2011 Mazda 2 Long-Term Road Test - Wrap-Up

2011 Mazda 2 Long-Term Road Test

  • Full Review
  • Pricing & Specs
  • Road Tests (4)
  • Comparison (1)
  • Long-Term

2011 Mazda 2 - Wrap-Up

Read the introduction of this vehicle to our long-term fleet.

See all of the blog posts on this vehicle.

The 2011 Mazda 2 is the antithesis to the garlic press. As Features Editor Mike Magrath explained in the 2's intro, "TV chef and awesome guy Alton Brown has a theory on unitaskers. The theory is to stay away from them. It's not that a garlic press is the worst thing in the world, but a flat chunk of granite can press garlic, too. And shell nuts. And keep papers from flying around. And kill rats."

That seems to be the theory behind the Mazda 2. It's not the class leader in any category, but the aggregate value should be high enough to justify its existence." Is it good enough to compete with the likes of the versatile Honda Fit, low-priced Hyundai Accent or sporty Ford Fiesta? This was one of the questions we asked when ordering up our new-for-2011 Mazda 2 Touring.

We ordered the Touring trim to get cruise control. That was the only optional equipment we cared to add. Actually, our Crystal White Pearl paint job also added $200 to the tab, which totaled $16,385. A 100-horsepower, 1.5-liter engine and five-speed manual transmission granted the power of locomotion. No seat heaters. No navigation system. No frills. Simplicity was its appeal, which made us wonder just how popular the Mazda 2 would be after 12 months and 20,000 miles. There was one way to find out.

From the Outside in
At the time it arrived we hadn't seen a long-term subcompact in awhile. The closest thing to it was our outgoing long-term 2010 Mazdaspeed 3. There was interest, at least once we got past the exterior. "The Mazda 2 isn't the least bit fancy," began one editor." He continued, "In fact, dressed in refrigerator white it's about as homely-looking as a new car gets, at least on the outside."

Inside, the cabin reactions brightened. Sure, the lack of a center armrest and no USB port rubbed some the wrong way. But thoughtful design elements overshadowed them. The simple yet functional symmetry of the center stack was one example. Executive Editor Michael Jordan summarized, "Expensive cars have trim. Cheap cars have only design, because there can be no extras.... Real design is found where art meets necessity."

Editor Ed Hellwig also observed, "Mazda's designers might not have done much with the exterior, but they added a little bit of flair to the interior where they could. Most hatchbacks in this class are saddled with plain old gray cloth from top to bottom. The 2011 Mazda 2 mixes it up with contrasting fabrics and red piping, at least on the Touring model. None of this is groundbreaking stuff, but when it comes to $16K cars, it's an indication that the designers are at least trying to make a go of it."

Initial Driving Impressions
Mazda hangs its hat on building vehicles befitting its performance driving heritage. We expected the 2 to reflect this ideology to an economical degree. Most agreed the shifter and steering were tuned like a Mazda. Senior Editor Erin Riches commented upon her first interaction with the Mazda, "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 definitive information about which way the front wheels are pointing."

It was the suspension and clutch uptake that could benefit from attention. Executive Editor Michael Jordan spent more time in the 2 than most of us. Jordan sighed, "I feel clumsy every time I get into this car. 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 something wrong. Maybe I am, but I sure don't like being reminded of it every second."

On the open road, where its stop-start difficulties were not a factor, the 2 was a pleasant surprise. Visibility was great. Its low beltline emphasized the side windows and gave a sense of spaciousness in the Mazda. The ride was the real bonus. Reactions varied but all centered on the positive. "It's controlled and compliant — bordering on cushy," wrote one editor. Another added, "It tracked straight and true, as if it were a much larger car."

So we sent the Mazda on multiple triple-digit distance road trips. And it performed well for its dimensions.

Rarely First Choice, but Never a Disappointment
One such road trip found the 2011 Mazda 2 on a 1,000-mile-plus trek up and back to the NASA 25-hour endurance race at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, California. The 16-hour round trip was an enduro for the 2 as well.

