2011 Mazda 2 Touring new car reviews

It's mean and it's green--in more ways than one. Meet the new Mazda2.

Better than: Mazda 323?
But not as good as: Mazdaspeed2
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 78.12

Once-small cars like the Honda Civic and Mazda3 have grown up, leaving a hole for a new generation of compacts. For Mazda, their latest release for that new niche is the Mazda2.

While the basic specs seem puny by today's standards, they're not out of line for those of us who grew up in the '70s and '80s: an even 100 horsepower, 98 lb.-ft. of torque, $14K base price and a sub-2500-pound curb weight. The big question, however, is whether or not today's $4/gallon gas can push these compacts back into vogue.

Other staff views

Tom Heath Tom Heath
UberDork

Press vehicles travel through the GRM offices all the time, so it's easy to become jaded by the parade of luxury, performance, and technology. It's a rare case when I'm truly motivated to go and buy one. The Mazda2, however, worked it's low-budget new car magic on me. Just days after my first time behind the wheel of the Mazda2, I was signing my name to the title of my own Mazda2.

Sure, it's no rocketship, but after driving just about everything in the small car segment the Mazda2 feels like the driver's car of the bunch. An eager chassis and rewarding dynamics combined and an elegant, rubbermaid-like simplicity (combined with the under $13k street price for the Sport model) got me just motivated enough to buy my own example. I chose the Mazda2 Sport, which undercuts the pricetag of the Touring edition by a respectable margin.

After living with the car for a few weeks, I'm still in love. For those who lament the good old days before cars had tons of unnecessary options and curb weights much higher than a ton, the Mazda2 deserves a test drive.

Joe Gearin Joe Gearin
Associate Publisher

The Mazda 2 doesn't look all that impressive on paper. It has a tiny little engine that doesn't make much power, skinny tires that don't offer tremendous grip, and an interior that seems a bit spartan compared to it's rivals. It is decent looking but not a show stopper, and it doesn't have the utility some of it's competitors offer. By Looking at a brochure, it would be easy to write the Mazda 2 off as a decent, but unremarkable machine. This would be a mistake.

What this little Mazda does have in abundance is goodness. This is one of those great machines that is better than the sum of it's parts. The "Deuce" has direct steering with good feedback, an agile chassis that likes to rotate, and a shifter that feels more MX-5 Miata than econobox. The pedals are placed well for heel-and toe shenanigans, and all of the primary controls come to hand exactly where you want them to be. The car's light weight also gives it a tossable / nimble feeling that adds to the fun.

On the road the Mazda brings to mind the old adage "it is more fun to drive a slow car fast, than a fast car slow". You can drive this car at 8/10's on the way to work in the morning grinning like an idiot. Although it is a bit underpowered, the engine likes to rev, and has a nice rasp to it. The Deuce never puts a foot wrong, always instills confidence, and just plain feels good. This is a very pleasant machine to spend time with. As a bonus, it has a highway ride that a Honda Fit would kill for. Crossing the country in a "2" wouldn't involve the kind of pain economy cars are usually known for.

If I was in the market for an inexpensive new car, the Mazda 2 would be at the top of my list. The fact that Mazda has been incredibly supportive of amateur racers is just icing on the cake!

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
Turboeric
Turboeric New Reader
6/27/11 10:57 p.m.

I just test drove a Fiesta and a 2 back to back. Put the Fiesta drivetrain in the 2 and they'd have my money in a heartbeat. Right now Mazda Canada is offering 0% financing for 5 years, which makes it nearly free. The only thing holding me back is the thought of trying to pass on a 2 lane road in the mountains, which is something I have to do all the time. It's a car that could run a fast average as long as you didn't need to pass a semi.

trailbrake2088
trailbrake2088 New Reader
7/21/11 7:09 p.m.

At least one manufacturer understands us. I would like to see what it can do on a track with some sticky tires, oh hey you just bought one......

SlowPaul
SlowPaul None
7/25/11 12:20 a.m.

I have had my 2 since March and have loved every minute behind the wheel since. My drive into work in the wee hours of the morning is nothing short of invigorating with blasts around right and left hand green arrows. The ride is comfy, yet still retains a bit of firmness to remind me that the 2 means business. With the addition of some lighter wheels and 140 tread wear Kumho XS' the fun factor has been multiplied by 10. The car is built solid and hasn't skipped a beat. It's practical and fun. I like to refer to my 2 as a "Japanese MINI Cooper."

pm_racing
pm_racing None
9/18/11 12:11 p.m.

We bought a 2 for my wife in January and I drive it every chance I get. Country roads where I live are a blast in this car. You're not going to win many drag races with the 2, but as light as it is, the acceleration is decent. Besides, cornering is more fun than going in a straight line.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

Once-small cars like the Honda Civic and Mazda3 have grown up, leaving a hole for a new generation of compacts. For Mazda, their latest release for that new niche is the Mazda2.

While the basic specs seem puny by today's standards, they're not out of line for those of us who grew up in the '70s and '80s: an even 100 horsepower, 98 lb.-ft. of torque, $14K base price and a sub-2500-pound curb weight. The big question, however, is whether or not today's $4/gallon gas can push these compacts back into vogue.

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