The 2013 Mazda2 continues in its role as the smallest Mazda on sale in the U.S. The subcompact hatchback is offered in just one body style, a limited array of trim levels, and it's hardly a big seller. But its appeal lies in its sheer simplicity. Rather than larding on features, the lean little car offers one of the most fun-to-drive experiences you can get--and for relatively little cash.
It's clearly a Mazda in looks, with a simple five-door shape and the brand's characteristic front end. The body is upright and pert and the windows are refreshingly large, though inside it's basic but a bit dark. The driving position up front is good, although taller adults up front will find themselves pushing the seats all the way back. Getting anyone above small children into the rear seats will require considerable negotiating skills on legroom.
Behind the wheel, there's not a lot of distraction for the driver, who can concentrate on the rollerskate handling and wringing the most out of the little car's 100-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. With superb steering feel and excellent suspension, not to mention a curb weight of just 2,300 pounds, the 2013 Mazda Mazda2 is fun and nippy on city streets and suburban shopping slaloms. One drawback to the short wheelbase is a fair degree of fore-and-aft motion under both acceleration and braking, though the ride is otherwise good for the class.
All buyers should go for the five-speed manual gearbox, which delivers the maximum fun factor (and is cheaper to boot). Avoid the four-speed automatic, which drags down performance and subtracts fun.
Fuel efficiency is about average for a subcompact, with the five-speed manual version rated at 32 mpg combined (29 mpg city, 35 mpg highway) and the undesirable automatic falling to 30 mpg combined (28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway). That's no better than the larger (but pricier) Mazda3 compact, which offers the new and very fuel efficient SkyActiv 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine.
Despite its small size, the Mazda2 comes with the full complement of safety features, including six airbags, and the usual anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, and so forth. It's now an older design, though, and its crash safety scores are hardly stellar, with a couple of minimal "acceptable" ratings from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
The two trim levels are Sport and Touring, like most Mazdas, but neither one is exactly loaded with luxury fittings. The base Sport model includes power windows, locks, and mirrors; air conditioning; remote keyless entry; a tilting steering wheel, a 60/40-split folding rear seat; and a single-CD audio system with four speakers and both auxiliary and USB inputs. There's also a rear-window wiper and washer on every Mazda2.
The Touring model upgrades the trim, including 15-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker audio system with steering wheel controls, a trip computer, accessories like fog lights, a roof spoiler, and a chrome exhaust tip, and also red piping on seats with upgraded cloth upholstery. If you want either hands-free Bluetooth streaming or a navigation system, you'll have to turn to your dealer to install them--they're not offered by the factory.
For more details, see the full review of the 2013 Mazda Mazda2 on our sister site, TheCarConnection.