At just over 2,300 pounds, the Mazda2 is a lightweight. It's about 200 pounds less than the Honda Fit, MINI Cooper, or Ford Fiesta, and a bit less than the Toyota Yaris even. And, Smart Fortwo aside, that makes it the lightest regular production vehicle for 2011.
Lighter weight and smaller engine displacement are two of the old assurances that a vehicle will get better mileage. Of course there are many other variables, like gearing, aerodynamics, accessories, and powertrain tuning, but it still rings true. With 2,300 pounds and a small, 1.5-liter engine, the Mazda2 has a compelling package for fuel-efficiency.
So I sought to test that. Taking the Mazda2 out, engine already warm, on a 40-mile loop that includes nearly 15 miles of suburban-street stop-and-go, nearly 25 miles of 60-70-mph highway cruising, and a few miles of low-speed creeping, we did as we've done with other vehicles, shifting early, accelerating gradually (but not hypermiling, shutting the engine off, or becoming a road hazard), and making a concerted effort to coast a little more up to lights and drive evenly.
In this loop, I averaged 41 mpg—the same number I achieved in a Toyota Yaris a couple of years ago. I should add that this loop, around Portland, Oregon, isn't at all level; those in much of the country could do better with a light throttle foot and a little extra patience.
As we reported in a post on The Car Connection earlier today, we were able to average 31 mpg in about 100 miles of city and suburban driving in the Mazda2, having fun with it, letting the engine rev, and having a rather heavy throttle foot, which admittedly it takes to feel like you're really keeping pace with fast-moving traffic.
Altogether, it's a reminder that even a very small, light vehicle like the Mazda2 won't get Prius (or Insight) fuel economy on the highway, while if you drive very mindfully in the city or suburbs, you can approach their level of frugality at a fraction of the price of entry.