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May 13, 2019
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2011 Mazda 1203 Mazda2 20610 327338
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Expert Reviews

Bob Plunkett
powered by New Car Test Drive
Introduction
The 2011 Mazda 2 has been completely redesigned inside, outside and underneath. The all-new five-seat, front-wheel-drive subcompact was designed to take on a wide range of competitors, such as the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa, Ford Fiesta, Hyundai Accent, and Kia Soul and Rio.

First introduced in 2007, the Mazda 2 has been extremely successful, selling more than 400,000 units in Europe and Asia, and being named World Car Of The Year in 2008. Now, the U.S. market gets the third-generation Mazda 2 before any other market.

The styling is fresh and we find it arrestingly good-looking. Like all Mazda products of recent vintage, the 2011 Mazda 2 has been made to look much bolder and sportier than its previous incarnations. The body itself has been reshaped in a much more sporty fashion, with more sculpted sides, a laid-back windshield, and a jaunty little rear roof spoiler on one version. There's a new grille, hood, fenders, lamps, bumper and air intakes up front, with new body-colored door handles, new taillamps, a power liftgate, new 15-inch wheels, and exhaust system outlets at the rear. Underneath, there's a redone suspension and an improved braking system.

Under the hood, there is a single engine choice, a time-tested 1.5-liter double-overhead-cam 16-valve four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing to give it more flexibility in delivering low-rpm torque and high-rpm horsepower.

Fuel economy for the Mazda 2 is an EPA-estimated 28/35 mpg City/Highway.

Aiming for higher gas mileage without damaging the driving fun, Mazda focused on reducing weight with a vengeance, using a much higher ratio of high-strength steel in the body to lose 50 pounds, or 10 percent of the body's weight, with more welds and more weld-bonded adhesives in the body and its openings. And then they looked for hundreds of places to save a few pounds, like the wiring harness, the door locks and latches, the engine's radiator, the automatic transmission shifter, the pedals, and even the speakers in the stereo system. The final result was a car that weighs just a bit over 2300 pounds in basic form, a five-door hatch that is actually lighter than a two-seater Miata.

We climbed in and found the seats comfortable and supportive and we liked the thick, sporty steering wheel. Although rated as a five-seater, we wouldn't subject a fifth person to the back seat, the same as we wouldn't for any car in this class. The Mazda 2 is relatively roomy for four, though. Fold the rear seats down and it offers good cargo capacity with 27 cubic feet of cargo space and easy hatchback accessibility.

Out on the road, we found the Mazda 2 fun to drive. The little engine is gutsy, with a sporty note at upper revs. Shifting the manual five-speed is easy and enjoyable. The new brakes are responsive, with no annoying slack in the pedal travel. The new electric steering is responsive. The new suspension tuning minimizes body lean in corners yet ride quality is smooth and comfortable. It maneuvers rewardingly in tight driving situations, making it easy to park or thread through thick traffic.

Model Lineup
The 2011 Mazda 2 Sport ($13,980) and the more luxurious 2011 Mazda 2 Touring ($15,435) come standard with a five-speed manual gearbox. A four-speed automatic is available for both the Sport ($14,780) and Touring ($16,235) models. (All New Car Test Drive prices are Manufacturer's Retail Prices and do not include destination charge of $750.)

Mazda2 Sport comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 with four speakers, reclining front bucket seats with six-way adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 split folding rear seats, tilt steering column, remote keyless entry, power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, 15-inch steel wheels.

Mazda2 Touring gets upgraded cloth upholstery with three-dimensional seat fabric with red piping, six-speaker sound system, multi-functional leather steering wheel, rear roof spoiler, fog lamps, and 15-inch alloy wheels.

Options include auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink ($295), white pearl paint ($200). Bluetooth wireless for hands-free cellphone operation ($95) is available, also a rear bumper guard ($61), cargo net ($40), center console with armrest. Accessories include a bike rack, a roof rack, a roof basket, an interior cargo box, side sill extensions, ski rack, snowboard rack, surfboard rack, and a kayak carrier.

Safety equipment on all Mazda 2 models includes frontal airbags, side-impact and side curtain air bags, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Quick Brake Assist, dynamic stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring system. It also has Mazda's first brake priority system that automatically puts the brakes on whenever the brake and accelerator pedals are pressed simultaneously. The 2011 Mazda 2 has received Europe's highest crash rating of five stars.

Walkaround
For 2011, Mazda 2 has been given a substantial cosmetic makeover, with every panel on the car replaced by newer and flashier sheetmetal. Along with that are a new upper and lower grille design, new hood, new fenders, new lamps, new bumpers and air intakes up front, with body-colored door handles all around, new taillamps, liftgate, and wheels.

The new Mazda2 has very large, fully integrated halogen headlamp units that flow around the front corner into the fender, creating a line that goes up over the heavily bulging front fender like other Mazdas and then all the way to the rear of the car through the centerline of the body. The lower body is heavily sculpted with an upswept line starting just behind the tucked-in front tires and extending up and over the rear wheel wells. With the five-point lower grille and the five-point rear window glass, this couldn't be anything but a Mazda, mimicking as it does the Mazda 3, 5, 6, 8, CX-7, and CX-9 in its front and rear layouts. The Mazda 2 Touring version adds front fog lamps and a rear roof spoiler.

