The chance to experience a 2011 Mazda2 during 4 sub-freezing days in December.
Wayne Gerdes - CleanMPG
- Dec. 8, 2010
2011 Mazda2 with 5-speed manual transmission: $16,430 including D&H as tested and rated at 29/35 mpg (US) city/highway on the 08 EPA.
A chance encounter with a Press Fleet representative at the last gathering of the Midwest Automobile Media Association
for the year, I was offered the opportunity to take a 2011 Mazda2 for a 4-day period (another journalist had canceled just days earlier). Faced with the choice between a 7-day drive later and a 4-day drive today, I jumped at the more immediate option!
The latest generation Mazda2 was launched in Europe in September of 2007 and while the platform underpins the new Ford Fiesta, it has maintained a personality all its own. Winning 48 automotive awards (including the "2008 World Car of the Year
" at the 2008 New York International Auto Show), it established itself as a B-segment powerhouse long before the new Fiesta was released.
Designed around Mazda’s “gram strategy”, the Mazda2 weighs in at just 2,306 pounds, a full 236 pounds less than its Ford sibling and 183 pounds less than its main Asian rival -- the Honda Fit. Low weight provides a performance and fuel economy advantage... one that proved its worth time and time again in our hands.
2011 Mazda2 - Specifications and Trim Levels
2011 Mazda2 Specifications
The 2011 Mazda2 offers 100 HP generating 98 lb-ft. of torque from a 1.5L I4 and can be equipped with either a five speed manual or a 4 speed automatic. It can be configured in either of two trim levels -- the entry-level Sport or premium grade Touring.
The Mazda2 Sport includes 15-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, 185/55/R15 all-weather tires, body-colored door handles and power mirrors, A/C, power windows and door locks, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with four speakers, audio auxiliary jack, tilt steering wheel, remote keyless entry system, rear window wiper/washer, and 60/40 split fold-down rear seats.
The Mazda2 Touring models feature upgraded cloth seat fabric with red piping, 15-inch alloys, fog lights, rear roof spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, leather-wrapped steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise control buttons, trip computer, and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo system.
Available accessories include a rear bumper guard ($80), wheel locks ($50 for Touring models only), all-weather floor mats ($80), cargo net ($40), center console with armrest (available after the first of the year), and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass as well as Homelink ($295).
2011 Mazda2 - Competitive Comparisons
|Make||Model||Trim|| Passenger Capacity (cu. ft.)||Cargo Capacity (cu. ft.)||* Base Cost ($USD)||MPG Combined (mpgUS)|
2011 Mazda2 – Safety Equipment and Crash Test Ratings
The Mazda2 comes with a full complement of standard safety features. The standard airbag system includes driver and front passenger dual-stage front airbags with seat belt-use, passenger-weight and driver's seat-position sensors, and driver/front passenger side airbags and side curtains. Front passenger seatbelts are equipped with pre-tensioners and force limiters.
On the active safety front, the Mazda2 is equipped with anti-lock brakes (ABS), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD), Dynamic Stability Control (DSC), Traction Control (TC), Brake Assist (BA), Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS), and LATCH anchors.
The 2011 Mazda2 has not been tested by either the NHTSA or the IIHS as of this write-up. The third generation Mazda2 earned a 5-star crash test rating under the Euro NCAP (Pre-2009 rating system) but has not yet been subjected to the latest Euro NCAP Crash Test Rating Scheme.
2011 Mazda2 - Comfort, Amenities and Ergonomics
The 2011 Mazda2 is not just an inexpensive B-Segment transportation solution but one of the most “fun to drive” sub-compacts we have reviewed to date. While it will never be mistaken for a fully trimmed luxury marque, the vehicle has a style and grace all its own and it starts the first time you see it... leaving an impression that is only intensified by the experience behind the wheel where it comes alive.
Working end of the Mazda2 Touring
- The Mazda2’s Touring interior trim exudes a more costly heritage thanks to its civilized (not shiny), textured, and smooth plastic, steering wheel controls for the multifunction Trip Computer, Audio and Cruise Control, leather wrapped steering wheel, red piping seat trim and cloth door trim. The quality feel is unfortunately missing from the sun visors with inexpensive vinyl covering and non-lit vanity mirrors that detract from the otherwise pleasing interior. All told, it looks and feels far more expensive than its less than $17K price tag suggests.
The low beltline provides good visibility around the exterior to all four corners of the vehicle.
