2011 Mazda 2 Long-Term Road Test - Performance

2011 Mazda 2 Long-Term Road Test

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2011 Mazda 2: Lightweight

November 07, 2011

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One of the things that impresses me most about the Mazda 2 is how frisky it feels when you work the throttle, despite the unimpressive 100 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque offered up from its 1.5-liter engine.

Its light curb weight plays a big part in helping the nimble little hatch achieve this result. A look at how it weighs in relative to the competition follows after the jump.

Mazda 2: 2,306 lbs
Ford Fiesta: 2,537 lbs
Honda Fit: 2,496 lbs
Nissan Versa: 2,693 lbs

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2011 Mazda 2: Best of the Slow Cars? (with Video)

October 27, 2011


Work stuff took me to Carlsbad, California, this week, and when everything wrapped up around 1 p.m. yesterday, I couldn't face a drive back into Los Angeles on I-5/I-405 -- not without having some fun in the Mazda 2 first. But there wasn't time to go Mount Palomar and that left me with Ortega Highway (California 74).

Ortega's kind of a good road, but it's also a major commuter artery between Orange County and Lake Elsinore, so thinking you're going to get any kind of open stretch on a weekday afternoon borders on delusional. For that reason, I avoid it. Ordinarily. And then I remembered this little road that meanders south from Ortega Hwy just before you get to the lake. The long-term Mazda 2 and I had our mission then.

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2011 Mazda 2: What I Drove on Vacation

October 24, 2011


You haven't gotten an update on our long-term 2011 Mazda 2 in exactly a week, and the reason is that I took it on vacation. Unfortunately, we didn't get as far as Montana, because this was one of those economical vacations during which I stayed home and took stock of my disheveled apartment. It turns out if you're always driving somewhere else, your own somewhere gets pretty disorganized.

I felt a little bad using the Mazda 2 for this boring chapter of my life (especially with its time in the fleet growing short), but I drove it every day and it invariably brought a moment or two of joy. I've already told you pretty much everything I think about this car.

The steering feels quick and precise, and has real feedback. The engine doesn't have much low-end grunt, but there's power you can use further up, and the 1.5-liter is pretty smooth and sounds good when you rev it. The clutch takeup is a touch funky, but the shifter slots solidly into each gate. The car likes to change direction, but there's still enough compliance in the suspension so that it doesn't beat you up over rough pavement.

After spending a week with the Mazda, I'm thinking the same thoughts, but I'm also impressed by how well everything works together on this car. Often in this price range, cars will drive like they have a little of this and a little of that (which isn't necessarily bad), but they don't feel like one thing. The Mazda 2 feels like one thing -- everything on it (at least on the five-speed manual version) feels like it's tuned with an eye toward making the car handle, ride, accelerate as well as it can with the components it has been allotted. Oh, and it brakes well, too. Very good pedal feel and surefooted stops, even with its modest Yokohama Avid tires.

You can really appreciate this unified package when you're running around a city like L.A., which has a mix of hard-core city stuff and tight parking lots, plus lots and lots of freeways. In this environment, it isn't critical that the Mazda 2 be fun to steer or shift, but it sure brought cheer to my days. On Sunday, I saw another woman driving a Mazda 2, a black one with a Yak rack. When I noticed it was a manual to boot, it made me really happy.

This week I'll be driving the Mazda 2 on a shorty road trip to Carlsbad (with a possible midweek Mt. Palomar detour if I can squeeze it in) and taking care of the 15,000-mile service -- I have an appointment for Thursday.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 15,470 miles

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Satisfying Clutch and Shifter

October 06, 2011

Mazda 2 shifter.jpg

After my weekend in the Explorer, I was kind of tired of electrons ruining my day so when the car sign-out board hit my desk, I gravitated to the least-fancy car we have the fleet made after 1999. The Mazda 2 doesn't have nav, or iPod, or heated seat controls buried in a touch screen or even heated seats at all; it's just a car.

It only took a few seconds for me to remember one very nice thing about this car: The shifter and clutch are fantastic. The clutch is light enough to use in heavy traffic without my knee, which tried to eat its own meniscus a few years back, complaining once. It's also not so light that you need to wear racing flats to feel the catch point. It just...works. Well. I could drive this clutch in bumper-to-bumper traffic until time stopped and not feel any pain.

