First Drive: 2011 Mazda2 Page 2

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Stylish, Modern, But Not A Clown-Face
Looking at the car, the profile and sculpted front and rear ends make for a more coherent package than any other car in the segment, flowing neatly and looking sorted from any angle. Even the Ford Fiesta can't make this claim, with the chopped rear end and protruding headlights making for some odd looks at times.

A wide base, sloping greenhouse, and flared fenders all serve to give the Mazda2 a solid, stable, and sporty look by tricking the eye into seeing a lower, wider car than the measurements actually indicate. Solid work by the design team here.

The only real visual differences you'll note between the various levels of Mazda2 are the trim packages--and they are mighty few. There are only really four variations possible with the 2, in fact: automatic or manual, Sport or Touring. The Touring model upgrades the standard 15-inch steel wheels to 15-inch alloys, adds red piping to the interior, and a spoiler out back. If you want to add navigation or Bluetooth to either model, you can buy Garmin and Motorola aftermarket add-ons directly from Mazda.

Zoom Zoom
It handles like it's lower and wider than it is, too. Between the firmly damped and sprung suspension, the well-tuned electric power-assisted steering (EPAS), and the incredibly firm and sorted chassis, the Mazda2 is a performer even in a segment that also holds the MINI Cooper, for many the benchmark in front-wheel-drive handling.

The reason? It's light. Very light--as in, it weighs less than the second-gen Miata, clocking in at a svelte 2,306 pounds, a weight almost unthinkable in today's safety-obsessed marketplace. Despite the light weight, it's surprisingly quiet thanks to BMW-like chassis dampers placed at key harmonic points on the unibody.

The light weight was earned through careful attention to what Mazda calls its "gram strategy," shaving weight from every component possible. The cumulative results are impressive: 6.4 pounds saved by shortening wiring harnesses, 5.5 pounds saved in the hood hinges and door handles, 2.2 pounds saved on the speakers by using stronger, ligher magnets, and 3.7 pounds of water weight saved by optimizing and downsizing the radiator. Even the suspension was lightened, shaving 3.4 pounds of each suspension member and a total of 29 pounds of unsprung weight through the use of lighter calipers and wheels. The list goes on, with the incremental gains smaller and smaller, but adding up to a lot of weight.

We didn't have the opportunity to put the car on the track or an autocross course, however, so we may find flaws not noticeable on the open road under further review. First impression, however, is that the car is near-brilliant: balanced, lots of grip despite the small 15-inch, 195/50 aspect ratio tires and all-weather tread, and ready to tackle anything from a high-speed lightly banked sweeper to a hard, bumpy 90-degree right with agility.

As we mentioned at the outset, a slight lack of power is the only beef we have with the drivetrain, as the sound and feel of the engine isn't nearly as thrashy or breathless as much of the competition. Sure, the MINI Cooper's 1.6-liter mill sounds a little better (and pulls a little harder, too), but this is an incredibly inexpensive car to be delivering this sort of rounded package. The MINI Cooper starts at $19,500 after all, near the upper ceiling of the Mazda2.

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Comments (8)
  1. I believe the Ford Fiesta (was) the clone.

  2. What a bizarre article. It's Mazda's platform, not Ford's, and the Mazda 2 based Ford Fiesta was released years after the Mazda 2. Platform sharing doesn't mean cloning... if you look closely the monocoques of the two cars are certainly different... let alone most other things... albeit small in many areas.
    The Mazda 2 is a Ford Fiesta angle is just plain nonsense.
    It's like saying a Maserati is a Ferrari clone.

  3. Gazzed, David--you and I know this. But for most people here in the U.S., the car they were first familiar with wasn't the Mazda2 (or Demio, as it's called elsewhere) but the Fiesta, thanks to their (in)famous social media campaign.
    Accordingly, a lot of folks think the Fiesta is the original, or at least that it was designed as the "main" car for the platform/architecture, and the Mazda2 is the secondary. Not saying they're right (they're not), but explaining it in terms the audience would understand.
    All Fiesta/Mazda2 stuff aside, the 2 is a very good car in its own right, regardless of its corporate bloodlines, as I point out.

  4. I never realized that the Mini was priced so competitively in the US market. Here, it costs nearly twice as much as the Mazda2 (The Mini is $31,100 while the Mazda2 starts from $16,990). In fact, the Mini is even more expensive than the Mazda6 here.

  5. Sorry Nelson, didn't mean to come on too strong. We've been blessed with the Mazda 2 in Australia years ahead of the latest model Ford Fiestas. And, I must admit, I am a Mazda fan. The 2 is wonderful save for the budget nature of the car effecting Mazda's bugbear, NVH, and material choices.

  6. 14 to 18 grand for this tiny car? Geez, why can't someone make a car under 8 grand anymore? Of course, even if a foreign car maker did make a cheap car, they would tax the crap out of it here in America...

  7. nice post specially The Mazda2 is also not a comfy home for drivers much taller than six feet. At 6' 2", I found little leg room and the tilt-adjustable steering wheel could have gone a bit higher even when set to its maximum elevation. Headroom wasn't ample--I had about two inches to spare--but it wasn't claustrophobic, either. At any rate, you're not going to get much in the backseat behind a six-footer, though children should be comfortable behind even the rear-most seating position.....

  8. I had a Mazda 2 as a rental when my personal car was totaled early last year. I can honestly say I hated to return it when I finally found a replacement car to purchase. No, this car isn't pretty and there are no frills inside (the author of this article failed to mention that the lock buttons for the doors are located smack dab in the small console area between the two front seats, and not on either of the front doors, as one would expect), but the handling was great, the mileage was good, and I found the 1.6 liter engine to be peppy, even with the automatic trans. For what it is, the Mazda two is indeed a great city car for commuting daily. You also won't have a problem in most cases locating a parking spot for it either.

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