David Zenlea stated in his review of the Mazda 2 in our September issue that it's an ideal "slow" car, but I think I would have found it a little more ideal if I'd had a chance to drive one with a manual transmission. The 2 doesn't have a lot of power (100 hp, to be precise), and the manual is surely better suited to getting the most out of the little four-cylinder than the outdated four-speed automatic.

However, that doesn't mean the Mazda 2 doesn't have a lot to recommend it. The car is small and light, meaning it's quite maneuverable, and despite its short wheelbase it handles road irregularities well. The cabin is reasonably roomy and, while not filled with amenities, doesn't feel like a penalty box. For me, a huge plus is the fact that it's a four-door. That makes it easier to haul extra people or kids and to have access to items you might throw on the rear seat. It also makes it easier to lower the seats when you need to use the rear hatch for carrying bulky items.

Another factor that tips the scales in favor of the manual is mpg, which is 29/35 with the manual, and 27/33 with the automatic.

Amy Skogstrom, Managing Editor

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