Base Price (MSRP):$14,370.00 / As Tested (MSRP): $16,680.00
View The 2012 Mazda 2 Specifications
| Review by: New Car Test Drive
Zoom-zooming into its second year.
The 2012 Mazda2 Sport ($14,370) and the more luxurious Mazda2 Touring ($15,885) come standard with a 5-speed manual gearbox. A 4-speed automatic is available for both the Sport ($15,210) and Touring ($16,695).
Mazda2 Sport comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3 with four speakers, reclining front bucket seats with six-way adjustable driver's seat, 60/40 split folding rear seats, tilt steering column, remote keyless entry, power windows, power mirrors, power door locks, 15-inch steel wheels.
Mazda2 Touring gets upgraded cloth upholstery with three-dimensional seat fabric with red piping, six-speaker sound system, multi-functional leather steering wheel, rear roof spoiler, fog lamps, and 15-inch alloy wheels.
Options include auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass and Homelink ($295), white pearl paint ($200). Bluetooth wireless for hands-free cellphone operation ($95) is available, also a rear bumper guard ($80), cargo net ($40), center console with armrest ($170). Accessories include a bike rack, a roof rack, a roof basket, an interior cargo box, side sill extensions, ski rack, snowboard rack, surfboard rack, and a kayak carrier.
Safety equipment includes frontal airbags, side-impact and side curtain air bags, anti-lock four-wheel disc brakes (ABS) with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Quick Brake Assist, dynamic stability control, traction control, tire pressure monitoring system. It also has Mazda's first brake priority system that automatically puts the brakes on whenever the brake and accelerator pedals are pressed simultaneously. The Mazda2 gets Europe's highest crash rating of five stars.
The styling is fresh, and it's eye-catching in a cute sort of way. With the grinning toothless grille, this couldn't be anything but a Mazda, mimicking the Mazda3, as well as the Mazda5, 6, 8, CX-7, and CX-9 in its front and rear layouts.
Mazda2 presents a soft wedge shape with trimmed corners, sweet hatchback slope, and a nice 0.31 coefficient of drag. Also sporty sculpted sides, body-colored door handles, a laid-back windshield, and jaunty little spoiler and foglamps on the Touring model. The grille isn't loved by everyone, but it is distinctive, which isn't easy to do considering there's no grille work. The hood, fenders, headlamps, bumper, air intakes and 15-inch wheels are all well done, adding character.
The halogen headlamp units flow from the gentle bulge of the front fenders. A wide upswept character line climbs back and up from the front wheel wells.
The seats are comfortable and supportive, just what they should be for a car like this, with a rugged and sporty fabric that Mazda calls mostly black canvas, with cool red piping on the Touring model. The three-spoke steering wheel works well, with a meaty rim that makes the Mazda2 feel like a sports car, and a padded hub. We think it might look better without all that aluminumy plastic trim on the wide spokes, but no big deal. It tilts for adjustment, and the driver's seat raises and lowers, so almost anyone can find a good place behind the wheel.
What we call aluminumy plastic Mazda calls silver garnish, and there's more of it on the vents, armrests, shift knob and gate, where it looks good in sparing doses.
The shifter, manual or automatic, rises from just below the instrument panel where the center console would be if there was one. There's a console with storage tray and cupholders that goes between the seats, with an optional leather padded armrest that we found nice to have. It's no stretch at all to shift gears. The 5-speed stick is easy to reach and fun to use.
The dashboard flows in a continuous line and curves away from occupants, making the cabin feel wide. Certainly there's lots of elbow room. Mazda engineers worked carefully on the position and cross-sectional shape of the A-pillars, which along with a low beltline enable clear forward visibility and also help the car feel roomy.
The cluster of three gauges in front of the driver's eyes is shaded by an eave, with the speedo in center, smaller tach on the left, and the rest in one gauge on the right. In the center of dashboard there's a large round binnacle with sound system information, a CD slot, and three dials for the climate control. But no USB port. The Touring model has audio controls on the steering wheel, but they're easy to reach on the dash panel of the Sport.
Rear seat legroom is slim; only the Ford Fiesta has less. Cargo capacity is 13.3 cubic feet behind the 60/40 split folding second seat, and 27.8 cubic feet with the second seat folded flat. Hatchbacks with fold-flat rear seats are the best value out there, to carry a lot without spending a lot.
The 1.5-liter engine in the Mazda2 is one of the smallest gasoline engines on the U.S. market, but its performance is exciting, with a 5-speed manual gearbox. We didn't get to drive the 4-speed automatic, but we have doubts, partly because it's only a 4-speed and partly because it's hard to imagine it making the Mazda2 any better to drive than the 5-speed. Maybe if you never leave the city.
The engine pulls well at lower revs and comes on stronger at 4000 rpm where the torque peaks. It sounds good above 4000, and zings responsively all the way up to 6300 redline. The drive-by-wire throttle responds quickly. We read one review that called the engine gutless, but we say nonsense. Although if the Mazda2 had the Fiesta's 119 horsepower from a related 1.6-liter engine, it'd be way hot.
It's really smooth at 75 or 80 mph. More Mazda attention to mechanical detail. The engine is mounted in a manner to reduce the fore-aft motions of front-wheel-drive four-cylinders.
The brakes have a nice responsive feel, and stop the lightweight car quickly. Vented discs in front, drums in the rear, with ABS, brake force distribution and brake assist.
The suspension is fairly conventional, with MacPherson struts in front and a trailing-arm torsion beam in back. We drove the Mazda2 over twisty two-lanes on the California coast, and found that it cornered flat and sucked up most bumps. The electric power steering reacts quickly.
The Mazda 2 is a strong contender in the competitive subcompact segment. Its soft wedge shape is eye-catching, a cute, sporty and practical hatchback. It's way fun to drive with the manual transmission, while getting more than 30 mpg. The engine is small but spirited, the handling responsive, and ride smooth. Mazda delivers on its zoom-zoom promise.
Driven by Sam Moses for one week all over Southern California, and Jim McCraw near Monterey.