2011 Mazda MAZDA2 Photo
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On Performance
$4,995 - $11,999
On Performance
Don’t let the 100-hp figure scare you away; especially with the manual gearbox, the lightweight Mazda2 is a surprisingly brilliant performer on tight, twisty roads.
8.0 out of 10
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PERFORMANCE | 8 out of 10

Expert Quotes:

The four-speed makes some driving maneuvers, like entering a freeway from a looping on-ramp, a downright raucous exercise

By no means is the 2 fast, but compared with others in the class it feels just as quick to get up to speed.

When there are only 100 horses’ worth of motivation...you need to make the most of it all, and the automatic just can’t
Car and Driver

With the five-speed, the car is entertaining enough, but the automatic drags it down.
Popular Mechanics

In terms of everyday drivability, the 2 is a charming little whip.

With the five-speed manual transmission you can keep the revs of the 1.5-liter, 100-horsepower engine up above 3,500 and have enough juice to keep things interesting, but it requires a good bit of stirring the gearbox. The wide-spread four-speed, however, invariably winds out one gear only to fall a bit too low in the powerband for the next. And there's no manual shift mode with the slushbox, either. Not very zoom-zoom.

The 2011 Mazda2 handles like it's lower and wider than it is, though. Between the firmly damped and sprung suspension, the well-tuned electric power-assisted steering (EPAS), and the incredibly firm and sorted chassis, the Mazda2 is a performer even in a segment that also holds the MINI Cooper, for many the benchmark in front-wheel-drive handling. The car is near-brilliant: balanced, lots of grip despite the small 15-inch, 195/50 aspect ratio tires and all-weather tread, and ready to tackle anything from a high-speed lightly banked sweeper to a hard, bumpy 90-degree right with agility.

The reason? It's light. Very light—as in, it weighs less than the second-gen Miata, clocking in at a svelte 2,306 pounds, a weight almost unthinkable in today's safety-obsessed marketplace. Despite the light weight, it's surprisingly quiet thanks to BMW-like chassis dampers placed at key harmonic points on the unibody.

The light weight was earned through careful attention to what Mazda calls its "gram strategy," shaving weight from every component possible. Altogether, those incremental gains save a lot.


Don’t let the 100-hp figure scare you away; especially with the manual gearbox, the lightweight Mazda2 is a surprisingly brilliant performer on tight, twisty roads.

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