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The 2013 Mazda2 certainly won't suit everyone who's shopping for an fuel-efficient subcompact. Firstly, the Mazda2 is only offered in one body style--a five-door hatchback--and secondly, instead of packing in loads of features for the money, Mazda has instead kept the '2' simple and lean. What they ended up with is, if you opt for the manual gearbox, one of the most fun-to-drive small cars on the market.
Tastefully styled inside and out, with clear nods to Mazda's sportier models like the MX-5 Miata inside, the Mazda2 goes a long way toward feeling the part of a hotter hatch even if it isn't. The Mazda2's pert, upright stance, low front end; and its simple hatch design with plenty of window space is a refreshing departure from the cavelike claustrophobia you'll find in some other small cars. The cabin is a bit dark yet simple and clean, and some might find it refreshing that there are no luxury pretenses whatsoever.
By the numbers, the Mazda2 has old-school econocar specs, and it would be hard to imagine that its 100 horsepower could be enough. Yet Mazda has engineered this car with leanness in mind every step of the way, and it weighs only about 2,300 pounds. The result is that, with the manual gearbox, it's perky and responsive if you keep the engine revving. Factor in the great steering feel and how buttoned-down the suspension feels at low speeds, and you have a small car that's a lot of fun to drive in the city. Just be aware that the four-speed automatic sacrifices much of this model's eager attitude.
The Mazda2 feels a little tight for taller folks inside, but it works provided you're willing to push the seat back all the way; otherwise you'll need to negotiate back and forth if you're trying to fit anyone taller than a small child in back. Whether you opt for the Sport or Touring models there's nothing special in the interior appointments, although you do get a few more trim upgrades, and upgraded red piping for the seats, in the Touring. The Mazda2 rides pretty well, but one aspect we don't like so much is that its short wheelbase and suspension tuning allows quite a bit of fore-aft motion when shifting or braking.
Safety features are typical for a model of the Mazda2's size and price; they include side-curtain bags that protect front and rear outboard occupants, plus electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, and a brake override system. But its ratings, including a couple of less-than-stellar 'acceptable' scores from the IIHS, aren't at the top of the class.
Mazda has kept it simple with respect to features and options. The base Sport model includes air conditioning; power windows, mirrors, and locks; remote keyless entry; a four-speaker single-CD stereo system with USB and aux inputs; tilt steering wheel; 60/40-split folding rear seat; and rear-window washer and wiper. The Touring model includes 15-inch alloy wheels, red piping on upgraded cloth upholstery, fog lights, roof spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, six speakers, steering-wheel audio controls, and a trip computer. Bluetooth hands-free and navigation aren't even factory options, but you can get them as port-installed accessory options.