Full 2011 Mazda MAZDA2 Review
What's New for 2011
The 2011 Mazda 2 is all-new.
Entry-level hatchbacks have been getting better and better with the passing years. For the most part, it's getting harder to refer to them as penalty boxes as they've been receiving ever-increasing levels of comfort and features. Now you can add the 2011 Mazda 2 to that list of price-conscious hatchbacks. But in some cases we think it will struggle against its more well-rounded competitors.
Comparisons to the current darling of the hatchback segment, the Ford Fiesta, are inevitable since the Fiesta is actually built on the Mazda 2's platform. As such, both cars share some basic positives and negatives. On the plus side, the Mazda 2 is quite sporty to drive, and indeed this is one area where Mazda is quite proud of its new entry-level car. The car's sleek look (for a hatchback) and lower-than-average price are other highlights.
Like the Ford, however, the Mazda 2 is hampered by a lack of cargo space -- a Honda Fit can carry about twice as much gear as the Mazda. In addition, the Mazda 2's rear seats are cramped by comparison and its fuel economy doesn't exactly raise the bar for this segment either. The list of standard and available features for the Mazda is quite short, too.
Besides the Fiesta and Fit, other competing hatchbacks include Nissan's Cube and Versa, the Suzuki SX4 and Toyota Yaris. Certainly, the Mazda 2's sporty handling will be a draw, but in most other respects it does little to impress us. With the level of quality of subcompacts increasing yearly, we think consumers would be wise to shop the competition before committing to a 2011 Mazda 2.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2011 Mazda 2 is a five-passenger, four-door subcompact hatchback that is available in two trim levels -- Sport and Touring. The Sport comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels with wheel covers, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel and a four-speaker CD/MP3 audio system with an auxiliary input jack.
Upgrading to the Touring trim will get you 15-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a rear roof spoiler, chrome exhaust tips, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a trip computer, cruise control, upgraded cloth seats with red piping, and two additional speakers for the audio system.
Factory options for either trim level include an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a center console with an armrest. Bluetooth and a removable Garmin navigation system are expected to become available as dealer accessories.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2011 Mazda 2 is powered by a 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 100 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a four-speed automatic available at additional cost. The EPA estimates fuel economy at 29 mpg city/35 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined for the manual transmission and 27/33/29 mpg for the automatic. In Edmunds performance testing, the 2 went from zero to 60 mph in 10.3 seconds with the manual. This is performance on par with the rest of the class, but getting the automatic will slow things down considerably.
Standard safety features for the 2011 Mazda 2 include antilock brakes (discs in front/drums in rear), front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and stability and traction control. In Edmunds brake testing, the 2 came to a stop from 60 mph in 129 feet -- an acceptable distance for this type of car. In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Mazda 2 received its top rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and roof strength tests, but a second-best rating of "Acceptable" in the side impact test.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2011 Mazda 2's interior is comparable to other hatchbacks in this economical price range. The design itself is modern, with no elements to fawn over or bemoan. Hard plastics are plentiful, but that is to be expected. The front seats are relatively comfortable and offer enough room for taller adults, though the lack of a telescoping steering wheel is a notable omission. Also disappointing are the rear seats, which are flat and cramped. With those rear seats in place, cargo capacity is 13.3 cubic feet, which is small for a hatchback. With the 60/40-split seats folded (they don't fold completely flat), that figure goes up to 27.8 cubes -- a Fit can hold 57.3 cubic feet.
The 100-hp output from the 1.5-liter four-cylinder is weak by today's standards, even for an economy car. But the 2011 Mazda 2 makes the most of it -- at least with the manual transmission. The outdated four-speed automatic has rough tendencies under acceleration, downshifting from 3rd gear to 1st. Not only that, but the automatic comes with a penalty of a few miles per gallon compared to the manual.
The light 2,300-pound curb weight reduces the strain on the free-revving engine to give this hatchback a sportier feel. It also helps the car's handling, and as a result the Mazda 2 is likely the most nimble and agile car in its class. The steering is communicative and quick, a rarity among electric power steering units.