All photos by Mazda
When standing next to the new 2011 MAZDA2, you’ll immediately notice that it looks nothing like the quirky subcompacts introduced over the past several years by other car brands. It isn’t boxy, and it doesn’t look like the designers scrunched up a larger model to fit this smaller class. Rather, you’ll see a sporty design that evokes the “Zoom, Zoom” feel that Mazda has worked so hard to establish in recent years. In a crowded but growing segment, design is critical to attract potential buyers, and Mazda appears to have succeeded in providing an option to consumers who prefer a sporty vehicle as opposed to a more radical, quirky design.
We were invited by Mazda to drive the new car in Montreal, so we were able to put it through the paces on city streets and country roads as well. The results were impressive. The automatic version sports a 4-speed transmission and only 100 horsepower, but the car zips around nicely and you rarely lament the expected lack of power, as Mazda surgically removed unnecessary weight in a meticulous engineering process. Sure, you won’t get impressive acceleration as you’re darting onto the freeway, but the car performs adequately on those roads, and in city driving the car has plenty of power as you zoom through city streets and turn through the tight corners. The car grips the road and is just fun to drive. With the manual 5-speed you get some better acceleration as you’re ramping up to top speed, but we expect you’ll be satisfied with either option.
The MAZDA2 has been around since 2007 when it was first introduced in Europe, Japan and Australia, but Mazda redesigned the car from the ground up for its launch in North America. Mazda stressed the weight-saving engineering strategies employed in the design process, as they used high-strength steel in selected areas of the automobile along with other clever tactics. The development team managed to shave ten percent off the weight of the previous generation model. As a result, the MAZDA2 is the lightest vehicle (2,306 lbs/manual transmission model) in its category.
The vehicle offers levels of fuel economy you would expect for a subcompact, with five-speed manual transmission models returning 29/35 MPG (city/highway), while models equipped with available four-speed automatics will return 27/33 MPG (city/highway). These numbers represent the most fuel-efficient car in the Mazda lineup today, and the highest fuel efficiency of any Mazda vehicle ever offered in North America. Let’s hope these numbers get even better in future models, as Mazda and the other car companies make more investments in fuel economy technology.
The interior was comfortable and surprisingly roomy for a subcompact. The dash stresses horizontal lines so again Mazda avoided some of the radical design techniques embraced by others in this category. The Mazda designers stressed their goal of designing the car for its most common use – one driver in a city setting. They sacrificed some storage space in the back along the way, but it helped them achieve some of the design goals for the overall look of the vehicle.
At price points in the mid-teens, this and other subcompacts offer a real option to first-time car buyers. So if you’re a young guy looking for your first car and you’re on a limited budget, the MAZDA2 offers an interesting option. It all comes down to how you drive and what kind of styling you like. As noted above, many of the other cars in this space have quirkier designs, and for some of you these cars won’t fit your personality. The MAZDA2 design is sporty and eye-catching, but it doesn’t go so far that you feel like you’re making a fashion statement every time you get behind the wheel.
As with any class of new cars, it’s important that you drive as many as possible before making a selection. We suspect Mazda will gain quite a few fans if potential buyers take the time to check this one out.
Click the thumbnails below to see full versions of each photo.