Driven: 2011 Mazda2

Subcompacts have made a huge leap in a very short time when it comes to interior features and quality, which is why we wish Mazda had done more to update the interior for this refreshed U.S-market model. Other than a strip of shiny black plastic trim tacked across the center of the dash, this looks like the same cabin design editor Robert Cumberford criticized for its excessive use of "ultracheap" gray plastics during his year with our European-market 2. Moving up from a Sport to Touring model improves matters a bit, with nicer upholstery and a leather-wrapped wheel, but still leaves you looking for the technology bits that other subcompacts are now offering in their top-level models. Specifically, there's no USB input, and features like Bluetooth and navigation are only available as third-party, dealer-installed accessories.

We're less concerned about what appears to be the 2's biggest shortcoming -- utility. Mazda freely admits it sacrificed cargo capacity in the name of a sexier profile and trimmer exterior dimensions and, frankly, we applaud the decision. No, the 2 won't be able to match the Fit, SX4, or Versa when it comes time to drive four college roommates over to Ikea. But in exchange for the ability to carry multiple mountain bikes at once, the 2 looks and feels like a car we'd want to drive and be seen driving.


It's not hard to see why the spunky yet refined Mazda 2 was such a huge hit abroad when the last generation debuted in 2007. Three years later, this lightly updated version is less of a revelation but is still a very credible addition to what has become a very competitive field. The 2 may lack the do-it-all versatility of the Fit or the high-tech sophistication of the ritzier Fiesta, but it brings a solid combination of driving engagement, maturity, and value. Needless to say, we're glad Mazda's decided to crash the subcompact party.

On sale: July
Price: $14,730
Engine: 1.5L I-4, 100 hp, 98 lb-ft
Drive: Front-wheel

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I would be curious to see how the real world fuel mileage compares with that of the Fiesta. I suspect that the Fiesta has its highway number because of uselessly tall gearing. Detroit has always been willing to sacrifice drivability for a good number on the EPA test in times of CAFE escalation. It wouldn't surprise me if owners see practically identical results combined with a better driving experience in the Mazda 2.I really don't agree that sacrificing room for style makes any sense in this segment in the US. These are not aspirational cars. I'd rather have a useful b-segment car like a Fit rather than an overstyled one like a Fiesta.

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