For decades, Mazda has spent a lot of effort making their brand name synonymous with fun-to-drive. From their biggest to their smallest, their vehicles stand out in the mass market because of their zoom-zoom appeal. Well, now Mazda welcomes a new subcompact to their clan: the Mazda2. And though it lacks in girth, we still think it will give its rivals a fit.

First launched in 2007, the small Mazda2 has made a big splash in Europe, South America, Asia, and even Down Under. Now, finally for 2011, a refreshed Mazda2 arrives on U.S. shores, ready to inject both sporty spirit and style into the American subcompact segment. The Mazda2 joins Ford’s new Fiesta in that goal, and indeed shares the same Blue Oval architecture. But the new five-door Mazda2 wears dimensions that are even more concise, being about four and a half inches shorter than the comparable Fiesta.

At just over 2,300 pounds, the Mazda2 is also lightweight, beating Fiesta, as well as the Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris, and even the Honda Fit. Available in Sport and Touring trims, all U.S. bound Mazda2s share an athletic, forward-leaning stance that make it appear ready to spring into action.

Elongated headlamps above Mazda’s smiley face grille make its origin obvious. Available fog lamps are nicely tucked into tear drop corner cutouts. They lead the eye to standard 15-inch wheels, in both steel and alloy.

From there, a wedge-shaped profile accelerates flair with a sharp, upward shoulder line that ends as the roof drops rapidly to a miniscule overhang at the rear, where the large hatch more than dominates.

A standard rear wiper/washer keeps the big glass clear, while Touring trim adds a hatch top spoiler and chrome exhaust.

The front-wheel drive 2 sports only one engine for the U.S: a judicious 1.5-liter four-cylinder producing 100 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque. That’s less than even the Yaris!

Still, the Mazda I4 is well matched to the standard five-speed manual and optional automatic, albeit with only four gears. 

Regardless, we found it scooted along nicely in and around the city limits of Montreal, darting around traffic in an easy and fun manner. Even from a stop, it moved off with plenty of confidence and no hesitation. That makes the Mazda2’s competitive Government Fuel Economy Ratings of 28 city/35 highway for the manual, and 28 city/34 highway for the automatic, all on regular gas, just a happy plus. 

Once out of the city, the 2 felt even peppier. The four-speed auto worked particularly well. The manual, on the other hand, had longish throws and a rubbery feel. The engine does tend to get a little buzzy under hard acceleration. It’s not as refined as Fiesta, but the 2’s throttle response is quicker. Zero to 60 is estimated at 9.5 seconds.

Suspension is class typical, MacPherson Struts front with a torsion beam at the rear.  Electronic Stability and Traction Control are standard. Over rough roads and worn pavement, it is surprisingly composed. And in faster turns and corners, the Mazda2 felt as spry and sure-footed as Fiesta and Fit, thanks in part to the very direct electric power steering.

Adding to that, the Mazda2 provides clear visibility all around. And its diminutive size makes it a joy in tight parking lots. For stopping, the Mazda2 features ABS with Brake Assist. The end result is a subcompact that has the solid road manners of a much larger car.

The interior of the Mazda2 is very simple, but nicely laid-out-all the way down to the cupholders.  The split console dash gives the forward compartment a roomier feel than you might expect. Fit and finish are very good, and quality of materials is above class par.

Seat comfort is adequate for commuting, but more padding is needed.  Our Touring trim adds a fabric upgrade with red piping. A/C is standard, as is a stereo with aux input jack.

Convenience and luxury amenities are very limited. The only notable upgrades from Sport to Touring trim include a leather wrapped steering wheel with satellite controls, a trip computer, and a six-speaker stereo.

As expected, the back seat is very tight for six-footers. But, despite being shorter overall, the 2 claims more rear legroom than Fiesta. The standard 60/40 split folding seats add fine versatility with easy-to-use seat-top releases. Cargo room-13.3 cubic feet seats up, 27.8 seats down-is reasonable for a subcompact. If you need more, check out the Honda Fit.

The Mazda2 is pretty easy on car payments, too, starting at $14,730 for the Sport. A five-door Fiesta costs about a grand more, but is better equipped. The Mazda2 Touring goes for $16,185.  Add $800 more for an automatic. 

You can tell that we think the 2011 Mazda2 easily meets our desire for a stylish and entertaining subcompact drive. It’s pretty plain jane inside, and clearly not big enough for five-passenger commuting. But, for you and one more, it will bring new smiles to that daily grind. Indeed, the Mazda2 proves that the Zoom-Zoom spirit can survive and thrive, regardless of size.



  • Engine: 1.5-Liter Four-Cylinder
  • Horsepower: 100
  • Torque: 98 Lb Feet
  • 0-60 MPH: 9.5 Seconds
  • EPA: 28 MPG City/ 34 MPG Highway