And then there's the shifter. This thing has a relatively long shift action, but it's light and the gates are easy to find. Beyond that, though, is the feel of the shifter. It clicks and clacks in all the right ways and makes you want to downshift through all of the gears on every deceleration and race through 'em on the way up.

It's kind of sad that people aren't driving manuals anymore, but maybe if more clutches were this intuitive and easy to modulate (**ahem** Mini ) and shifters this light-yet-rewarding (**ahem almost everyone else) they wouldn't have the stigma of being work. Or maybe this car just clicks with the way I drive. Michael Jordan seems to have a different take. *Edit: As someone just pointed out via the emails, Jay Kav agrees with me, too.*

Mike Magrath, Features Editor, Edmunds.com @ 14,870 miles

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring/Commuting

September 28, 2011

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Welcome to my Wednesday. I usually leave my house at 5:00 am to avoid exactly what you see above. But Wednesdays are different. After dropping my daughter off at school, this is what I face for the next two hours (it has lasted as long as three). At worst, I arrive (41 miles later) detesting all humanity and ready for two fingers of single malt. At best, I use the time to carefully examine a long-term test car. Follow me to the next page to see what I learned about the Mazda2 this morning.

The clutch pedal spring is light enough to endure (I'm guessing) 400-500 shifts. Also while the pedal feel itself is a little lacking as to where the engagement point truly is, the motor can lug along in 1st gear with the clutch engaged at very low speeds--negating the need ease it out of gear to coast.

The shifter's elevated location is very good--no reaching necessary. There's very little vibration in the knob. Also the linkage/bushings are on the soft and rubbery side which might feel less-than-positive, but I'd rather have it this way on a grinding commute. Can't imagine the fatigue an Audi R8 driver would feel click-clacking 400 times with his gated shifter.

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Wishing for Six

September 26, 2011


Have you ever climbed a set of stairs where that were taller than you expected? If you're not careful the first one can trip you up.

The 5-speed manual transmission in our 2011 Mazda 2 is like that. First gear is a little taller than its little motor would like, so you've got to wind it up a bit more than you'd like to forestall an embarassing stall. Oh, sure -- you get used to it, but still...

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Liveliness

September 07, 2011


Most people probably would describe the Mazda 2 as lively.

For me, it's simply springy, bouncing up and down on its suspension like some kind of spaniel straining at its leash. It's pretty much the opposite of the typical Kia, which usually has an overly damped suspension that packs down over a series of bumps.

One goes for liveliness, and the other goes for control. You pays your money and you takes your chances. Of course, the sweet spot is somewhere in the middle, and maybe that's why the Mazda 2 just leaves me shaken but not stirred.

Obedience training, that's what the Mazda 2 needs.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 13,385 miles

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2011 Mazda 2: Tempting to Modify

August 25, 2011


If I owned a Mazda 2, I'd be tempted to modify it some. At the top of my list would be handling. The Deuce is blessed with precise steering and light weight, but the combination of the two highlight the car's potential for even better handling. Holding it back are economy-biased tires and commuter-friendly suspension tuning. Therefore I'd probably look at getting gripper tires and some sort of aftermarket spring and damper combination.

Actually, I did that this morning by poking around CorkSport. And yeah, you can get all of the above plus the ubiquitous intake and exhaust. But then I had a reality check. If I owned a 2, presumably I bought it because I was on a tight budget. And if that's the case, would I really then go off sinking thousands of more dollars in aftermarket parts? Probably not.

In all likelihood, I'd just get a set of performance tires and wheels and leave it at that.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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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.

Why not?

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

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2011 Mazda 2: Mazda Fit

July 12, 2011


"It's a Fit. But, it's a Mazda."

That was my cryptic description of our Mazda2 to Magrath before he drove it for the first time in months. And you know what? I was right.

I spent some time in the 2 this weekend and as much as I liked our 2009 Fit, the Mazda2 is simply a better Fit than the Fit.

