2’s kissing cousin Ford Fiesta starts about $1,400 more and, like the Yaris, doesn’t have all the standard features included. Honda’s Fit is $1,000 more and it does include a host of standard equipment. Where the Fit doesn’t quite match the Mazda 2 is the fun factor in driving.

The Mazda 2 is a versatile and nimble little runabout. It is a cheap-run-car, in these days of almost $4 a gallon gas, that’s great for zipping to the super market, commuting or throwing a bike in the back end. And it does have a couple of things the other don’t—a smiley face and enough Zoom to put a smile on your face.

Prices are Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) at time of publication and do not include destination charges, taxes or licensing.


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2011 Mazda2
Base MSRP: $14,200
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  • anonymous

    i will bet they get better mileage in europe. For some reason the best mileage cars cannot be had in the US

  • Charles

    Dear anonymous,

    The models in Europe do get better mileage. The Mazda 2 in GB comes standard with a 1.3L 75 HP ICE, not the 1.5L 102 HP that we get in the states. The base model in GB gets about 13% better mileage than the 1.5L version (22% if you compare the base manual to the 1.5L automatic) on the European test cycle.

    I thought the US version would weigh a bit more than the European version, but the difference is only 11 pounds.

    So Mazda like almost all automobile manufactures believe that Americans will only buy relatively powerful cars, even with $4.00 a gallon gasoline.

  • GG

    What does this have to do with Hybrid cars? Seriously, what is the explanation for this site’s fascination with diesel and other non hybrid cars? Change your site name already.

  • Charles

    As a frequent reader and sometimes poster on this site, I appreciate the articles on hybrids, plugins, EVs and all other high MPG cars. Please ignore GG and keep up the good work.

  • jim1961

    I agree with Charles. I recently bought a 2011 Honda Insight but I did research on several cars before making my decision. As far as the comments about cars getting better gas mileage in Europe… I believe there is a bigger incentive for consumers to buy fuel efficient cars because of high fuel taxes in EU. The average car in EU is probably more efficient than an average US car BUT you can’t compare the numbers directly because the US EPA fuel efficiency test is the most conservative (and most accurate IMHO) in the world.

  • Anonymous

    “the EPA gives a polite rating of 29 city/35 highway/32 combined with the manual gearbox; 27 city/33 highway/29 combined with the automatic. While the numbers aren’t a fuel economy home run, the 32 mpg combined matches the Toyota Yaris and is better than the Honda Fit and Nissan Versa.”

    Unfortunately, the article apparently glosses over the fact that the Mazda2 with automatic transmission still uses a four speed gearbox and has the worst fuel economy among its competitors!

    EPA
    MAzda2 A/T 27/33/29
    Honda Fit 28/35/31
    Nissan Versa CVt 28/34/30
    Toyota Yaris 29/35/31

    Oh, Mazda2 also has the lowest horsepower among its competitors, IIRC. Ouch!

  • Anonymous

    Can the rear seats in a Mazda2 fold flat? It appears not in the photo.
    It is very useful in a sub-compact car to have rear seats folded flat so you can load a few things on top.

  • Anonymous

    According to Mazda UK web site, a Mazda2 with 1.5 L engine and auto transmission takes 11.9 sec in 0-62 mph acceleration;
    a Mazda2 with 75hp 1.3 L engine and manual transmission takes 14.9 sec for 0-62 mph.

  • Anonymous

    Many Europeans drive small cars with less powerful engines (compare with the U.S.) because:

    - they are better drivers, or they know how to drive? At least, most learnt to drive with stick shift, unlike America.

    Just read this from Autonews blog:

    “The first time I went to Germany I was in awe.
    Not at the beauty of the country or a 900-year-old cathedral.
    But rather at the Germans’ driving skills.
    I couldn’t get over how rush hour moved so swiftly and efficiently. I noticed no road rage, no accidents and no jams. Drivers on the famed Autobahn had proper etiquette. They moved aside for faster vehicles and obeyed the posted speed limits where they existed.
    A German man explained to me that it’s very difficult to get a driver’s license in Germany. In fact, most drivers fail both the driving and written tests at least three times. He added that almost no one spoke on a mobile phone while driving in Germany and there were few accidents even on the high-speed Autobahn.
    I thought fondly of Germany today as I read a report by LeaseTrader.com.
    The report shows that most experienced U.S. drivers would fail a written driving test if re-tested now. [...]”

    Sadly, I don’t think I’ll see any change any time soon, probably not in my life time.

  • JJJJ

    Once again, I read “subcompact” and expect to see something like the Smart, not what I consider a perfectly medium sized car.

    Why did the naming system get so screwed up?

    Im not blaming this website of course, just the geniuses who started the flawed system.

  • anonymous

    once again, why can’t we have the “OPTION” of the higher mileage cars

  • Anonymous

    a little disappointed in the gas economy… should at least be 35 mpg or better, if not 40.

  • Johan

    Great cars!! I hope this car will be available in Indonesia. So, I get it to my garage.

  • Violaine

    Hello,

    The mazda has a great style. However, I do not know enough in hybrids yet to decide if this one is worth it. Anyone could advise me on how to choose the best hybrid car? Thank you so very much! (mpg, holding the road, are priorities)

  • RV

    No one should ever call a Mazda 2 “fun to drive”. The 100 HP is simply not enough to haul you around. Consequently, because the engine is weaker, you have to rev higher more frequently which eats gas anyway. The fuel efficiency isn’t a selling point of the car, nor is it’s cargo capacity, nor is its interior styling (ugly!). Yes, it may be cheaper than a Fit and Fiesta, but take it from someone who has test driven all of the cars, you are better off going with either a Yaris (for Reliability), Fit (for ultimate practicality, and reliability), a Fiesta (for fun to drive dynamics and great gas mileage), or the new Chevy Sonic (which will supposedly compete with the Fiesta, and has a 0-60 acceleration of 7.9 seconds).

  • samsmith

    This is little buggy just needs a version of that new Mazda Sky-G mill
    maybe 2012??
    Travel trailer

  • tapra1

    Both have a single engine offering, a 1.5-liter four cylinder, and two transmission choices, a standard five-speed manual and an optional four-speed automatic.DK Tech

  • deasiahenry66

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  • emileegeorge33

    How did you get to be this good? Its amazing to see someone put so much passion into a subject. I’m glad I came across this. I’m glad I took the time to read on past the first paragraph. You’ve got so much to say, so much to offer
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  • Larry Lawrence

    This car isn’t the greatest. I do like it. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Driving my nights away looking for a better day for me. Windshield wiper slapping out a tempo. Perfect.
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