- Clean, modern stylling
- Excellent handling
- Comfortable seats
- Barely adequate power
- Sluggish four-speed automatic
- Lacks headroom, even for six-footers
The 2011 Mazda2 is fun to drive in a way that few other inexpensive econocars are.
Mazda is taking 'zoom-zoom' down a size for 2011 with the introduction of the new Mazda2. The Mazda2 matches up with models like the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit, and Chevrolet Aveo, as well as the new 2011 Ford Fiesta. It's related to the Fiesta but far from identical to it, with completely different powertrains, interiors, and design attributes.
How does the little 2011 Mazda2 distinguish itself in such an increasingly crowded field of affordable small cars? Mazda would like to emphasize that there's a difference between cheap and inexpensive, and the Mazda2 only lands on the latter point. And from our experience, it's true; you won't find cut-rate materials and switchgear in the Mazda2, at least not in the extreme sense you'd see in 1990s Kia/Hyundai vehicles and stripper base-models from other automakers.
The 2011 Mazda Mazda2 uses a 100-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine with either a five-speed manual gearbox or a four-speed automatic transmission. It's sluggish with the automatic, but with the manual it's surprisingly eager and very economical, and a slight lack of power is the only beef we have, as the sound and feel of the engine isn't nearly as thrashy or breathless as much of the competition.
Inside, the Mazda2 is a little tight for taller folks; its feature set, whether in Sport or Touring, is basic; and its interior is nothing special—a little drab, dark, and lacking in contrast. But there's all the flexibility and utility you could ask for in a car with this kind of footprint and fuel economy. Figures of 35 mpg and higher are entirely possible in normal driving, by the way, and as fuel prices continue to threaten a return to $4-$5 per gallon levels, we're glad there are fun, economical cars like the 2011 Mazda2, and not just like the Yaris, Versa, or Honda CR-Z.
In a way, the Mazda2 is the perfect recession car: for the still-wealthy, it's both affordable and useful—a way to conspicuously non-consume. For the less well-off, it's a microcosm of what it takes to get through the week: making the most of meager materials through careful technique and artful invention.