While the Fit is nimble, it is to the point of nervousness, much like a Mini. The 2 is simply nimble. It loves to change direction, but it won't do so until you tell it to. It's not darty, nor does it get unsettled on our second world freeways; it's very tied down, much like any other Mazda. And while the 2 gives up some practicality to the Fit (the Fit's trick rear seat has not been matched by anyone in the class), it's close enough 95% of the time so you won't notice. And then there are the front seats; the 2 takes this one hands down - barcalounges to the Fit's folding chairs.

Perhaps the most surprising advantage however, goes to the 2's engine. For the first time in as long as I've been around, a Mazda has a better engine than its Honda competitor. Neither engine is going to win any awards, but the Mazda's feels more robust and is decidedly less thrashy at higher rpms. I only wish the tachometer was a little bigger.

The 2 is a quality small car.

Kurt Niebuhr, Photo Editor @ 9,956 miles

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Back Where I Belong

June 30, 2011


I don't know what it is about me, but I love bombing around west Los Angeles in subcompacts. Not all subcompacts (or if you want to get precise, compacts, based on modern interior volume measurements), but the ones that have some personality. Our 2011 Mazda 2 certainly does.

Its 1.5-liter four-cylinder is short on low-end torque (as if it would be any other way) but feels more potent than the 1.4-liter in our long-term Fiat 500... these engines have the same published torque rating at the crank -- 98 lb-ft at 4,000 rpm -- but a different torque curve, I'm sure. And interestingly, the Mazda is about 150 pounds lighter if you want to talk total curb weight.

More importantly, the 2's 1.5-liter makes a pleasing growl as it revs, and when I'm in this car, it's revving quite a lot. I'll beat you to that hole in traffic, I will.

Working through the gears is fun even if the slightly awkward seating position sometimes results in me executing shifts that aren't quite perfectly smooth. I'd probably still rather teach someone to drive a manual transmission in a Honda Fit, but this setup is pretty forgiving, so we'd make do in the Mazda.

Finally, we've written about it ad nauseum (maybe?), but the rightness of the electric-assist power steering in this car can't be overstated. It's quick and precise with logical effort levels and there's some genuine feedback here. This is how to do steering in a subcompact/B-segment hatch. Everybody should do it this way.

So glad to see this car in my carport once more.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 9,694 miles

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: 2 > 3

June 28, 2011

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I can't lie; I've been avoiding our long term 2011 Mazda 2. I drove the car for our Long Term introduction photo shoot, but then never again. The reason I've been avoiding it is that sometime in the recent past I was the owner of a Mazda 3 and while I liked that car every time the road got twisty, I was not a fan of commuting with it. The suspension that absorbs mid-corner bumps so well is nervous with unnecessary information during an average drive to work. I figured this smaller, manual-transmission car would be about the same if not a little worse.

Was I ever wrong....

I'm not sure if it's a sidewall advantage, or if they tuned this more for city roads than mountain roads, but whatever caused it, the Mazda 2 rides extremely well on the nightmarish roads of Los Angeles. It doesn't crash uncomfortably over potholes but still has enough Mazda in it to be able to quickly dodge and cut through traffic with precision.

If my Mazda 3 rode this well on my normal drive, there's a chance I'd still have it.

Mike Magrath, Associate Editor, Edmunds.com @ 9,665 miles

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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

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: From LFA to...

April 18, 2011

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So was it a big let down to go from sharing driving duties of a Lexus LFA for three days last week with Senior Editor Josh Jacquot to...a Mazda 2?

Talk about polar opposites: one is a near-gutless econo car while the other is an exotic, 552 horsepower road burner that gives its driver (s) instant rock-star status.

While I'll never forget what an awesome experience it was to drive Lexus' supercar, our plain-white long-term Mazda 2 actually served as a reprieve. It was nice to fade into oblivion; settling into the normalness that is the Mazda 2; enjoying a true manual transmission that works quite well, vague clutch on take off notwithstanding; not worrying constantly about any little scratch or ding or scrape the car might get, either at my hands or someone else's. Or that dump truck I got stuck behind.

