November 08, 2011
Once a week I handle school pick-up duty in the evening, bringing home my eldest daughter and two of her friends after their after-school art program lets out. Every time I'm driving something different, of course, so they never know what car to keep an eye out for. It gets really interesting if their cell phones are dead (or mine) and I can't clue them in ahead of time.
Last night it was the 2011 Mazda 2, a car I signed out before I remembered that I was the night's assigned car pool captain. We're talking high school kids, so they're not exactly small of stature, and they come armed with enormous backpacks.
No problemo. Thie Mazda 2 has a real backseat. Six-foot-two me had only to slide his seat up a notch. I'm used to that.
I should probably bring them home in cars of this type more often, so as to not raise their expectations overmuch for the type of car they'll most likely be driving once they get their driver's license. My daughter is already studying for her learner's permit. *gulp*
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 16, 216 miles
November 02, 2011
You're not going to get great seats in a car that stickers for $16,330, but I'm pretty content with the driver seat in our long-term 2011 Mazda 2.
During my Ortega Highway/South Main Divide Road drive, the seat held me in place well enough. It wasn't perfect, but I wasn't sliding around so much that it was distracting. It probably helps that the seat is cloth (and high-quality cloth at that), because the "leather" in this price range is usually on the slippery side.
With that back-road detour on my drive back from Carlsbad, I ended up spending four straight hours in the driver seat and that included some time in stop-and-go traffic. The seat remained comfortable throughout that trip, providing adequate support. I will say that at 5 feet, 10 inches, I max out all the seat-track travel and I have the seat height set as low as it will go, sooo I'd be pretty surprised if a six-footer could make the same trip and be as comfortable as I was.
In addition, I took the car through countless cloverleaf entrance/exit ramps over the weekend, and by the end of it, my significant other was complaining about "inadequate lateral support." So I guess one person's adequate is another person's needs improvement.
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
September 28, 2011
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.
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
June 22, 2011
I thought it'd be an interesting exercise to drive our long-term Mazda 2 the day after I drove our Fiat 500. Now, I'm a big fan of the Fiat 500, with its Italian charm and zippy nature. But if I were to decide between the two for one of those ridiculous, "If you only had to pick between the two, and for the rest of your life on a deserted island" scenarios, I think I'd choose the Mazda 2.
The Fiat's driving position is very upright. It's almost as if you're driving a cargo van. With the sunroof rails cutting down on headroom, my hair is constantly brushing up against the headliner. At 5'10", I feel like I just barely fit.
The Mazda 2 has a more conventional driving position and I have no headroom issues with it. I also prefer the more laid back position when I want to have a few laughs on some twisty roads. On a longer trip, I also think I'd be more comfortable in the Mazda.
What do you prefer? Upright or laid back?
Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor
May 04, 2011
I think our Mazda 2 Touring is in a funk. It's like the sort-of-cute high school boy who isn't really a standout at anything, but has enough charm and looks to get some dates--provided he has no serious competition.
Well, our Mazda 2 has lots of competition in the fleet these days, what with the Mini Cooper S Countryman All4, the Nissan Juke and that new Italian exchange student, Rosso Fiat the 500th. And so the mildly cute, moderately sporty but ultimately uncharismatic Mazda 2 got passed over on the editor signup sheet Monday. It was about to go dateless again Tuesday.
Moved by pity, I took it home. It was 87 degrees in the L.A. area yesterday and the Mazda 2 proved to be a fun, zippy drive on a sunny, breezy, nearly summer day.
It's small, so its AC system brings the temperature down fast. The fabric seats stay cool. The shifter has minimal metal surface, so it doesn't sear a brand into your palm, like some of our cars' shifters do (I'm talking about you, Buick Regal CXL Turbo).
Granted, it's not a perfect car, but with a Diet Coke in the cup holder and AC/DC on the radio, I was glad the Mazda 2 was my first summer date.
Carroll Lachnit, Features Editor @8,718 miles
May 02, 2011
The suspension tune on our long-term 2011 Mazda 2 is not overly aggressive. The little car turns in nicely, but there's enough body roll to keep it honest about its economy bent and its puny but adequate 185/55R15 Yokohama tires.
Yet, as you bend into a turn, what looks to be fairly modest bolstering on the front seat-back cushions actually proves to be quite effective. It actually goes some distance in holding you in place. After spending the last week in various other economy sedans, all more expensive than our Mazda 2, I'm reminded that real lateral bolstering is hard to come by in this price range (~$16K), and I'd be more likely to buy the 2 because of it.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 8,995 miles
March 05, 2011
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
February 17, 2011
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
February 14, 2011
Last night I put a quick 70 miles on our long-term 2011 Mazda 2, all freeway. Once again, I noticed the little car's compliant ride, but this time I also couldn't overlook the fact that the cabin is just plain noisy at 70 mph.
