2011 Mazda 2: But Will It Change Minds?
August 10, 2011
As mentioned ad nauseum, I enjoy driving our long-term 2011 Mazda 2 Touring. Leaving the Mini Cooper off to the side, I think this little Mazda sets some new standards in the B segment class of subcompact and really small compact cars.
Its electric power steering has just-right effort levels, and it's precise and communicative off-center without being needlessly fidgety on-center. Further, shifting the five-speed manual gearbox is usually a pleasure because of the positive feel as you run through the gates. This is a subcompact for an enthusiast -- an enthusiast with no money, mind you, but still, an enthusiast.
Yet, I don't think this Mazda is going to be a revolutionary. It's not going to talk average drivers out of wanting something larger and nicer.
Well, for one, there's not a good automatic option on the Mazda 2. I've driven a Mazda 2 with a four-speed automatic, and it's a joyless experience of continual gear hunting. The twin-clutch 'box in the Fiesta is much more tolerable, as is the six-speed automatic on the new Hyundai Accent. And Chris came back from the Nissan Versa sedan launch raving about the CVT in that car.
For another, the engine is just loud. I enjoy its growlly sound as I'm accelerating, but Mazda's meticulous efforts to minimize weight on this car means that there's not a lot of sound deadening material. And so the engine's soundtrack gets tiresome even when it's just at 3,000 rpm while you're cruising at 70 mph.
Finally, the driving position is just a little too funky. It needs a telescoping steering wheel to not feel awkward for most. I'm comfortable enough around town, but on the open road, I'd probably be stopping every 2-3 hours just to stretch (which you should do anyway, but still).
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 12,398 miles