Plus, I had an experience this morning that you could never have with a car like the LFA: racing a Nissan Frontier pickup to and through the two-lane on-ramp onto the 405. In the LFA, you'd give it half throttle and be gone in a cacophony of V10 rage. In the Mazda 2, it was full wood all the way, hoping the skinny tires offer some grip through the turn. And just barely edging ahead. Nowhere near as exciting, for sure. But somehow more satisfying. As odd as that sounds.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 8,568 miles.

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2011 Mazda 2: Spot-On Effort Levels

March 31, 2011


I don't know if I was inspired by my time in Project Miata, but I enjoyed the Mazda 2 a little more than usual last night. For reasons I can't exactly explain, I've never been all that excited about the 2, even though I usually like small hatchbacks.

Last night, though the car was really working for me. I realized that the seating position, though awkward for several of our editors, actually fits me well. Pedal spacing could be better for heel-and-toe downshifting, but well, maybe the Mazda engineers figured no one does that while running around the city. I do, because it entertains me.

But whatever, what I mainly noticed during this drive, was that the effort levels for the shifter and steering are right-on.

Yeah, both the shifter and the steering wheel are dainty in size, and you look at them and expect they'll be really light in their effort. And there is an easiness to them. I go from gate to gate with my thumb and forefinger.

But there's nothing loosey-goosey here, certainly not by subcompact standards. The shifter slots positively into each gate. The steering is steady on center, and as you add input, there's a nice fluidness to it along with some very definite information about which way the front wheels are pointing.

And I feel like the effort I apply to the shifter is of exactly the same intensity that I use for my steering inputs. We're all working together as one thing, moving parts in a single machine. And that's a pretty neat feeling to have for $16K.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 7,751 miles

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2011 Mazda 2: Liking the Goofy Shifter

March 16, 2011


Normally, shifters mounted in the console like this are awful. It's no fun ripping gears with a stick that you pull up and down instead of back and forth.

Now from a usability standpoint, a shifter in such a location is great. Minivans often stick their automatic shifter levers on the console to make them easy to reach. Fair enough.

So I found it odd that I actually liked the shifter action in the Mazda 2 while driving around last night. Maybe it was my low expectations. After all, this is a 100-horsepower car, can't really expect to have that much fun no matter what the shifter feels like.

Throw the little 2 around a bit, though, and it responds well to quick shifts. The gates aren't particularly distinct, but the shift action is smooth. It takes plenty of back and forth to keep this Mazda moving, so the slick shifter is a nice little bonus.

Ed Hellwig, Editor, Edmunds.com @ 7,506 miles

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Heel-And-Toe Blows

March 07, 2011

It doesn't completely blow, but it's certainly not easy to perform heel-and-toe downshifts in the Mazda 2.

There are three contributors here: First is the wider-than-preferred spacing between the brake and throttle pedals.

Second, the throttle pedal needs a really good stab to get it to blip with any forcefulness.

And third, there's the slightly mushy, unfeeling brake pedal.

True, the Mazda 2 isn't a performance machine. But if a car has a manual tranny, even an econobox, you should still be able to blip the throttle while you're downshifting and braking for a turn. Yes, you can do it in the Mazda 2, but it takes more of a concerted effort than the second-nature intuitiveness found with Mazda's other manual transmission-equipped cars. And because of this it brings down the car's fun factor a bit.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 7,080 miles

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Basic Transport

March 05, 2011

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Not gonna lie to you: There's few things better in life, for car enthusiasts at least, than spending quality time with a car as stonkingly fast and manly-sounding as, say, the Ford Mustang Boss 302. But as much as I cherish driving pumped-up beasts such as that, there's other times when all I need is a car like the Mazda 2.

Just give me a manual transmission (none of that sissy paddle shift stuff), a tachometer (albeit in this case a tiny one), a proper handbrake and some form of an iPod hookup, and this 'ol boy can be pretty dang content.

Sure, it's a tad slower experience. And if given the choice for the weekend, I'll take the 'Stang. But you can have some good low-speed fun in this Mazda 2. It's back-to-basics driving.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 6,965 miles

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: You're Doing It Wrong

February 18, 2011


You know, I've driven lots of cars that have had funky clutch action.

