Engine: 1.5L DOHC I4 w/ VVT
Fuel Economy: 27/33 (Auto)
The latest-gen Mazda2 first hit the streets of Japan, Europe, and Australia in 2007 and became an instant success, racking up numerous awards including the 2008 World Car of the Year title. With those accolades, Mazda looked to return to the American subcompact market it ditched in '94 when it pulled the 323 from its model-line. A new compact car from Mazda seemed like a no-brainer. The company has all but made its name making small cars that are insanely fun to drive. Mazda even went and dubbed the Mazda2 "Zoom-Zoom in its most concentrated form." So, is it?
Yes and no.
Like the Ford Fiesta which shares the same platform, the Mazda2 is a low-powered city cruiser, meant for easily maneuvering through traffic and squeezing into tight parking spots all the while sippin' as little fuel as possible. When seen through that prism, the car is pretty damn good. It's even fun to whip around once you get accustomed to it. Which is surprising considering the four-cylinder engine only puts out 100 hp and 98 lb-ft of torque. But it only weighs 2,309 pounds. The only weak spot in the drivetrain was the four-speed automatic transmission that our test model came with. Compared to the six-speed dual-cluth automatic transmission in the Ford FIesta, Mazda's slushbox felt, well, like slush. We haven't driven the optional five-speed manual transmission, but we're willing to bet it's way more entertaining.
The frugality continues inside where you're greeted by a dash made from cheap plastic and seats that provide as little comfort as they do support—a stark contrast to the Fiesta. Thankfully, it's more roomy than its 155.5-inch length would have you believe. Carrying four adults wasn't a problem. Neither was bringing home a wardrobe, a desk, and a bookshelf from IKEA. Granted the rear seats how to be folded down, but the fact that it fit was amazing. If only the interior was as interesting as the car's exterior. Mazda's current design language carries fully into the 2, making it look like a MX-5 hatchback. Its sheet metal is at once wild and fitting.
The interior and drivetrain shortcomings start to make sense when you compare the 2's sticker price to its competition. At $13,980, it beats the Fiesta and the 500 by at least two grand. If you need to get around town for without burning through fuel, and you don't really care about having a voice-activated media player in your car, the Mazda2's got you covered. Just make sure to get it in manual.