When Director of Vehicle Testing Dan Edmunds chose the Mazda, it was because we wanted to put some early miles on the car. And it seemed appropriate since he was going to drive the B-Spec Mazda 2 and Honda Fit racecars. Initially, he wasn't a big fan of the idea. As the trip went on he changed his mind. Edmunds noted, "Our Mazda 2 handled the boring interstate that is I-5 with ease. The driving position was great and the seat stayed comfy and supportive over the 8-hour drive.... The presence of cruise control on our Touring model was a huge plus."

His experience mirrored our collective impression of the Mazda. As our test progressed, we often hesitated to spend time in it on the basis of it being a subcompact. Yet, the act of actually driving it quelled our concerns every time, as doing so reminded us just how competent a car it was.

Stop Texting and Drive
Our test was moving right along. It was off to the track for instrumented testing. At 6,400 miles the Mazda requested an oil top-off, so we added a half-quart. Shortly thereafter the 2 came due for its first regular service. We spent just $32 for an oil change, tire rotation and inspections. Things were going well.

Just as our test was getting up to speed, it happened. A careless motorist rear-ended our defenseless Mazda as it sat waiting for a traffic signal. Fortunately nobody was hurt and the impact occurred at low speed. The at-fault party paid nearly $1,600 to restore our car to as-new condition. And it cost us 14 days of our test.

Back on the road our Mazda accumulated miles at a far slower rate. Its popularity waned as it settled into the life of city commuter car. While this role filled the niche intended by Mazda, it didn't much help us reach our goal of 20,000 miles in a year. The 15,000-mile service interval arose just three weeks before the car was scheduled to leave us. There was excitement in its final days, as a 7-foot length of wire wrapped itself around suspension components on its right side. We paid $112 for the local dealer to unravel it.

Another Year Behind Us
And so our test came to an end. After 12 months we managed just over 16,000 miles on our 2011 Mazda 2. During this time we matched EPA fuel economy figures, averaging its 32 mpg projection exactly. In some single-tank cases we recorded nearly 39 mpg. This Mazda was not class-leading in any one category, yet here it again teaches a lesson in how to do things right.

The Mazda was unexpectedly fun to drive, rode well on the highway, achieved great fuel economy and stuck to simple, functional design elements. Maintenance was affordable, too. It handled all of the basics with few surprises.

At the start of our test we asked if the aggregate value of "average" added up to success for the Mazda 2. After a year with the car we'd say it adds up to sufficient. Chief Road Test Editor Chris Walton summed it up: "Isn't 10 seconds a reasonable amount of time to get to 60 mph? Aren't 13.3 cubic feet enough for most runs to Trader Joe's? Sure, it could use an armrest up front, and a Bluetooth phone connection would be nice." But in the end we appreciated the appeal of keeping things simple. At some point adding more features would cost consumers more. So Mazda drew the line.

This wasn't our favorite long-term subcompact. But it wasn't our least favorite either. The 2011 Mazda 2 simply showed up for work every day and did what we asked while providing a little more fun than we expected along the way.

Total Body Repair Costs: None
Total Routine Maintenance Costs: $105.46 (over 12 months)
Additional Maintenance Costs: $112.00
Warranty Repairs: None
Non-Warranty Repairs: Remove wire road debris from axle
Scheduled Dealer Visits: 2
Unscheduled Dealer Visits: 1
Days Out of Service: 14
Breakdowns Stranding Driver: None
Best Fuel Economy: 38.7 mpg
Worst Fuel Economy: 21.1 mpg
Average Fuel Economy: 32.0 mpg
True Market Value at service end: $12,802 (private party sale)
Depreciation: $3,583 or 22% of original MSRP
Final Odometer Reading: 16,462 miles

The manufacturer provided Edmunds this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.

Leave a Comment

Past Long-Term Road Tests