Mention the words ‘subcompact’ or ‘economy car,’ and your mind conjures up images of bare-bones cars with tons of road noise, no comfort, no radio, and horrible acceleration. Today’s subcompacts are a different story. Ever since market speculators have driven up the cost of oil and, by extension, gasoline, Americans’ use of gas-guzzling SUVs for commuting has been slowly replaced with smaller cars. However, no longer satisfied with old, uncomfortable transportation appliances, today’s small-car buyers want many of the options formerly not available in this class. One car with these options is the Mazda2.
I test drove the Mazda2 with a manual transmission and the Touring package, including 15-inch alloy wheels, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, tweeters, upgraded seat cloth with red piping, a trip computer, and fog lights. All this for a sticker price of $16,430. I should also mention that ABS, stability control, key-less entry, air conditioning, power windows, locks, and power mirrors are standard equipment on even the base Mazda2 Sport.
On the outside, the car is sporty looking while the interior has a high-quality look for the price. The switches and dials all have a quality feel. The front seats have a high level of lumbar support, which may be too much for some drivers, but are otherwise comfortable with nice side bolsters. The seat bottom may be too soft for some on long trips. The 60/40 split back seat is quite flat and uncomfortable with headrests that, when raised, block the driver’s rear window visibility. Legroom is barely adequate for my 5’11’’ frame when seated behind the driver’s seat. I would relegate the backseat to short trips for adults or kids.
After starting the car, the engine runs very quietly. The clutch engagement is perfect, and the weighting is very light and easy. You won’t have a sore leg after driving the ‘2’ with a manual in city traffic. The shifter is also smooth and light and allows for easy shifts.
However, you will need to put your foot down, as the 100 horsepower engine is merely adequate for acceleration. You won’t win any races, but it will keep up with traffic just fine. That is the trade-off for EPA-rated mileage of 29 city/ 35 highway with some drivers reporting highway mileage over 40 mpg. Like all Mazda’s, the corners are where the ‘2’ really shines. Steering feel is great and lends to cornering that is nice, flat, and confident. The car is quieter than I expected on the road and had a ride quite unexpectedly smooth over our frost-heaved pavement. The car feels solid for its size.
In summary, the Mazda2 is an excellent value for the money. It is reasonably fun to drive while providing great fuel economy in an attractive package with a nice array of standard features.