After marketing its Japanese-built subcompact Mazda2 five-door front-wheel-drive hatchback to the balance of the road-going world, Mazda has finally brought this small car to the United States for the 2011 selling season.
All swoopy lines in a visual package that is familiar to fans of the marque, the 2011 Mazda2 has the company’s wide-mouth grin and articulated front fender lines that have differentiated Mazda cars and crossovers from others. The side bodyline crease that swoops from the elevated hood and raised front fenders all the way to the sloping rear, spoiler-attached hatch door and single chrome-tipped pipe give a cohesion to this package – and a happy look to the car.
Granted, the Mazda2 doesn’t have as much power as some of its peers, running a 1.5-liter in-line four-cylinder double overhead camshaft engine of 100 usable horsepower at 6000 rpm (redline is 6300) and 98 lb-ft of torque at 4000, rowed by a nifty five-speed manual transmission (a four-speed automatic is available) that can easily be compared with those from Honda. It's mounted midway up the central stack, rally style.
The Mazda2 makes up for its supposed mechanical shortcomings – really, in practice they’re not – with a delightfully balanced chassis that has suspension of stabilizer-bar-equipped MacPherson front and torsion beam/coil spring rear appointments. The 2011 Mazda2 fairly dances over road imperfections without a care in the world and takes dips well, thanks to its 5.1-inch ground clearance.
Like most in its class, the Mazda2 has ABS-equipped front ventilated disc and rear drum brakes that work without any fade, equipped with electronic brakeforce distribution and brake assist. It also has stability and traction controls (the latter can be turned off). The Mazda2’s electric power steering is quite direct for the genre and communicates well with the driver; there is no slop or vagueness to it.
Rated as a subcompact hatch, the Mazda2 stands 155.5 inches long, 66.7 inches wide, 58.1 inches tall and rides on a relatively long 98-inch wheelbase. It weighs all of 2306 pounds, making this 2011 Mazda entry quite the lightweight in class and helping it achieve the delightful handling characteristics that endear it to most any driver. Interior volume is a good 87.1 cubic feet.
There were no options on the Spirited Green metallic (matches my favorite toenail color) 2011 Mazda2 Touring, the uprated model in the range. The list price is $16,185 with destination. The Sport model comes in at $14,730 but lacks the refinement of this Touring model.
With the Touring group, buyers get 15-inch 8-spoke alloy rims riding on Yokohama 185/55R tires that match up extremely well with this chassis, which is also the donor for Ford’s Fiesta model. There is keyless entry and the driver’s window has one-touch operation down and up. The leather-wrapped steering wheel tilts and has controls for the audio and trip computer (left) and capable cruise control (right). The driver’s seat can be adjusted for height. Fog lights are standard.
This lovely green car is upholstered in upgraded black fabric with red piping; the seats are very comfortable and give good lumbar and lateral support during enthusiastic driving. While there is no covered storage within the cabin, there are cupholders in both front doors and three at the central tunnel, to go with nooks and crannies about the front of the car. The central stack that controls the six-speaker CD-based audio has wheels for heating, ventilating and air conditioning controls. There is a single 12-volt plug and auxiliary plug with cable.