Econobox. Genus: tidy “B” segment auto, a grocery-getter.
Formula: transverse front-drive power, square people pod in back.
Mazda2: shapely eco-box, sexier than the old lobbed-back 323.
Mazda’s designers expertly applied their French curves. The 2’s exterior looks like a mid-century George Nelson Swag Leg chair stretched tautly between four close-to-the-edge wheels. On the Touring version, wide low-profile tires beneath curvy body creases say fun to drive.
And the lightweight 2, which shares a few Ford Fiesta pieces, has quick responsive electric power steering that provides decent feedback too. Handling: lively with modest body roll and good tracking. Stability program, antilock brakes and Bridgestone winter tires made this sled standout during its Wisconsin winter tryout. It’s simple to park, too, due to a tight turning radius and large windows.
Frost-heaved roads induced hopping from the initially compliant 2’s suspension. Even on smooth pavement, this tike bounces. Road and wind noise are noticeable. Low temps, (nearly zero degrees F) led to engine valve clatter. Plus, the four-speed automatic hung onto third gear. This let the 100-hp four announce itself. Noise diminished considerably when the engine warmed up. Nonetheless, the automatic-equipped 2’s transmission downshifts often, when it climbs expressway overpasses. The five-speed manual is a better choice; power output is modest.
Cost-cutting rules. Only the front passenger gets an assist strap, the head liner feels like cardboard, hard plastics abound and the tilting steering wheel doesn’t telescope. Red seat piping and the leather-wrapped steering wheel enliven. Seat comfort is fair with generous front headroom.
Despite three rear shoulder belts, (ideal for brat buckets) but only two adults fit snuggly under the tapered roofline. Eyeballs see plastic plugs overhead and exposed spot welds behind the “C” pillars. Rear headrests are smartly designed. They overlap the seatback when down improving rearward visibility. That feature encourages you to raise them, when seated. Safety first.
Instrumentation is partially obscured by the steering wheel. The radio’s display washed out during daylight. Its buttons need improvement.
Stowing is simple. Press an electric release button, raise the rear lid and a carpeted well accepts luggage. Rear seatbacks spit-fold increasing cargo room. They don’t fold flat.
Cold-weather fuel consumption: 27 mpg overall. The EPA says 27 city, 33 highway. Touring’s trip computer figure: 29 mpg.
Mazda asks $17,185. Ditch the automatic or choose the sparser Sport; that figure drops to less than $16,000--curves with an appealing curb-window sticker.