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The 2014 Mazda 2 is one of the more entertaining small hatchbacks you can drive. It's simple, even a little bare-bones, which plays to Mazda's usual strengths in delivering good dynamics and sensory inputs, as well as great fuel economy. It won't appeal to every driver--it's quite small, quite basic in its features and content, and somewhat stark inside--but for drivers in need of city wheels and a good time, the Mazda 2 is a good pick.It's now in its fourth year on the market, and the basic car is several years older than that, having launched in Japan in 2008. But it's one of the most fun-to-drive small cars around--one that almost seems to channel a bit of character borrowed from the MX-5 Miata sports car. To get that pleasure, though, make sure to choose the version with the five-speed manual gearbox.
The Mazda 2 shares some underpinnings with the Ford Fiesta, but its lines have fewer swoops and dips. The tasteful design sits upright, adopting a pert stance, and the very simple front end is low. There's a lot of window space--meaning good outward visibility--and while the cabin can be dark, it's clean and simple.
Like many cars its size, the front seats aren't the largest in the world, and taller adults may find the interior tight. Push the seats all the way back, though, and there's plenty of room--though rear-seat passengers will have to bargain for legroom. The 2014 Mazda 2 rides well overall, though both gear shifting and braking produce a fair amount of fore-and-aft motion.
Mazda has applied its usual engineering skills to the Mazda2, and at 2,300 pounds, it was notable for being far lighter than its predecessor when it was launched in Japan several years ago. But behind the wheel, it's responsive, even perky, if you keep the 100-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine revving. Just don't be seduced by the lure of an automatic transmission; the old-fashioned four-speed automatic saps performance and numbs the car's nimble, rollerskate character. The steering has great road feel, and the suspension keeps the car flat, making it fun to drive even in stop-and-go city traffic.
These days, the Mazda 2 is an older design. That's reflected in its safety ratings, which aren't stellar. The IIHS gives it a couple of only "Acceptable" scores for crash safety--and on the new, tougher Small Overlap Frontal Crash test, it got a "Marginal" rating. The car comes with the expected suite of safety equipment, including electronic stability control, brake override, and anti-lock brakes, plus six airbags: front, side, and side-curtain airbags for the outboard passengers in the front and rear.
The littlest Mazda is a car without any luxury pretenses at all, and a very short option list. Bluetooth hands-free pairing and navigation aren't even factory options, although you can get them as accessories installed at the port through the U.S. dealer network. Otherwise, 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.
Whether the entry-level Sport model or the higher Touring trim level, which includes contrasting red piping on seats with upgraded cloth upholstery, the interior is simple, straightforward, and plain. Moving up to the Touring model gets you 15-inch alloy wheels, six speakers for the audio system, steering-wheel audio controls, a trip computer, a roof spoiler, fog lights, and ... wait for it ... a chrome exhaust tip. It's that kind of car.
- Straightforward lines
- Nimble in urban traffic
- Good fuel efficiency
- Comfortable front seats
- Surprising cargo space
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- Avoid the automatic
- Headroom can be tight
- Borderline underpowered
- Back seats are small
- Bluetooth not integrated