Although the trains here run like Swiss clocks, we opted for a different means of transport while covering the 2009 Geneva motor show: our Four Seasons Mazda 2.
As it is out of state, country, and continent, it’s all too easy for us to forget this little Mazda is part of our long-term fleet. Still, I had a chance to drive this piece of forbidden fruit and I arranged to pick up the car from its caretaker, design editor Robert Cumberford, at the Geneva airport.
This could have been a problem – not only did I have quite a few large bags with me, but so did a colleague who wanted to carpool with me. We managed to squeeze two large duffel bags and a backpack beneath the cargo cover, but there wasn’t room for my knapsack in the cargo area. Since the backseat was vacant it worked out just fine, but when traveling with a party of four, some clever packing may be mandatory.
Having crammed our bags into the little car, we bid adieu to Cumberford and drove towards our hotel in Lausanne. The best way to make the journey is on the A1, a four-lane highway that stretches from Geneva all the way into the northern town of St. Margrethen. Our drive to Lausanne lasts approximately forty minutes, as we don’t dare break the speed limit of 100 kph (63 mph).
This was an ideal test, as most small cars designed for urban dwellers lose their composure upon long stretches of highway driving. The Mazda 2, however, doesn’t. The car felt quite composed and solid, and surprisingly refined for a vehicle of this class. Although we noted a bit of noise from the tires, there wasn’t much, if any, wind noise to be found.
Once in town, the 2 proved to be an absolute gem. The car’s small stature and sharp steering allowed us to squeeze past trucks parked on narrow streets – a good thing, as we wouldn’t have found our hotel otherwise. The 103-hp, 1.5-liter I-4 is more than adequate, although the hilly Swiss terrain forces you to make the most of the five-speed manual.
Our 2 certainly isn’t a brand new example, but I’m still much more impressed with it than I am with similar cars offered back home. I’ve not seen a small car so refined both about town and on the expressway in quite a while. At this point, my only complaint lies with some hard plastics inside, but I’m assured that the Ford Fiesta – which shares the 2’s mechanicals and is destined for North America – will offer a slightly nicer cabin once it arrives in the States.