CHEAPO CAR DELIVERS STYLE, OK MILEAGE
“Is that a hybrid?” a nice lady asked me as I was loading groceries at the 125th street Fairway into the back seat of my grasshopper-green Mazda 2.
“No, ma’am,” I cheerfully answered. “Everyone thinks every tiny, funny-looking car painted green is a hybrid.”
What do you expect for a starting price of $14,730?
The car weighs but 2,306 pounds—that’s two Honda Gold Wing motorcycles plus a couple of beefy riders—and it’s 100 pounds lighter than a Honda Fit and 200 pounds lighter than a Ford Fiesta. (It also shares its basic design with the Fiesta due to Ford’s and Mazda’s partnership.) The result is a good, solid economy car worth the (relative) couch change they’re asking for it.
Mazda slimmed the 2 even more by making its unibody lighter, using high-strength steel, a smaller radiator, electric (not hydraulic) power steering and a lighter air intake. It’s a 4-door hatchback with lot of rearseat room, though I’d hate to attempt a hill with the gang packed there. A 1.5 litre, 4-cylinder, 100 horsepower engine with five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic are your two choices, and you can pick from the base Sport or Touring trims.
Mileage, surprisingly, isn’t especially wonderful at 28 city, 35 highway. Though those aren’t absurdly low numbers, I would expect the car’s weight and horsepower would add up to something like 40 MPG on the highway.
Its ride is relatively cushy despite the car’s tiny tires. Steering and shifting are particularly smooth, making parallel parking in the city a snap. Tight turns, while obviously throwing no scare into Porsche, felt sure and safe, without much body roll, and the ride didn’t jar anybody’s spine though it had every right to, for this price.
Now for the bad news – the sound system, if it can be called that, is one of the cheapest, most treble-and-bass challenged pieces of junk I’ve ever encountered. FM radio—there is no Satellite option—sounded like AM quality-wise. I ended up just leaving it off rather than trying to coax anything aurally decent from it.
The base model includes air conditioning, power windows and mirrors, and locks; remote keyless entry; a four-speaker single-CD stereo system with MP3 input; tilt steering wheel; 60/40-split folding rear seat; and rear-window washer and wiper. Wheels are 15-inch steel with wheel covers.
The Touring model includes 15-inch alloy wheels, red piping on upgraded cloth upholstery, fog lights, roof spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, leather-wrapped steeringwheel with audio controls, a trip computer, and the aforementioned six-speaker “stereo system.”
As my week’s test came to a close and I had traveled far and wide over city streets and winding suburban roads, I decided the Mazda2 was a hybrid after all—equal parts blow dryer and riding lawnmower. I haven’t, in recent memory, had a test vehicle whose engine complained so loudly at speeds upward of 40 MPH, and who simply refused to pass any other vehicle no matter how hard or long I stepped on the accelerator. This car’s a turtle, my friends, but as long as you don’t expect a Gazelle, you’ll be fine.
– Josh Max, Auto Gigolo