Subcompact cars like the Toyota Yaris, Nissan Versa and Hyundai Accent are often regarded as practical transportation that is more at home in a college parking lot than on a track. While it's definitely a far stretch to say that the Mazda2 is so sporty that it would be a great car for the track, it definitely brings more fun to the segment than expected. With a base price starting under $15k and only 100 horsepower under the hood, the Mazda2 looks like a bargain basement small car on paper, but as we quickly found out, it's actually one of the more enjoyable models in its segment.
The Mazda2 is the smallest Mazda available in the US and shares its platform with the Ford Fiesta. Unlike the Fiesta, which is available as a sedan or hatchback, the Mazda2 is only available as a hatchback. Outside the US, Mazda2 buyers can choose between a two-door or four-door hatchback, but in the US buyers are only offered the four-door version. The Mazda2 is powered by a 1.5L four-cylinder with 100 horsepower and 98 lb-ft. of torque, which can be mated to either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Thankfully our Mazda2 came with the five-speed manual transmission. The manual transmission equipped Mazda2 gets 29/35 mpg, while the automatic version gets 28/34 mpg.
On the outside, the Mazda2 is stylish and for the 2013 model year, Mazda hasn't made any significant updates to the hatchback, which was first introduced in the US in the summer of 2010. Although Mazda hasn't made any big changes to its smallest model, the Mazda2's sculpted body keeps it from looking "cheap." If you think the Honda Fit is small, the Mazda2's footprint is even smaller, since its almost six inches shorter than the Fit. Inside the Mazda2 has 87.1 cubic feet of passenger volume, which compares to 90.8 cubic feet for the Honda Fit. The Mazda2's interior volume is only slightly less than the Fit, but the Fit's higher seating position makes it feel bigger than the Mazda2.
Inside the Mazda2 features ample room for four passengers and we managed to fit four guys who were all around six feet tall. The Mazda2 has five seat belts, but that fifth passenger better be small. We were impressed with the amount of interior space, but overall the styling and materials felt a bit aged. While it's exterior styling is stylish and we were impressed with its powertrain, the interior showed its age and where Mazda cut corners to keep its price in check. The styling of the dashboard is better than the Fit's but its tiny screen for the audio system, large amounts of hard plastic and lack of an available navigation system was a disappointment.
Even though the Mazda2's interior was pretty much what would you would expect in the segment, the Mazda2 was surprisingly zippy and dare we say "fun to drive." As we already mentioned, 100 horsepower today seems like it will barely get a car up to 60 mph, but with the five-speed manual, the Mazda2 goes. It also helps that it only weighs 2,300 pounds. One of our friends described the Mazda2 has a fun go-cart and every person that we drove around Los Angeles was surprised by how eager the Mazda2 was from a stop light. The Mazda2's handling, steering and braking also were impressive and definitely something we didn't expect from a car in this class.
It's been rumored that Mazda is undecided if the next-generation Mazda2 will be offered in the US, due to its slow sales, but we hope that Mazda gives it the green light. Even if the next Mazda2 doesn't make it to our shores, Mazda has already signed a partnership with Toyota to build a subcompact for Toyota that will be based on the Mazda2 starting in 2015.
2013 Mazda2 Touring (5-Speed)
Price as Tested: $17,005
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