First Drive: 2011 Mazda2 Page 3

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Inexpensive, Not Cheap
This is a point Mazda drove home with regularity: there's a difference between cheap and inexpensive. Yes, it's marketing speak, but it's also true. There are cheap cars (think most 1990s Kia/Hyundai vehicles, the previous-generation Chevrolet Aveo, the Chrysler Sebring, etc.) and then there are inexpensive cars that are still well-made (that list is shorter, but the base MINI Cooper fits, as does the Honda Fit, and, to a lesser degree, the Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris, two of the Mazda2's primary competitors).

The fit, finish, and feel of the Mazda2 really is one of inexpensiveness, not cheapness. There's no outright lack of quality, but rather a cost-conscious lack of polish and panache. And that fits right in with the Mazda2's role as a cost-conscious city car, fuel-conscious commuter, third/fourth car for the luxury/sports car owner, and entry-level sporty hatch for the first-time buyer or college student. The plastics used aren't particularly pretty, but they feel durable; they aren't particularly nice to the touch, but they enclose the cabin quietly and without squeaks or rattles; the fabrics aren't premium, but they have texture that makes them feel and look like more than simple cloth.

A Car Born Of (And For) Economic Necessity
In a way, the Mazda2 is the perfect recession car: for the still-wealthy, it's both affordable and useful--a way to conspicuously non-consume. For the less well-off, it's a microcosm of what it takes to get through the week: making the most of meager materials through careful technique and artful invention.

As fuel prices continue to flirt with a return to $4-$5 per gallon levels amidst the worst petroleum disaster in history, we are also beginning to take seriously as a nation taxation and pricing of carbon emissions and fuel economy regulations. All of these add up to a reality that makes us glad there are cars like the Mazda2, and not just like the Yaris, Versa, or Honda CR-Z. It's easy for the funsuckers to punch a Rolls-Royce or a Ferrari in the face; even easier to send a big American V-8 to post-bailout banishment; it's not so easy, however, to take away a car that delivers smiles behind the wheel when it manages a real-world 30+ mpg average. In fact, there's no need to.

And that's exactly why the Mazda2 is such a brilliant car. Unlike the premium-positioned Fiesta or MINI, or the purely econo-class Versa, Fit and Yaris, the Mazda2 strikes a balance between them while offering what only the MINI really does as well: genuine hatchback fun.

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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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