Big racing cars with V8 engines and big heavy clutches. Little racing cars with tiny, fragile carbon-fiber clutches. Shifter go-karts. Any number of Ferraris with manual transmission, notably the thoroughly awful 1976 Ferrari 512 BB. Crappy little cars with light flywheel engines and flimsy clutches, like the Toyota Matrix.

I've navigated a Jeep over boulder-strewn trails. And once I even drove a 750-hp Saleen S7 supercar with its racing-style gearbox through the middle of tourist-crazed Laguna Beach at high noon on a Saturday just to see if it could really be driven as a street car. (It can only stalled it once).

But I can't drive this Mazda 2.

I've put more miles on this car than most of us, yet I feel clumsy every time I get into it. And it's not just commute traffic that proves challenging. Every stoplight and stop sign is a challenge, a reintroduction to the Mazda 2's frustrating combination of an engine with a light flywheel, aggressive throttle action, an odd pedal arc for the clutch, a high engagement point for the clutch, and a driving position that's scaled for smaller drivers.

Every time I drive this car, it's telling me that I'm doing it wrong. Maybe I am, but I sure don't like being reminded of it every second.

Michael Jordan, Executive Editor, Edmunds.com @ 6,485 miles.

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2011 Mazda 2: Feels Mighty Real

February 17, 2011

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Most of the time, the Mazda 2's ride quality is quite accommodating, but the car definitely speaks up when covering coarse stretches of pavement. This morning's commute took me over some moderately uneven tarmac and the 2 let me know it by quivering like a swooning Belieber as the going got rough.

The feedback wasn't unpleasant and I actually kinda liked it. It lent an engaging, go-kart texture to the proceedings, one that seems pretty appropriate for a small, relatively bare-bones piece of work such as this.

Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Groooooovy

February 08, 2011


Here in L.A., nearly every stretch of highway surface has rain grooves. These small channels are cut into the concrete surface in an attempt to direct water off of the driving surface. To the beginner motorcyclist, these rain grooves make it feel like you have a flat tire. In our long-term Mazda 2, it feels squirmy.

Maybe it's the narrow-ish 185-width tires. Maybe it's the all-weather tread pattern or short wheelbase. More likely, it's a combination of these. I rarely feel the grooves when I'm riding on wider or higher-performance tires.

When these rain grooves don't follow the lane direction (maybe the operator spilled his coffee and the cutting machine wandered off its path), the Mazda feels like it has four-wheel-steering that has gone awry. It's not that big of a deal, though, just a semi-rare occurrence. Just like on a bike, if you relax your grip on the wheel and let it do what it's going to do, you get used to it.

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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2011 Mazda 2: Touchy Throttle Response

January 28, 2011


One annoying thing I've noticed about our Mazda 2 is its touchy throttle response. If the car's in neutral, for instance, and you just barely depress the pedal, the engine revs up more than it should given how little you actually pushed.

To be fair, I've mostly noticed this when trying to make heel-and-toe downshifts -- this non-linear throttle response makes it tricky to actually match revs. But it does show up some in normal driving, too, like when you're starting out in first gear. Depress the throttle pedal too much -- which is easy to do -- and the engine zings its way up and you're like, "Umm, no, I really don't need this much, thank you."

Maybe Mazda tuned it this way to compensate for the small 1.5-liter engine. But I'd much prefer a more nomal and linear throttle response.

Brent Romans, Senior Automotive Editor

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Everyone Should Own One

January 13, 2011


Well, everyone who lives within 50 miles of a major metro area, anyway. If pod cars are our inevitable future, I won't mind this one.

Each time I drive it, the Deuce reminds me of the '02-'05 Civic Si. The EP3 might be the least desirable Si, what with its 2.0-liter neutered at the altar of fuel economy and front struts replacing beloved wishbones. But I always felt it got a bad rap. It's got good reflexes, quick throttle response, tight ratios and easy throws. A car that can bob and weave through heavy traffic, and - once you've got it slightly on boil - can sprint effortlessly to 90 MPH.

The Mazda 2 exhibits a similar character. It generates less power than the EP3, but also weighs 400 lbs. less. Its wheelbase is also a few inches shorter. And once you're up around 3,000 rpm and drop it into fourth, it can dart just about anywhere you point.

