True story: Nathan (that’s me) was in a bad mood. I was driving a red Mazda 2 about 6 months ago to a BBQ restaurant aiming to pick up an order to go.
I didn’t want to go as a BIG game was on the tube and I was missing it.
When I pulled into the parking lot there were no paring spaces out front so I zipped over to the side of the restaurant where there was curb-side parking. There was only one, tiny spot. I tore through the parking lot to grab it before anyone else. I was heading straight in to a spot you normally parallel park for. At the very last second, I yanked the E-brake and slid in beautifully. At that moment, I saw a group of stoners wafting out of the restaurant.
Suddenly, I heard a stoner yell, “Dude! Am I trippin’ balls or did he just do the coolest parking job – like EVER!?”
Yes indeed, it was a moment of pride. Still, I had to hand it to the little Mazda 2; it was so easy to drive, so predictable and so toss-able that I could rotate it on a dime. It’s a fun car when you know its limitations, which doesn’t take long. Within a week, I knew this little hatch inside-out.
Roman Mica (TFLCar’s lead guitarist) doesn’t like the Mazda 2 as much as I do; but, he definitely sees the appeal of the excellent steering. Besides, he only drove the 4-speed automatic transmission which wallows while the 5-speed dances. Mazda did a great job with the steering, suspension and packaging of the Mazda 2.
Here are 5 reasons the 2011 Mazda 2 gives you the warm fuzzies:
1) It’s cheap: base price for the “Sport” is $14,180 with lots of standard goodies and a fully loaded “Touring” model costs well under $18K. Good prices to be sure, but there are plenty of other choices out there. Still, for a hatchback Ford Fiesta, which shares a platform with the Mazda 2, you will have to fork out $16,295 for the base model.
2) Nice interior: Yes, Mazda is keeping things simple with an all black interior and the same instrumentation in their littlest zoomer; but, it’s a nice place to be with well made materials and logically set up ergonomics. If you’re over 6’2” – you should look elsewhere. Back seat space is good for kids and average sized adults. The tiny cargo space is a bit of a letdown when compared with the cavernous Honda Fit, but it’s still very utilitarian.
3) Mighty good gas mileage: I averaged 29 mpg with the 4-speed automatic transmission and 32 mpg with the 5-speed stick. On the highway, the manual was able to get nearly 38 mpg. Now, for those of you keeping score – the magic number for highway mpg is currently 40 mpg. I bet, with the advent of a 6-speed manual (they have one) this little Mazda could easily crest the 40 mpg mark.
4) Cute as a button: I know I’m a burly macho dude – but this thing is huggable. Yes, I like the Mini, FIAT 500 and slick looking KIA Rio5 a little bit more. I may like the 2012 Volkswagen Beetle’s looks – but VW won’t let me near one – so I’m not sure. Out of all the Mazda products adorned with the silly smiley face front end, the Mazda 2 is the only one of their cars that can pull it off. It’s a tight package overall and I think it’s a hair cuter than the Ford Fiesta hatchback.
5) Fun is as fun does: That stoner wasn’t trippin’; this little Mazda 2 can boogie. It’s a simple setup with MacPherson struts up front and a torsion beam rear suspension – but it works. With only 100 horsepower making 98 lbs-feet of torque out of the aluminum 1.5 liter 4-banger, at least the Mazda 2 weighs less than 2,400 lbs. Around sharp corners this little guy clamps on tighter than Snookie grip on a bottle of tequila.
There is a bit of roll and there can be some under-steer if you drive more idiotically than me, otherwise the Mazda 2 will dutifully go where pointed. If it weren’t for its weak engine (you simply must keep the revs up or it will sputter) it would go through my test loop with top times. As it stands, the 5-speed Mazda 2 was just as fast on my curvy loop as the 6-speed automatic Ford Fiesta. Still, despite its cornering capability, the overall ride is mighty good.
Problems? Yup, there are a few issues.
Obviously the power is less than desirable for speed freaks, but there’s little a company can do with an entry model’s power. The brakes work well enough, but 4-wheel discs would be better than rear drums. There’s some engine drone which is especially noticeable with the 4-speed automatic that can be bothersome and there’s very few options available from Mazda – but that’s about it.
Folks who like something clever enough to commute with economically with a cheeky side – the Mazda 2 warrants your attention. I love it and think it’s severely underrated by many of my cohorts. Most of them drink.
Don’t hold your breath for the Mazdaspeed 2. If (and that’s a BIG “if”) it does come, I guarantee you, it will be outstanding.
Automotive media, racing, vehicle evaluation, wrecking yards, and car sales are just a part of Nathan Adlen’s vehicular past. He writes out of high octane passion! To read more reviews by Nathan Adlen or just to enjoy more of excellent writing please visit him on at his examiner.com page HERE.
BTW: Have you ever wondered what’s the most fun car you can buy for the least amount of dollars.
Check out the video below and find out.