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2012 Mazda MAZDA2 Performance

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All 2012 Mazda2 models are fitted with the same 100-horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine. It's a high-revving unit, requiring drivers to keep their foot into the accelerator to move along expeditiously. The five-speed manual gearbox makes this easier to do, as long as the driver doesn't mind revving the engine above 3,500 rpm. The four-speed automatic has such wide ratios, however, that it tends to default to engine speeds just a little too low to provide reasonable acceleration on demand--and it doesn't offer any manual shifting or paddle options either.

The real "zoom-zoom" comes in the handling; behind the wheel of the Mazda2, you'll think you're driving a lower, wider vehicle than the one you're actually in. The chassis is beautifully balanced, the suspension is firmly sprung but well damped, and even the electric power steering gives the impression that the Mazda2 is a hot hatch in disguise. It even competes well against that benchmark of hatchback handling, the Mini Cooper. The little Mazda offers lots of grip despite its small, narrow 195/50 tires, and the entire car exhibits balance and poise no matter what kinds of roads you throw it into. It's as happy in high-speed sweeping turns as it is on bumpy switchbacks at a fraction of the pace.

On tight, twisty roads, the 2012 Mazda Mazda2 ranks among the best handling of all small cars, despite its meager 100 horsepower--just make sure you take advantage of all the power on tap.

The engine doesn't have a lot of power to spare, despite the Mazda2's impressively light weight, so you'll find the car is most rewarding when it's driven energetically. If it just loafs around town--especially if it's fitted with the automatic--it won't be nearly as much fun.

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