The climate controls are easy to use rotary dials, though the graphics indicating the various functions are too small to understand at first glance. In addition, there is a mechanical clunk to the far right airflow direction control when moved from detent to detent. It is not nearly as badly executed as the Yaris’ climate controls, but it is also not as smooth and refined as those found in the Honda Fit.
Convenience features include standard A/C, a one-touch up/down power window switch, power locks, mirrors, and remote keyless entry.
The 6-speaker AM/FM/MP3 stereo does include an Aux port -- though a USB connection would be more desirable and useful with today’s Smartphones. Unfortunately, the Mazda2 is devoid of a hands free Bluetooth feature -- tech that is quickly becoming commonplace in competing higher end B-Segment offerings. The lack of a NAVI option stands out but in this extremely competitive price segment, a much less expensive portable GPS unit is a far better value.
Standard Center Storage Tray with Red Piping and raised seat side bolsters shown
The Mazda2 includes a central storage tray, a small glove box, reasonably sized door pockets, and dual front cup holders that can hold a 16 oz bottle without complaint. Missing from the otherwise satisfying interior is a much needed arm rest/storage compartment (expected to be available by early next year). Map lights vs. the single interior light up front, a rear passenger lighting solution, and sunglasses holders are also MIA.
From an ergonomic and comfort perspective, the driver’s seat is 6-way adjustable and while not the most comfortable, it incorporates “right sized” side bolsters which help hold you in place during more spirited driving maneuvers. The Mazda2 includes a tilt wheel but lacks a much needed telescopic adjustment... forcing a stretched arm position for taller drivers.
2011 Mazda2 – F&R Seating
Front leg and head room was more than ample while the rear leg room was a tight squeeze. Here's why a telescopic wheel was sorely missed.
Notice how far the rear door swings open? It was a lot closer to 90 degrees than 45 which helps ingress/egress. It still is however a B-Class sized sub-compact and made to accommodate a small family with pre-teens or toddlers in the back. I could live back there for a few hundred miles at a stretch but it would not be comfortable with a 6' occupant directly in front.
Seating in the rear comes not only at a premium but it is not nearly as comfortable as the accommodations up front.
The Mazda2 includes 60/40 split fold-down rear seatbacks and offers a generous 27.8 cu. ft. of cargo volume when both seats are folded down. Usable space is somewhat hampered by the non-flat surface in this configuration, however.
Non-flat foldable rear seats.
- The Mazda2’s short overhangs on both the front and rear, the Spirit Green Metallic color, the sharp looking 15” alloy wheels and all but patented, Mazda “cute” front end smile says "Let’s have fun!" in a way few vehicles do today.
2011 Mazda2 – Performance and Fuel Economy
- Remember the “gram strategy” employed when designing the Mazda2? This is one area where that magic pays big dividends.
Even though there is only 100 HP on tap from the smallish 1.5L, the Mazda2 with a 5-speed stick can reach the 60 mph mark from standstill in a little over 9 seconds.
The 5-speed manual's shift felt crisp but the clutch did not allow torque to be applied in a linear fashion. This occasionally caused a rather harsh acceleration from 0 to 5 mph.
Thanks to being Scan Gauge-II equipped, I discovered that the Mazda2 does not allow much accelerator pedal travel when below 2K RPM if you want to maintain below 85% LOD. Anything close to a spirited launch and the Mazda2 will drop into very inefficient open loop operation.
NVH begins to rear its head as RPM is raised through 2,500 RPM. A slight vibration of the fast spinning engine is felt through the wheel and engine noise becomes pronounced. Breaking the 60 mph mark provides "buzz bomb" audio effects as the needlessly short 5th gear forces the 1.5L to spin above 2,600 RPM
- Due to the lack of preparation time between the Mazda2 review offer and its arrival (just 18-hours to be exact), previous engagements and a snow storm that arrived during Day 2 of its limited 4 day time allotment, I drove a less than optimal 109 miles in it.
Limited to only 109 miles total (39.8 miles from a topped off tank) by the tight time frame, we weren't able to do a standard top off to top off drive for gauge calibration. Thus the Mazda2’s Fuel Economy capability is unfortunately solely based on the OEM aFCD.
