2014 Mazda MAZDA2 Review

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The Car Connection
2018
The Car Connection

The Car Connection Expert Review

John Voelcker John Voelcker Senior Editor
August 12, 2014

The nimble driving feel and good gas mileage of the 2014 Mazda 2 help it stand out among entry-level hatchbacks--but buyers will have to be comfortable with a limited feature set and a simple interior.

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.

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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.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA2

Styling

The 2014 Mazda 2 has simple, clean lines with a lot of glass, though its interior is very simple indeed

The 2014 Mazda 2 manages to blend some "Zoom-Zoom" character into simple, smooth exterior lines. Even several years after launch, it looks contemporary and holds up well, though its modified "grinning" grille and front end are now out of sync with Mazda's newer and bolder trapezoidal grille shapes.

The sculpted front end sweeps into upward lines that anchor the large window area; compared to the Ford Fiesta with which it shares some understructure, the Mazda comes across as restrained but sporty. The Mazda2 appears visually both wider and lower than it actually is, giving it an impression of stability, sportiness, and solidity. The rising beltline and nicely curvaceous tail come across as more coherent and integrated than the abrupt rear of the Fiesta.

From inside the car, the interior lines and materials are very simple, but surprisingly tasteful considering their economy. The palette uses dark colors, but they're not drab--helped by expansive windows that let in a lot of light--and the design is clearly related to the driver-focused cabins of larger Mazda models like the all-new Mazda 3 and even the MX-5 Miata.

There's not a lot to separate the high-level Touring model from the base Sport. The most noticeable feature is alloy wheels, whereas the Sport makes do with painted metal wheels and plastic wheel covers--one of the few genuine "econobox" notes on the Mazda 2. The Touring adds sporty red piping on the seats, which are covered in a higher-quality woven cloth, and the color adds an unexpected note of class to this very basic interior. Other upgrades include leather steering-wheel trim and little touches like a chrome exhaust pipe tip--hardly items to wow passers-by, but that's not what the car is meant for.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA2

Performance

The 2014 Mazda 2 is almost a five-door sports car, with good roadholding making it fun to drive despite only 100 hp

If it sounds as though the 2014 Mazda 2 is underpowered, with a 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine putting out just 100 horsepower and 98 lb-ft of torque, let's say it's not the single fastest subcompact on the market. But if you're willing to rev the engine above 3000 rpm--its peak power and torque comes fairly far up the rev range for a modern small-car engine--you can have a great deal of driving fun. This car may be the perfect example of the notion that it's more fun to drive an underpowered car hard than a powerful car gently.

Make sure you get the five-speed manual gearbox, though, and be prepared to use it to keep the car moving expeditiously as the engine revs. While Mazda offers an optional four-speed automatic transmission, its ratios are widely spaced and tends to shift far too early to keep the car hustling along. It also lacks any kind of manual-shift mode.

But it's the roadholding and sporty driving character of the Mazda 2 that will make any driver forget that the car is actually a somewhat tall five-door hatchback. It drives lower and wider than it is, and the suspension tuning and chassis overall are superbly balanced. The handling is firm, but well-damped, and the feel from the electric power steering is as good as anyone's. There's an element of hot-hatch-in-civilian-clothes to the littlest Mazda, and we'd wager a skilled driver could catch a lot of base MINI Cooper owners unaware.

The compact dimensions and nimble handling make the Mazda 2 useful for nipping around crowded city streets too. There's lots of grip despite the narrow 195/50 tires, and it's at its best at lower speeds, before the engine starts to run out of power when you reach highway velocity. Gear-shifting is natural in cities, but you'll find yourself doing it a lot at highway speeds to keep up with traffic when the engine can't quite cope with hills or sudden acceleration. That's when the engine gets noisy too.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA2

Comfort & Quality

The 2014 Mazda 2 is comfortable, if somewhat tight inside, and the interior is simple without being grim.

The 2014 Mazda 2 has more space inside than its appearance would suggest, though its subcompact status means that four larger adults will still have to negotiate their accommodations to fit eight legs into the available space. Legroom is good for four people under 6 feet tall--which is when they'll start to run out of headroom too. If the two front passengers are tall adults, the rear seat is really restricted to children or teenagers.

Overall, we think the Mazda 2 is at its best as a two-seater, with the rear seat offering substantial cargo volume once it's folded flat. The lines are simple, almost monastic, and the look is pleasant but unremarkable. Mazda tends toward darker shades for its interior materials, but they're not overly grim or at all cheap-looking--and the large expanse of windows means the cabin stays lighter than many other subcompacts with stylishly upswept window lines that make them much more cave-like inside.