Interior
The 2011 Mazda 2 features an all-new cabin. We found the seats comfortable and supportive.

The three-spoke steering wheel has a thick rim and a thickly padded round hub flanked by redundant switches for the sound system on the left and the cruise control system on the right, and we think it's the best steering wheel in the segment for its functionality and design. The steering wheel is meaty to hold onto, and the combination of a tilt steering column and adjustable seat height make for easy adjustment before setting off. The shifter, whether manual or automatic, resides in the bottom center of the instrument panel where the center console would be (there is one, though optional at extra cost).

The instrument panel, seat trims, door panels and door pockets have all been redesigned for 2011 more comfort and utility. The instrument panel, center stack, switches and controls have all been redone for the 2011 models.

The instrument panel is built around a continuous horizontal line, which makes the narrow cockpit seem wider than it really is. The instrument package contains the usual three-round-gauge package, and is put together in an unusual but pleasing way, with a second large, round binnacle in the center of the instrument panel to house the sound system's various readouts, with the CD slot above and a three-dial HVAC control panel just below the readout binnacle. Surprisingly, we found no USB port.

Cargo capacity of the Mazda 2 is 13.3 cubic feet behind the 60/40 split folding second seat, and 27.8 cubic feet with the second seat folded flat.

Driving Impressions
The 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine in the new 2011 Mazda 2 is among the smallest gasoline engines on the U.S. market, but it is tuned in such a way, and the drivetrain is geared in such a way, that it performs more than just adequately. The engine is mounted in such a way as to cancel the usual fore-aft rocking motions that most front-mounted, front-wheel-drive four-cylinder engines have.

We found the Mazda 2 engine is gutsy at the bottom end and delivers good power throughout the rev range. It sounds good at the top end, and it's not buzzy. The throttle, which is drive-by-wire, has been tuned for very aggressive throttle tip-in, and these functions taken together make the Mazda 2 a hoot to drive. Yet it doesn't create on-off lurches related to the throttle pedal.

The clutch and transmission performed very well during our drive around central California from Monterey to Santa Cruz and back through some very twisty country two-laners and up and down the freeways.

The engineers redesigned the entire braking system for lighter weight, but also improved functionality, and there is very little dead space in the brake pedal before braking starts, a feature which we particularly liked. Brakes are front disc, rear drum with ABS, EBD, Brake Assist.

The suspension underneath is fairly conventional, with MacPherson struts in front and a trailing-arm twisting-beam rear suspension, but in the redesign, the engineers have done some interesting things with the suspension mounts and bushings that yield a much flatter ride through high-speed corners and quick-reacting suspension that doesn't make a lot of noise or transmit a lot of bumps and humps to the seats inside the car. The power steering is electric, not hydraulic, mounted on the upper steering column, and reacts to steering inputs very positively, without lag or confusion.

Summary
Completely redesigned, the Mazda 2 is practical and quite a bit of fun to drive. It's maneuverable for tight parking spaces. It's roomy for four and offers good cargo capacity. The engine is gutsy and delivers excellent fuel economy with an easy-to-use manual or available automatic. For $17,000 loaded, it looks like one of the transportation bargains of the year for new or young drivers or those looking to downsize into something cool and fun.

Jim McCraw filed this NewCarTestDrive.com report after his test drive of the Mazda 2 near Monterey, California.

Model as tested
Mazda 2 Touring ($15,435)
Basic Warranty
3 years/36,000 miles
Assembled in
Hiroshima, Japan
Destination charge
750
Gas guzzler tax
N/A
Base Price
13980
Price as tested
16185
Options as tested
none
Model Line Overview
Model lineup
Mazda 2 Sport ($13,980); Mazda2 Touring ($15,435)
Safety equipment (standard)
front and side airbags, side air curtain, ABS, traction control, electronic stability control, Brake Assist, EBD
Safety equipment (optional)
N/A
Engines
1.5-liter dohc 16-valve I4
Transmissions
5-speed manual
Specifications as Tested
upgraded cloth upholstery with three-dimensional seat fabric with red piping, AM/FM/CD/MP3 six-speaker sound system, multi-functional leather steering wheel, rear roof spoiler, fog lamps, 15-inch alloy wheels; reclining front bucket seats with six-way adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 split folding rear seats, tilt steering column, remote keyless entry, power windows, power mirrors, power door locks
Engine & Transmission
Engine
1.5-liter dohc 16-valve I4
Drivetrain type
front-wheel drive
Horsepower (hp @ rpm)
100 @ 6000
Transmission
EPA fuel economy, city/hwy
28/35
Torque (lb.-ft. @ rpm)
N/A
Suspension
Brakes, front/rear
Suspension, front
Independent, MacPherson strut, stabilizer bar
Tires
P185/55VR15
Suspension, rear
Independent, trailing arm, coil springs, stabilizer bar
Accomodations
Seating capacity
5
Head/hip/leg room, middle
N/A
Head/hip/leg room, front
39.1/52.8/42.6
Head/hip/leg room, rear
37.0/51.2/33.0
Measurements
Fuel capacity
N/A
Trunk volume
27.8
Wheelbase
98.0
Length/width/height
155.5/66.7/58.1
Turning circle
32.1
Payload
N/A
Towing capacity
N/A
Track, front/rear
58.1/57.7
Ground clearance
5.1
Curb weight
2306
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2011 Mazda Mazda2
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