Even its shifter placement (top) recalls the seventh-gen Si (below). The Mazda 2's nimble enthusiasm makes joining the rat race for another day not only tolerable, but enjoyable.

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Slow Car, Driven Fast

December 17, 2010

The Mazda 2 is a great example of the theory that it can be more fun to drive a slow car fast than it is to drive a fast car slow. Sure, the Mazda 2 feels painfully underwhelming when accelerating at low revs, even with its Slim-Fast curb weight of 2,274 lb. But all that does is goad you into driving it for all its worth, constantly winding the little 1.5-liter four-cylinder to its 6300-rpm redline to extract the full might of its 100 horses as you snick through the five speeds of the high-mount shifter.

You don't have to act like a total hooligan to test the limits of adhesion in tight corners, either, the slippery tires giving up grip rather quickly. Yet the 2's quick steering and lively chassis mean it responds to driver input far better than the typical understeering econobox.

It's not often you can wring just about everything out of a car on the street with so little worry about attracting attention (helps the car is white, no doubt).

Sometimes the Mazda 2 does feel fast, though. Like when you're really honking down the highway, and spot a cop: "Uh-oh, I'm screwed," you think. Then a quick glance at the speedo reveals you're only doing 70. "Whew!"

Of course, there's also something to be said for using the Mazda 2 to the best of its miserliness potential. Maybe tomorrow. But that doesn't sound like near as much fun.

Mike Monticello, Road Test Editor @ 4,578 miles

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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.

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2011 Mazda 2: No Respect, No Respect

November 23, 2010

Baby Sparkles Mazda 2 Little Little Little.jpg

Maybe I should name the Mazda 2 Rodney instead, because it gets absolutely no respect on the road. People turn in front of you constantly, just assuming that you suck and are content to drive at a pace matched only by the Columbia Glacier. I can't tell you how many times I caught people by surprise as they turned in front of me, only to discover a big happy face grille quickly filling their mirrors. Or, as I turned right onto Wilshire Blvd yesterday evening, a woman in a Prius coming the opposite direction started to turn right in front of me only to end up slamming on the brakes and coming to a stop in my direction in the left-most lane. She apparently wasn't expecting me to accelerate so damned fast.

But wait, you're thinking, isn't the Mazda 2 one of the slowest cars sold in this country?

Correct, our long-termer was clocked at 9.9 second from zero to 60 mph. Yet, you must remember that people accelerate unbelievably slow relative 0-60 times. A time of 9.9 seconds is good enough to leave just about every driver in your dust, and I'd say that's about the pace I normally accelerate regardless of the horsepower I possess.

Take Friday evening, when I came to a stop light alongside a Honda Accord Coupe V6 with tint and dubs. The light turns green and as always in the 2, I gun it, absolutely embarrassing Mr. Accord. He, not surprisingly, was shamed by getting roasted off the line by Baby Sparkles, and then proceeded to out horsepower away to maintain his manhood. This episode has already been repeated several times ... twice with BMW 3 Series drivers.

See, I feel compelled to drive the snot out of the 2. For starters, I'd prefer to accelerate at my normal pace and not in fact be slower than the Columbia Glacier. And second, the 2 is a fun little car that's really quite a hoot to drive quickly. Yet, when people see our little white hatchback, they don't expect you to be having fun in such a small car. No, we've clearly "bought" it because we're poor and couldn't afford a real car. We're probably 83 years old and our color certainly doesn't help despite being fancy metallic white.

On the contrary, I say. Little, underpowered cars like the Mazda 2 can be just as fun as they are economical, and I think I shall continue startling the masses with my oh-so-blazing speed.

James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 2,732 miles

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2011 Mazda 2: Good Highway Car?!

November 15, 2010


Welcome to Lancaster, California. As you see here, somebody woke up fresh as a daisy after staying at an Intercontinental Hotel Group resort. I put about 200 highway miles on our long-term 2011 Mazda 2 Touring over the weekend, and I was surprised by how good the highway ride is on this car. It's controlled, and compliant -- bordering on cushy.

