Mazda2, 2012: lightweight, efficient, fun-to-drive sub-compact

James Raia

Mazda introduced the third generation Mazda2 in 2011. It featured new front and rear fascias and some interior design tweaks. The 2012 edition remains the same. It's a 100-horsepower, 1.5-liter, four-cylinder, lightweight sub-compact positioned in the increasingly prominent segment.

A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a four-speed automatic optional. Mazda factory options include an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a center console with an armrest.

The Weekly Driver Test Drive

Without any significant changes for 2012, the Mazda2 continues to offer two trims, Sport and Touring. I drove the latter for a week and quickly began to appreciate the car's handling and the upgraded offerings — leather-wrapped steering wheel to upgraded cloth seats to the improved sound system (two additional speakers).

The Mazda2 is not the fastest sub-compact. But because it's lightweight (2,300 pounds), the little machine is fun to drive. Its smooth, short-shifting five-speed manual adds to the fun while negotiating city streets.

Mazda2, 2012: lightweight, efficient, fun-to-drive sub-compact 1

No compact can rule the highway, but nor does the Mazda2 feel inferior. It cruises without issue in fifth gear, although the cabin is hardly quiet on the road and at high speeds.

Like other smaller cars, Mazda made the decision to emphasize front-seat space over rear-seat space. Thus, a driver (I'm 6-feet tall and weigh 190 pounds) has sufficient headroom and legroom, and does a front seat passenger. Of course, that means back seat occupants get a lot less comfort.

Superb handling.

Easy access to trunk via hatchback button.

Good configuration and maneuverability of front and back seats.

Simple interior design refreshing in the current trend of technology overload.

Peppy driving feel.

Light, short-shifting manual transmission.


Among the worst exterior colors ever offered. Officially it's called "Spirited Green." Realistically, it's anything but spirited.

Tight rear seats for anyone taller than 5-foot-7.

Trunk space easy utilized, efficiently designed but small.

Mazda2, 2012: lightweight, efficient, fun-to-drive sub-compact 2

Facts & Figures: 2012 Mazda 2

Acceleration: 0-60 mph, 10.3 seconds.
Airbags (6): Front and side front-seat occupants, and side-curtain bags that cover the window openings for both front and rear passengers.
First aid kit: No.
Fuel economy: 29 mpg (city), 35 mpg (highway), manual transmission.
Government Safety Ratings: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), not tested; Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), gives the car its top rating of "Good" for its frontal-offset crash and roof strength tests (good); Side-impact and rear-crash protection (adequate).
Horsepower: 100
Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price: $16,020.00
Manufacturer's Web site: www.mazdausa.com
Price As tested: $16,820.00
Warranty: Bumper to bumper, 3 years/36,000 miles; Power train, 5 years/60,00 miles; Roadside Assistance, 3 years/36,000 miles

What Others Say:

"The Mazda2 absolutely shines in one aspect of highway driving: its ride. You hear the car go over expansion joints, but you don't really feel it. Also, some small cars — notably the Honda Fit — seem to porpoise over lumps in the road, but the Mazda2 really soaks them up." — Chicago Tribune.

"Mazda's entry-level car succeeds as a refined, fun-to-drive hatchback, with a cabin ambiance that belies its price. It's far from quick, and it's not quite as versatile as some of its rivals. These issues are balanced by the 2's reasonable prices and lengthy list of standard features. If you're shopping small, put the Best Buy Mazda 2 at the top of your list." — Consumer Guide

"The … Mazda2 Touring hatchback is small done well. That means it has a peppy engine, nimble handling, reasonable all-around safety and a comfortable interior for five moderately sized adults." — The Washington Post

What The Wife Says:

"I like the push button entrance to the trunk. It pops open easily. And I like the back seats go down. For such as little car, there's a lot of versatility."

The Weekly Driver’s Final Words:

"With its keen handling, simple interior design and small-car versatility, the Mazda2 joins other top dogs in the competitive sub-compact category. It's a fine choice for entry level car buyers."

All images © James Raia/2012


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Article Last Updated: April 4, 2012.

1 thought on “Mazda2, 2012: lightweight, efficient, fun-to-drive sub-compact”

  1. This bug-eyed, smiley faced, car an’t bad for the money.  It’s quiet, sips gas, and seems roomy inside.  It does not go ZOOM ZOOM.  Check out that 0-60 time of over 10 seconds.


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