The front seats are supportive and comfortable, though broader adults may find them slightly narrow. The contrasting red piping of the Touring model adds a pleasant splash of style to upgraded seat fabric, though the basic upholstery is a step up from plain old cloth. As long as you're not expecting huge amounts of luxe, panache, or features, the Mazda 2's cabin is straightforward and serviceable. The one drawback is noise; the noise suppression from the hard-working little engine could use some work, especially for drivers who rev energetically to keep the car hustling along. Our test cars have been admirably free of squeaks, rattles, or groans, indicating good build quality.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA2

Safety

The 2014 Mazda 2 has all the usual safety equipment, but its crash safety scores aren't at the top of the list.

The 2014 Mazda 2 includes the expected set of safety features for a modestly-priced subcompact, though it doesn't offer any additional electronic safety systems or optional equipment in that category.

Its crash safety scores aren't at the top of the heap. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not rated the Mazda 2 for safety at all. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) awarding it a top rating of "good" for its frontal-offset crash and roof strength tests. On the other hand, the Mazda2 earned only an "acceptable" rating for both the side and rear crash categories. On the new small-overlap frontal crash test, it did even worse, earning a rating of "marginal"--only one step up from the dreaded "poor" rating.

 

The littlest four-person Mazda comes with six airbags: front, front-side, and side curtains that cover the windows to protect the heads of passengers in both the front and rear outboard seats. Otherwise, the Mazda 2 includes the usual electronic stability control, anti-lock braking system, and a brake override that will kill power if both the brake and accelerator pedals are pressed at the same time.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA2

Features

The 2014 Mazda 2 has two trim levels and very few advanced features or options; even Bluetooth is installed through the dealer.

There are just two trim levels--Sport and Touring--offered on the 2014 Mazda 2, with a handful of colors (three of them new for 2014) and just a few options, many of which are installed by dealerships or at the port. In general, the car offers an appealing package for keep-it-basic commuters who want more driving fun than they'll get in other, more lavishly-equipped subcompacts.

The base Mazda 2 Sport model includes standard power locks, windows, and mirrors; a tilt-adjustable steering wheel; air conditioning; remote keyless entry; a rear-window washer/wiper unit; a folding rear seat with a 60/40 split seat back; and an audio system with four speakers, a single CD slot, and an audio input jack for MP3s and the like. As of last year, all Mazda 2 models also come standard with a USB input and auxiliary audio input. The one flaw in the Sport package is the plastic wheel covers over painted steel wheels, which give a distinct bargain-basement 1980s look to its appearance.

Buyers who opt for the higher-level Touring model will get 15-inch alloy wheels, a trip computer, many more appearance and trim upgrades, and a six-speaker audio system. Front fog lights, a roof spoiler, nicer cloth upholstery with red piping, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with built-in audio controls, and even a chrome exhaust tip are the main items on the list.

Want Bluetooth pairing for your mobile phone? Or any kind of navigation system at all? Those items still aren't on the option list at all, though Mazda dealers can arrange for factory-approved aftermarket installations.

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2014 Mazda MAZDA2

Fuel Economy

Like many Mazdas, the 2014 Mazda 2 can give better fuel economy in real-world use than its EPA ratings might indicate.

The EPA fuel-economy ratings for the 2014 Mazda 2 aren't anything to get excited by, but our experience suggests that drivers will be able to do better than the ratings in real-world driving.

Part of the credit goes to the little car's light construction. It won awards for being a few hundred pounds lighter than the car it replaced, and its total weight is only 2,300 pounds after Mazda engineers embarked on a so-called "gram strategy" to shave even fractions of an ounce from every component whenever and wherever possible. The result is a four-passenger, five-door car that's actually lighter than the MX-5 Miata roadster.

The more desirable Mazda 2 with the five-speed manual gearbox is rated at 32 mpg combined (27 mpg city, 34 mpg highway), perhaps reflecting its lack of a higher sixth gear that would improve highway cruising efficiency. If you opt for the four-speed automatic transmission, the ratings fall to 30 mpg combined (28 mpg city, 34 mpg highway).

Those ratings are no better than the brand-new, larger, and more efficient Mazda 3 compact model, but our road tests returned numbers closer to 35 mpg--even after energetic driving. And that new car's considerably more aerodynamic lines, not to mention its ultra-efficient SkyActiv powertrain, will give the Mazda 3 an additional benefit over the smaller Mazda 2 in highway driving, where wind resistance is a major factor in fuel consumption.

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December 12, 2015
2014 Mazda MAZDA2 4-Door HB Automatic Sport

2014 Mazda 2 Hatchback

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My son and I purchased the Mazda 2 for his first car,after receiving his driver's license at age eighteen. A fun,cute car to drive around in with friends and family. It has ample leg room in the front row and... + More »
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Styling 8
Performance 8
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