Most of it is road noise (though you hear the wind a bit, too), and it comes at you from all directions in the 2. The factory stereo's automatic level compensation (ALC in the head unit menu) becomes a borderline necessity at highway speeds. Also, the fact that the Mazda 2 doesn't have Bluetooth begins to make some sense, because it would be next to impossible for the person on the other end to hear you over all the racket anyway. Incidently, for this very reason, my passenger decided against calling to firm up our dinner plans and instead texted our friend.
Yet, it's hard to knock the Mazda 2 for the cabin noise, because this is a side effect of its lightweight, minimalist constuction -- which is something I'm supposed to like. This little hatchback weighs less than 2,300 pounds.
Perhaps I wouldn't even have been annoyed by the Mazda's lack of serenity if I hadn't rented a Nissan Versa 1.6 sedan last week in Chicago. I was never a fan of our long-term Versa, but it's an unusually quiet car (by B-segment standards) on the highway, even in base 1.6 form. Mind you, I didn't like driving the Versa 1.6 as much (it's pokey with a 4-speed auto, and its steering is vague), but when you're just making laps up and down the freeway/tollway, a serene cabin is a pretty nice deal.
Erin Riches, Senior Editor @ 6,423 miles
January 07, 2011
Our long-term Mazda 2 and the Ford Fiesta I drove in Toronto share a common platform, though each has a very different driving position. I mentioned this fact in my Fiesta in Canada blog, but what's the difference between the back seats?
January 05, 2011
At 5'10" and 160 lbs (or so), I think I represent the average American male. I fit just fine in most every car -- with or without seat height adjustments or telescoping steering columns. Drivers of Riswickian proportions generally have issues in these regards, but in our Mazda 2, the tables have turned.
I can't seem to find my optimal seating position in the 2. When I get in a car, the first thing I do is adjust the seat travel so my left foot can easily press the clutch pedal to the firewall. Then I adjust the steering wheel to a lower position, followed by the seatback angle. I also tend to drop the seat height to its lowest position.
In our Mazda 2, my problem seems to be with the seatback adjustment. The space between each detent seems too wide, making me feel like I'm either too close or too far from the wheel. I don't think a telescoping wheel would solve this issue, either, since I also feel too upright or reclined, respective to the angles.
Some would speculate that I'd get used to one of those positions if I drove it on a daily basis. I don't think so. I had the same problem with my 1995 Mustang GT. With leather La-Z-Boy seats that failed to anchor anyone in the curves and a headrest that was too far back, I was constantly looking for an aftermarket solution. At least the Mazda's seats are supportive and comfortable (seatback angle issues excluded).
Mark Takahashi, Associate Editor @ 5,180 miles
December 14, 2010
It seems counterintuitive, but tall-old me finds the tiny Mazda 2 more comfortable than the bigger Mazda 3. The seat seems to be mounted higher, which creates more thigh support and allows me to sit closer to the wheel. That wheel doesn't telescope, but then I find the 3's wheel doesn't telescope enough to counteract the fact that its seat doesn't adjust adequately for me. Specifically, the back of the seat bottom doesn't go low enough (see VW GTI). This was just a bit worse with the old car.
Another advantage of the 2's high-mounted front seats is that its back seat seems to have just as much leg room as the 3 when I'm driving and hogging all the passenger space.
James Riswick, Automotive Editor @ 4,413 miles
December 03, 2010
NASA's 25-hrs of Thunderhill road race is this weekend, and it's one of the coolest enduros of the year. Positioned on the calendar after all road race seasons have ended, this races draws cars and racers from all over the country -- even other parts of the world -- for one last go before next season starts.
So I climbed aboard our 2011 Mazda 2 and made the 513-mile trek to Willows, California to check it out.
Our Mazda 2 handled the long, boring interstate that is the I-5 with ease. It tracked straight and true, as if it were a much larger car. The driving position was great and the seat stayed comfy and supportive over the 8-hour drive. The lack of an armrest was no big thang, but the presence of cruise control on our Touring model was a huge plus.
I averaged 32 mpg over the two tanks, but I was going with the flow of traffic, and the flow of traffic on I-5 runs faster than an EPA dyno, which rates this car at 35 mpg on the highway, 32 combined. I'll run with the trucks on the way home and see if it can do better.
Dan Edmunds, Director of Vehicle Testing @ 3,487 miles
November 29, 2010
During my first few minutes behind the wheel of the 2, I felt as if something wasn't quite right. I wasn't quite as comfortable as I wanted to be in the cockpit.
Couldn't put my finger on what the problem was was first, but then I figured it out: The car doesn't have a front center armrest. Hadn't ever seen myself as one of those people who's picky about the whole armrest thing, but that's probably because pretty much every car I've ever driven has had one.
A front center armrest isn't currently available on the 2, but the feature will make an appearance later on in the model year as a no-cost option. Do you need a center armrest to feel comfortable behind the wheel?
Warren Clarke, Automotive Content Editor
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.
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