2011 Mazda 2: Best Small Car in the Fleet
May 16, 2011
Recently in the comment logs, I noticed someone wondering if we'd forget about the 2011 Mazda 2 (accidentally, of course) now that we have a cool Italian subcompact hatchback in the fleet. So after a night in the Fiat 500, I spent the next 24 hours with the Mazda 2 to see if my feelings for the latter have changed due to the former.
They have. But for the better.
I'll start off by acknowledging that this hardly qualifies as any kind of official, complete or apples-to-apples comparison. The Fiat 500 is one size down from the Mazda 2. Under the Fiat umbrella, the Fiat Grande Punto and Alfa MiTo are more appropriate competition for the 2, but neither is sold in the U.S. (though I rented a diesel MiTo once -- it was cool).
So, whatever. Back to the Mazda 2. For me, at least, the Mazda has a far better driving position. Neither of these cars has a telescoping steering wheel, but in the Mazda, the wheel is an appropriate reach for my arms. In the Fiat, it's half a mile away. In the Mazda, I sit in a nicely shaped seat, and my left foot extends to put the clutch in at a natural angle, and I can easily see over the dash. In the Fiat, I'm perched on a barstool fumbling with the pedals and still feel like I'm looking over a mountain of plastic. In the 2, the clutch has a nice short takeup. In the 500, the clutch engages sky-high in the long pedal stroke.
The Mazda 2 also feels far more like a real car that I'd be willing to drive every day if that's how the chips fell. It's more than an urban runabout. There's more than enough torque to stay ahead of traffic if you're willing to work the gearbox (whereas in the Fiat, I'd call it barely enough). Also, someone spent some time tuning the electric power steering to get it to feel really natural in terms of effort level, and the 2 just feels more planted going around corners.
If anything, having the Fiat around has just made me appreciate the Mazda 2 even more.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 9,070 miles