The 2011 Mazda2 is a Loveable Pipsqueak

Mazda2 2011 TFL 1 

Let me tell you about pain and stupidity. I know of both and am constantly reminded of these failings by my mother. These examples were performed in quick succession while I was testing a 2011 Mazda2.

Pain: I blew my nose into a handkerchief and felt an odd sensation from my right nostril. Rather than gently remove the cloth from my nose, I yanked it away. For some reason, a nose-hair burrowed its way into the handkerchief. The pain involved in plucking a nose-hair out of my face was excruciating.  

Stupidity: Rather than take the pain like a man, I screamed like a baby at an old-school (read: painful) circumcision. “YEOWWWW!” As I yelled, I covered my right eye which began to water.

Now, I’m a shmuck driving a car, covering one eye as I scream.

Then, as an uncontrollable reaction to the plucking of the nose hair, I sneeze repeatedly.  

Oh crap!

Fortunately: As the Mazda2 is such an easy car to maneuver, even with one eye AND sneezing uncontrollably, I managed to slink through traffic and find a safe place to pull over. While I recovered, a passerby made the “Awww” noise as in “Awwww, how cute.” I guarantee it was the Mazda2 and NOT the slob covering his eye and wiping his nose.

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I like this little Mazda as it reminds me how much fun a small car can be. It’s not fancy and it’s not a technical marvel – it’s just an honest, happy little motor with a funny smile. It has personality which is a HUGE plus in my book.

The 100 horsepower, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder engine makes 98 lb-ft of torque – that’s a little power-plant to be sure, but you have to remember that the Mazda2 only weighs about 2,300 lbs.   

It can get up to 35 mpg highway on regular gas – when using the manual transmission. There is a four-speed automatic transmission available, but I would not recommend it for anyone who is hoping to have any fun. The five-speed stick is a fun ride and it allows you to get every rpm out of the little engine possible. You need to rev the hell out of the 1.5-liter, four-cylinder – but it likes being revved.

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The best part of the Mazda2 – aside from its charming looks – is its handling. Mazda makes some of the best handling card on the planet (RX8 is a canyon carver if there ever was one) and their expertise was bottled and fed to their baby the Mazda2. It has fantastic grip and simply loves to charge into corners. If you make a big enough mistake, the itty-bitty brakes (front disc, rear drums) work brilliantly.

I love being able to feel the road through the steering wheel and that’s exactly what the Mazda2 allows. Even with its slower-than-slow four-speed automatic, cornering is downright rewarding. Let me put it this way: it is the best handling car in its class.
The Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Honda Fit, Ford Fiesta and Hyundai Accent have more power and more packaging options – but none of these cars is as toss-able as the Mazda2. Speaking of the Ford Fiesta; it’s a platform cousin to the Mazda2. Yup, they share some underpinnings. Unfortunately, the Mazda2 does not have the excellent engine/transmission paring the Ford Fiesta has.

If you need utility and maximum space for your buck, look at the Honda Fit or even the Nissan Versa. The back seat space in the Mazda2 is okay but definitely on the small side for a car in this class. Although it may be a utilitarian hatchback design, the rear cargo area is relatively small. If you fold the back seats down, there is more space, but the floor is not flat as the rear seats do not meet the rear cargo area’s height. In other words, the maximum cargo space is directly affected by the bulk of the rear seats when folded.

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The front seats are on the small side and I would caution Rubenesque-folk (fat like me) as they are a tad tight. Still, provided you don’t mind hard cushions, the front seats are fairly comfortable for average sized people. A positive highlight for the Mazda2 is the excellent ergonomics and good quality internal materials. There may not be a ton of stuff offered in terms of accessories, but what little is offered smacks of quality.

This is what you get with the base “Sport” model.

 100-hp, 1.5L DOHC 16-valve 4-cylinder engine
 5-speed manual transmission
 Halogen headlights
 15-inch steel wheels with full covers
 Fixed-intermittent windshield wipers
 Fixed-intermittent rear wiper/washer
 Power side mirrors
 Air conditioning with pollen filter
 Power windows
 Power door locks
 Cloth-trimmed seats
 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback
 AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack and 4 speakers
 Advanced front air bags, front side-impact air bags and side-impact air curtains‡
 Dynamic Stability Control (DSC) & Traction Control System (TCS)

All that for a base price of $14,180

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Add some extra dough for the “Touring” Mazda2 and you’ll (also) get:

 Halogen fog lights
 15-inch alloy wheels
 Rear spoiler
 Chrome exhaust tip
 Cloth-trimmed seats with red piping
 Leather-wrapped steering wheel
 Steering-wheel-mounted audio controls
 Cruise control
 AM/FM/CD stereo with auxillary-audio input jack and 6 speakers
 Trip computer

These goodies will bring your base price up to $15,635.

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Is the extra cabbage worth it? Well, you cannot get the items offered in the Mazda2 Touring as an option, so – yes – it’s worth it. I am not exactly thrilled with the base price of the Mazda2 and that, along with its weak engine and lack of an additional gear for either transmission, is a sore spot. Still, this is a car full of cheek and personality. It is a supremely good choice for folks who need fun in their commute.

Want to save some shillings?

Suzuki offers the SX4 Sedan as a front-drive, four-door with more space, goodies, better warranty and cheaper prices than the Mazda2. Want to save even more? Take a look at the Nissan Versa base model for $9,990!

They may be cheaper – but the Mazda2 is much more enjoyable to drive. 

Here’s a new “The Fast Lane Car” episode with some great small cars!

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