The 2011 Mazda 2 has been completely redesigned inside, outside and underneath. The all-new five-seat, front-wheel-drive subcompact was designed to take on a wide range of competitors, such as the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, and Kia Soul and Rio.
First introduced in 2007, the Mazda 2 has been extremely successful, selling more than 400,000 units in Europe and Asia, and being named World Car Of The Year in 2008. Now, the U.S. market gets the third-generation Mazda 2 before any other market.
The styling is fresh and we find it arrestingly good-looking. Like all Mazda products of recent vintage, the 2011 Mazda 2 has been made to look much bolder and sportier than its previous incarnations. The body itself has been reshaped in a much more sporty fashion, with more sculpted sides, a laid-back windshield, and a jaunty little rear roof spoiler on one version. There's a new grille, hood, fenders, lamps, bumper and air intakes up front, with new body-colored door handles, new taillamps, a power liftgate, new 15-inch wheels, and exhaust system outlets at the rear. Underneath, there's a redone suspension and an improved braking system.
Under the hood, there is a single engine choice, a time-tested 1.5-liter double-overhead-cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing to give it more flexibility in delivering low-rpm torque and high-rpm horsepower.
Fuel economy for the Mazda 2 is an EPA-estimated 28/35 mpg City/Highway.
Aiming for higher gas mileage without damaging the driving fun, Mazda focused on reducing weight with a vengeance, using a much higher ratio of high-strength steel in the body to lose 50 pounds, or 10 percent of the body's weight, with more welds and more weld-bonded adhesives in the body and its openings. And then they looked for hundreds of places to save a few pounds, like the wiring harness, the door locks and latches, the engine's radiator, the automatic transmission shifter, the pedals, and even the speakers in the stereo system. The final result was a car that weighs just a bit over 2300 pounds in basic form, a five-door hatch that is actually lighter than a two-seater Miata.
We climbed in and found the seats comfortable and supportive and we liked the thick, sporty steering wheel. Although rated as a five-seater, we wouldn't subject a fifth person to the back seat, the same as we wouldn't for any car in this class. The Mazda 2 is relatively roomy for four, though. Fold the rear seats down and it offers good cargo capacity with 27 cubic feet of cargo space and easy hatchback accessibility.
Out on the road, we found the Mazda 2 fun to drive. The little engine is gutsy, with a sporty note at upper revs. Shifting the manual five-speed is easy and enjoyable. The new brakes are responsive, with no annoying slack in the pedal travel. The new electric steering is responsive. The new suspension tuning minimizes body lean in corners yet ride quality is smooth and comfortable. It maneuvers rewardingly in tight driving situations, making it easy to park or thread through thick traffic.
The 2011 Mazda 2 Sport ($13,980) and the more luxurious 2011 Mazda 2 Touring ($15,435) come standard with a five-speed manual gearbox. A four-speed automatic is available for both the Sport ($14,780) and Touring ($16,235) models. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Retail Prices and do not include destination charge of $750.)
Mazda2 Sport comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 with four speakers, reclining front bucket seats with six-way adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 split folding rear seats, tilt steering column, remote keyless entry, power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, 15-inch steel wheels.
Mazda2 Touring gets upgraded cloth upholstery with three-dimensional seat fabric with red piping, six-speaker sound system, multi-functional leather steering wheel, rear roof spoiler, fog lamps, and 15-inch alloy wheels.
Options include auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink ($295), white pearl paint ($200). Bluetooth wireless for hands-free cellphone operation ($95) is available, also a rear bumper guard ($61), cargo net ($40), center console with armrest. Accessories include a bike rack, a roof rack, a roof basket, an interior cargo box, side sill extensions, ski rack, snowboard rack, surfboard rack, and a kayak carrier.
Safety equipment on all Mazda 2 models includes frontal airbags, side-impact and side curtain air bags, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Quick Brake Assist, dynamic stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring system. It also has Mazda's first brake priority system that automatically puts the brakes on whenever the brake and accelerator pedals are pressed simultaneously. The 2011 Mazda 2 has received Europe's highest crash rating of five stars.