To begin, the Mazda2 Touring with its 5-speed manual transmission is rated at 29/35/32 mpg (US) city/highway/combined per the 08 EPA. When it arrived, the aFCD read 35.2 MPG. Not bad for the STI Press Fleet drivers! Rarely do we find a Press car arriving at anything near its 08 EPA combined... let alone besting the EPA highway rating. Once it arrived, we drove 30-miles both before and during the snow storm and another 39.8 miles after the snowstorm had subsided. The 68.9 miles consisted of approximately 5-miles of highway and 64 miles of city, suburban and country road driving segments in 26 to 27 degree temps.
60.3 mpgUS per the aFCD over 68.9 miles in temps of 25 to 26 degrees F.
Even if the aFCD was wildly optimistic, the Mazda2 provided a staggeringly high fuel economy capability given the temperatures and conditions in which it was driven.
This next 39.8 miles consisted of a North to South and back again route with no more than 2-miles of highway and 38 miles of city/country road driving in temperatures of 13 to 14 degrees F. What is even more perplexing is that this result was achieved with a 10 to 15 mph side wind out of the Northwest. Not only were the temperatures not conducive to great fuel economy, but the winds did not help matters either!
70.0 mpgUS per the aFCD and 66.9 mpgUS per the SG-II over 39.8 miles in temps of 13 to 14 degrees F.
Using a calibration offset of + 30% as an approximation of fuel economy in much more temperate weather, we would be looking at an aFCD sitting between 85 to 95 mpg (US). This is by far the best conventionally powered automobile we have ever driven! We cannot wait to actually do a calibrated run to see how close this is to reality. In fact, this may be the first conventionally powered car that has a shot at pulling 100 + mpg when pushed to its limits!
While we have no calibration data other than the built in display and a non calibrated Scan Gauge-II, it may be a while before we get an actual from a Mazda2 owner on the forum itself. And while we are waiting, no vehicle other than the Honda Insight-I has provided 70 mpg in similar conditions -- which speaks volumes. As in 150 dB and blowing out your ear drums volumes!
During the few miles of highway driven during this review, both the included iFCD and aFCD dropped like a stone. In fact, so much so that highway travel is not going to provide much more than average 50 + mpg results for most CleanMPG members. As of this writing, we can only hope for better results and we all know where the highway fuel economy was wasted. Low 5th and final ratios... again. If only manufacturers would wake up.
2011 Mazda2 Ride and Handling
For a B-Segment car on a 98” wheelbase, the ride quality is acceptable. After driving it across some of the worst local roads, it was bucking but not to the point the wheels were leaving the ground -- rougher rides have been experienced in a Yaris across this same stretch of pavement. Noise intrusion into the cabin from the rear hatch area while traversing rough roads is disconcerting but once past those sections the Mazda2 returns to its graceful and eager self. The ride is not harsh and body lean when cornering hard is relatively flat.
When it comes to handling, Mazda’s “gram strategy” again shines through. Can we simply call it “unabashed driving fun?” The Mazda2 handles like a go-cart when driven around parking lots, through hard corners, or running fast through a chicane. Even when driving in temperatures of just 13 degrees F, the standard understeer leading to a slight 4-wheel drift back to fully hooked up and heading towards where you want to go was still there... in an empty parking lot, of course.
Temperatures that low are not conducive to great traction by any stretch either!
The Electric Power Assist Steering (EPAS) had a light feeling at slow speeds yet precise with a good deal of driver feedback as speeds picked up. This is quite unlike most competing EPS systems which are over boosted and provide vague steering behaviors at highway speeds. For a quick turning steering setup, Mazda has engineered the 2 darn near perfectly!
2011 Mazda2 Conclusions
Overall, this “Hot Hatch” is possibly the best example of “Fun to Drive” in its class thanks to a lively point and shoot nature with decent road handling manners and ease of control. Add to this the great price and (not quite verified) outstanding fuel economy capability and you have a recipe for success. While it will be overshadowed by its better equipped sibling (the Fiesta) and the already well established Honda Fit, this superb B-Segment vehicle has proven itself a winner.
Mazda, well done. Your Mazda2 proves to be an excellent value proposition and an even better vehicle from a number of perspectives (read: fun to drive) than originally anticipated.
For an even more detailed day to day look, Meet the 2011 Mazda2
is another palce to read about this fantastic B-Segment ride.
Behind the Scenes
I would like to thank Mazda’s Midwest PR Account Executive, Austin Lamb who not only provided the Mazda2 for us to drive but also answered a number of questions prior to its arrival. And a shout out to our friend Matt Hruska of STI for his short notice delivery and pickup efforts.