2011 Mazda2: Concentrated Zoom-Zoom Hatchback?
By Mike Blake, Carlisle Events
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Can “Zoom-Zoom” translate to a hatchback? Mazda thinks so, and its 2011 Mazda2 subcompact is its entry-level version of a fun, sporty 4-door family driver.
Mazda2 began life as the Mazda Demio in 1996 and has also been known as the Mazda 121 and Metro. Now nearing the end of its third generation, Mazda2 will get a refreshening next year, and in 2013 or 2014 should receive a complete overhaul, a new drive train, a SkyActiv-G 2.0-liter, direct-injection gasoline engine, and SkyActiv-Drive automatic transmission that could propel the vehicle within the 40-50mpg range. In fact, the manufacturer believes that the next-generation Mazda could hit 70mpg, but that is not real-world testing, or EPA estimates and only an in-house spin, before the vehicle hits the streets.
Still, the 2011 Mazda2 is EPA rated at 28/34 and managed an average of 29.9mpg during my tests; and it is a fun drive for its class, a hatchback with style, substance and safety. The five-passenger, four-door subcompact hatchback received a "Good" rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in frontal crashes, "Acceptable" for side crashes, "Good" for roof strength, and "Acceptable" for rear crash protection.
My spirited, Green Metallic Sport model was accented by a black cloth interior. It fits the subcompact niche well with exterior dimensions of 155.5 inches in length, 66.7 inches in width and 58.1 inches in height on a 98-inch wheelbase while weighing in at a light and fit 2341 lbs. Utilizing its Zoom-Zoom DNA, Mazda 2 looks athletic and expressive with a shortened body overhang, trimmed corners and energetic, yet stable stance. Its concentrated deportment reduces the vehicle’s overall size, but does not diminish its perception as a sporty, performance compact. Key exterior design elements include a sporty wedge shape that conveys a strong sense of forward motion; a deeply sculpted form in which the body is drawn inward fore and aft of the A-pillars; and distinctive character lines that extend from the front fender arches to the body shoulders.
Under hood, the front-wheel-drive Mazda2 is outfitted for economy, not Zoom-Zoom performance. Powered by a 1.5-liter inline 4-cylinder engine that produces 100 horsepower and 96 lbs-ft of torque and mated to a 5-speed manual transmission (a 4-speed automatic is also available), a charge on an Interstate on-ramp is a journey that must be planned ahead. Acceleration is slow and steady from a stop. Some published tests report low-10s and mid-17s for the sprint and quarter-mile in primed Mazda2s, but my vehicle, prepared without special treatment and without ideal track test conditions, came in at 10.7 for the zero-to-60 dash and 18.2 for a 440-yard run. Not exactly “Zoom-Zoom” worthy, but with fuel consumption at 30mpg and reliable acceleration at speed for the class, this hatchback is a fun and economical drive.
While bottoming on rough roads occasionally occurs, and wind and road noise are noticeable in the cabin, sightlines are good, steering is responsive and the vehicle hugs the road well for its class during turns and maneuvers.
Inside, Mazda2 uses contoured forms and visual fluidity to create a striking cabin environment. Its openness helps provide excellent visibility and a roomy feel. With seating for five, Mazda 2’s interior offers accommodating headroom of 39.1 inches up front and 37 in row two, with legroom a comfortable 42.6 in row one and a tight 33 inches in the second seats.
The instrument panel helps to create a sense of space, style and substance. The controls are concentrated in the central area, and those that are frequently used by the driver are as close as possible to the left seat. The instrument panel's left- and right-hand portions, where there are no controls, curve forward and away from occupants, creating an impression of airiness that stops the cabin from feeling cramped. Cockpit amenities include air conditioning with pollen filter, power windows, power door locks, cloth-trimmed seats, 60/40 split fold-down rear seatback, and AM/FM/CD stereo with auxiliary input jack and 4 speakers.
From a safety perspective, Mazda2 delivers with advanced front air bags, front side-impact air bags and side-impact air curtains, Dynamic Stability Control, Traction Control System, Electric Power Assist steering system, "Triple H" body construction, side-impact door beams, crushable brake and accelerator pedal assembly, engine immobilizer anti-theft system, second row LATCH child safety seat anchors and a Tire Pressure Monitoring System.
The hatchback is also the first Mazda vehicle launched in North America with Mazda's Brake Override system. This system always prioritizes the brake pedal over the accelerator pedal, should both be engaged simultaneously, allowing the vehicle to be brought to a safe stop. Activation of this system will be recorded in the electronic Powertrain Control Module and will be readable with the correct equipment.
The Sport trim stickers for $14,180 and the Touring trim (with a few upgrades) invoices for $15,635. Destination fees added $795. Options on my test ride included compass and autodimming mirror with Homelink for $295 and a cargo net for $40, bringing the final sticker in at $15,310.
Zoom-Zoom? Maybe not, but Mazda2 is a fun, sporty and economical hatchback.
> Visit www.CarlisleEvents.com for more on the automotive hobby.
Mike Blake, former editor of KIT CAR magazine, joined Carlisle Events as senior automotive journalist in 2004. He's been a "car guy" since the 1960s and has been writing professionally for about 30 years.
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