2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Built for Touring
November 24, 2010
It being Thanksgiving and all, the talk is of long-distance travel. And when I tell people that I've once done the drive from Los Angeles to the San Francisco Bay Area in the Mazda 2, they look at me in a certain way. It's not a good way, either.
Then they tell me all the reasons that come to mind for avoiding Interstate travel in a car that's smaller than a pocket battleship and powered by an engine less powerful than a hydro-electric generator at Hoover Dam.
And they have a point. The Mazda 2's short wheelbase makes it sensitive to the fore-and-aft pitching caused by the rolling, broken cement slabs of California's overused freeways. The torsion beam rear axle is a little heavy in the unsprung weight department, and the ride can be a bit springy. And it is actually necessary to shift the transmission when accelerating onto an onramp after getting a tank of gas. (Of course, the Mazda 2 gets such great gas mileage that you don't have to stop for gas, really.)
But when I tell people about the back roads where I've been in the Mazda 2 when I get to the Bay Area, they understand. Suddenly all the car's imagined liabilities become assets. The short wheelbase that enhances manueverability. The light weight that fosters agility. The quick-shifting manual transmission that makes the frugal inline-4 engine feel as if it's bred for racing.
We all natter on endlessly about light weight when it comes to sports cars, but we frequently forget that light weight improves almost everything about the way any automobile drives. After all, when you go for a run, you don't carry a 50-pound sack of rocks on your back.
Probably the Mazda 2 would get a little more respect for the purposes of cross-country travel if it looked more like a sports coupe and less like than some weird vegetable from the designer grocery. (Cauliflower from a particularly remote Asian country, I'm thinking.)
Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com.