2011 Mazda 2 Touring

2011 Mazda 2 Touring 2011 Mazda 2 Touring
Long-Term Road Test Wrap-Up

Departure Date: April 2012
Months in Fleet: 16 months
Final Mileage: 40,003 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 31 mpg
Average Range: 350 miles
Service: $374
Normal Wear: $0
Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $448

Our diminutive long-term Mazda 2, the least-powerful, least-expensive car in our fleet for quite some time, has completed its 40,000-mile stay. Few tears were choked back as, after 16 months in our care, it pulled away from our office for the last time. Sure, the minimalist Mazda was fun to toss around, but it illustrated the difficulty some manufacturers have faced in coercing Americans out of large cars and crossovers and into pint-size hatchbacks.

Well Equipped, but Not Well Enough

The Mazda 2 comes with power windows, locks, and side mirrors; a 60/40-split folding rear seat; six airbags; anti-lock brakes; and stability control. Pretty standard stuff for a new car. Our 2011 Touring model started at $16,430 and added 15-inch aluminum wheels, fog lights, a rear spoiler, and an exhaust finisher. A leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls was included, as was an upgraded stereo with six speakers instead of four. An $80 rear bumper guard was the car’s only option for a $16,510 as-tested total. Not a whole lot of money, but not too much content, either.

The Mazda lacks the premium feel of better-equipped B-segment compacts such as the Ford Fiesta and Kia Rio. It also lacked some basic equipment that we think should at least be available in this segment, namely, a better multimedia system. Regardless of how trivial it may be, the 2’s lack of satellite radio and a USB/iPod interface contributed to its being less than desirable for road trips. We remedied this for a time by plugging our garage’s satellite radio tuner into the Mazda’s auxiliary input, but it was a clumsy solution. We could have used a bigger carrot to get us out and about in this little car.

On the Road, at the Track

The 2’s responsive chassis, lively helm, and short, precise shifter make it a great B-spec racer. Our car also did well in its primary role as a spunky, around-town runabout. It entertained us on our daily commutes and averaged 31 mpg overall. The five-speed manual’s lack of a super-overdrive ratio hurt highway fuel economy, but we occasionally saw high 30s if we didn’t thrash the 1.5-liter four too hard. Our 2 Touring slogged through two winters without issue on Bridgestone Blizzak snow tires and performed better than expected on its few extended voyages, the longest of which was to Calgary, Alberta.

The simple yet pleasant interior held up well, and most drivers found the front seats very comfortable. A few pilots took issue with the short-wheelbase 2’s sometimes bouncy ride quality. The short-travel, numb clutch pedal was a major recurring complaint for all.

On its return to the test track at 40,000 miles, the 2291-pound Mazda needed six more feet to stop from 70 mph (184 feet) than when new, yet it circled the skidpad at 0.87 g versus its initial 0.83. Zero-to-60-mph and quarter-mile acceleration were the same at the beginning and end of the test period; the run to 100 mph dropped from an initial 33.1 seconds to 32.8. The 2 remains one of the most entertaining small cars to pilot and is quicker in the real world than its 100 hp suggest.

Loving the Warranty

Save for the $448 we had to spend to replace a bent wheel, the 2 was easy on our wallets. Five scheduled dealer visits amounted to a modest service tab of $374; the last, at 37,644 miles, set us back $60 for an oil-and-filter change, inspection, and tire rotation.

We did, however, hit some snags along the way. Warped brake rotors were replaced under warranty twice: at about 8700 and then around 25,000 miles. Persistent vibrations and suspension clunks necessitated the replacement at about 17,000 miles of the anti-roll-bar bushings, a rear shock, and the steering intermediate shaft—all also covered under warranty. The problem caused uneven wear to, and prematurely trashed, the car’s Yokohama Avid 534 all-season tires, which the dealer fortunately replaced at no charge. The vibration never resurfaced, but we did continue to hear the occasional groan from the suspension.

Single-Serving Fun

Ultimately, our Mazda 2 was a good small car best enjoyed in small doses. It was a great instructional tool for our Save the Manuals campaign and proved that a simple car doesn’t have to be boring. But the 2 entered the market just as the compact segment exploded with a slew of well-rounded competitors. The little Mazda is too fun behind the wheel to call it a penalty box, but in the end, its shortcomings made us feel as if we were sacrificing more than we should have to in a small car.