Bopping around the city, we happily wound out the engine while keeping it in lower gears. We encouraged sprightly starts off the line by letting the engine rev and dropping the clutch, even chirping the front wheels. We found the shifter moved smoothly from gear to gear, but some city hill climbs could only be done in first. At freeway speeds in fifth gear, the engine ran above 3,000rpm to keep up.
Similar to the Ford Fiesta, with which it shares a platform, the Mazda2 handles well. The wheel is responsive and let us throw it around, quickly jumping from lane to lane, taking advantage of the car's diminutive dimensions.
The suspension is well-tuned, managing to damp out bumps reasonably well, although coming nowhere close to muffling them. We made 100-mile journeys in the car in reasonable comfort, but you would have to be under 25 to take it across country and have a good time.
As our car came in Touring trim, we had a trip computer, which showed average fuel economy of over 35 mpg for most of our time with the car. That number surprised us, as the EPA rating for the Mazda2 is 29 mpg city and 35 mpg highway, and we were in no way hypermiling.
On testing the tank average, we found our real average was 27.8 mpg, definitely in keeping with how we were driving the car. The big discrepancy between the trip computer average and the tank average is troublesome.
It is rare these days to find a new car so bereft of technology. The 2011 Mazda2 plummeted in our scoring system for cabin tech due to its utter lack of features that have become commonplace in so many other cars. And we do not excuse it because it is an economy car, as other carmakers have shown you can still offer modern conveniences at a low price.
Technologies such as variable valve timing are fairly typical these days, keeping the performance score middling. We liked the shift feel of the manual transmission, but it only has five gears. The real highlight of the performance tech was the electric power steering unit, which saves fuel by taking load off of the engine.
The only real win for the Mazda2 is its design. We love the utility of a hatchback, and found that adults could sit comfortably in the rear seats. And there is quite a bit of personality in the car's looks, as it clearly incorporates Mazda's face.
|Model||2011 Mazda Mazda2|
|Powertrain||1.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine; 5-speed manual transmission|
|EPA fuel economy||29 mpg city/35 mpg highway|
|Observed fuel economy||27.8 mpg|
|Bluetooth phone support||None|
|Disc player||MP3-compatible single CD|
|MP3 player support||None|
|Other digital audio||Aux input|
|Audio system||6-speaker system|
|Price as tested||$16,165|