I really didn't expect this level of compliance and isolation from a sub-2,300-pound subcompact. Instead, I expected the Mazda 2 to ride more like our departed 2009 Honda Fit, which weighed nearly 2,500 pounds. The Fit was well mannered on the highway, but not a bit soft and cushiony.

And though the Mazda 2 lacks much of the Honda Fit's utility, its above-average ride quality could swing a potential buying decision in its favor if you're a long-distance solo commuter.

Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 2,744 miles

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Track Tested

November 13, 2010


With a 100-horsepower 1.5-liter inline-4, our Mazda 2 is the least powerful car we've had since our time with a 2008 smart fortwo. But that car, with its 70-horsepower 1-liter, was a two-seater with two doors, the engine in the back and cartoonish looks. You half expected it to be painfully slow.

But this 2011 Mazda 2 has four doors (five if you're one of those 'a hatch is a door' folks) seats five and looks like a car. It should work like a car, right? And then there's that zoom-zoom thing Mazda's known for, it should work better than a normall small car, right?

Well, we brought our 2011 Mazda 2 to the track recently to find out. Full results after the jump.

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Power and Weight

November 11, 2010

Weighing in at only 2,274 pounds, our Mazda Dos is easily the lightest car in our test lot. I like lightweight cars and that's definitely a good start. But its tiny 1.5-liter engine only manages to produce 100 horsepower. I'm pretty sure my food processor makes more. This weight-to-power ratio certainly isn't favorable, especially when you consider that our long-term 2004 Prius weighs 2,966 lbs and produces 143 hp. Each horsepower in the Mazda has to lug 22.7 pounds while the Prius only has to pull 20.7.

Mazda positions itself as a more exciting alternative to other brands, and despite the unimpressive figures above, the Mazda 2 manages to qualify as a fun driver, but just barely.

Off the line, il due is pretty anemic. Traction control shuts down the party quicker than a police cruiser in your driveway. With it disengaged, it allows for a little bit of wheelspin, but the engine lacks any real power low in the revs. There's a little more power around 4,000 revs, but it's nowhere close to exciting.

So where's the fun? Handling. In the absence of power, the light weight pays off in the corners. Combined with a short wheelbase, it's considerably tossable. There's a decent amount of body roll and the tires probably won't react well to being driven at ten-tenths, but up to that point, it's enough to induce a giggle or two.

On a winding canyon road, le deux is a pleasant little teaching aid. The lack of power forces you to maintain as much momentum as possible, improving your ability to tie one turn to the next in a beautiful sinuous ribbon.

So yes, the Mazda 2 has enough double zoom to qualify as fun. Fun enough to be a zippy "reasonably priced car," I say.

What say y'all?

Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Track Test

November 03, 2010

Back in July of this year, the Straightline blog did an IL Track Test of the 2011 Mazda 2 Touring, the same model that we picked up as our long-termer, although this one is in the green color I love. Handily enough, the post also throws up the performance numbers for the 2009 Honda Fit Sport and the 2011 Ford Fiesta SES for comparison's sake. Suffice it to say the Fit garnered the best numbers (besides braking distance and price).

Caroline Pardilla, Deputy Managing Editor

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2011 Mazda 2 Touring: Terrific Shifter

November 02, 2010

mazda 2 shifter 1600.JPG

Our longterm 2011 Mazda 2 proves that inexpensive cars don't have to have crummy shifters. In fact, its shifter is pretty danged good.

Light and whippy shifters like the one in the Honda Civic Si have their place. The reward that comes with using the Mazda 2's shifter, however, is more about substance.

The shift gates are distinctly defined and the lever moves between them with precision and... solidity. That's the word. Slop is minimal. There's a hint of notchiness to the 2's shift action, but not too much. Just enough to give it a nice mechanical feel without adding resistance that would slow down your gearchanges.

It offers positive and solid engagement that you don't expect in a car this affordable. You can shift it quickly and shift it hard and it never feels flimsy.

It simply satisfying to use. Good thing, too, because you need to stir that lever quite a bit to get the most out of the little engine.

Jason Kavanagh, Engineering Editor

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Past Long-Term Road Tests