2012 Mazda MAZDA2 Hatchback - FROM $14,530
The 2012 Mazda 2 offers a fun drive in an economical hatchback, but comes up short when compared to more practical competition.
What's New for 2012
For 2012, the Mazda 2 sees no changes.
It used to be that economy cars were good at economy and, well, not much else. But for 2012, that's no longer the case, as the entire field of small cars now offers levels of performance, comfort and features unheard of just five years ago. For an example, look no farther than the 2012 Mazda 2.
The Mazda 2 is closely related to the impressive Ford Fiesta, and as with the Fiesta, its driving dynamics are one of the car's primary strengths. The 2 boasts a fun-to-drive nature, thanks to its diminutive size, light weight, nimble handling and quick steering. It's also quite a cheerful little car, with cute styling. A low starting price is another advantage for the Mazda.
Unfortunately, the Mazda also comes with its share of drawbacks. For one, it doesn't offer much in the way of cargo space -- a Honda Fit can carry about twice as much gear. Furthermore, compared to the latest bumper crop of rivals, the Mazda 2's rear seats are cramped and its fuel economy is nothing to brag about. The Mazda 2's limited features list might also be a concern -- it's fine for what most people expect from this class, but most other models now offer more convenience or tech-oriented options.
Take a drive in the 2012 Mazda 2 and it will no doubt charm you with its spunky, back-to-basics personality. But in most other respects, other choices will probably work out better for you. With the ever-increasing quality of subcompacts, consumers would be wise to check out the aforementioned Fiesta as well as the new Chevrolet Sonic, Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2012 Mazda hatchback is available in two trim levels -- Sport and Touring. The Sport comes standard with 15-inch steel wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, a tilt steering wheel and a four-speaker sound system with a CD player and an auxiliary input jack.
Upgrading to the Touring trim will get you 15-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a rear roof spoiler, chrome exhaust tips, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, a trip computer, cruise control, upgraded cloth seats with red piping, and two additional speakers for the audio system.
Factory options for either trim level include an auto-dimming rearview mirror and a center console with an armrest. Unlike some rivals, upscale factory features such as heated seats, Bluetooth (it's a dealer accessory here) and an integrated navigation system are unavailable.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2012 Mazda 2 is powered by a 1.5-liter inline four-cylinder engine that produces 100 horsepower and 98 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard, with a four-speed automatic optional.
In Edmunds performance testing, the Mazda 2 went from a standstill to 60 mph in 10.3 seconds with the manual transmission. This is slower than most other cars in this class, and getting the automatic will slow things down further, as it has just four gears to work with compared to the six of some competitors.
The EPA estimates fuel economy at 29 mpg city/35 mpg highway and 32 mpg combined for the manual transmission and 28/34/30 mpg for the automatic.
Standard safety features for the 2012 Mazda 2 include antilock brakes (discs in front/drums in rear), front-seat side airbags, side curtain airbags and stability and traction control. In Edmunds brake testing, the 2 came to a stop from 60 mph in 129 feet -- an acceptable distance for this type of car.
In crash testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Mazda 2 received its top rating of "Good" in the frontal-offset and roof strength tests, but a second-best rating of "Acceptable" in the side-impact test.
Interior Design and Special Features
The 2012 Mazda 2's interior gets the job done, but not much more. The overall design is without flourish, but there's an unexpected honesty about the cabin thanks to the simple controls. Hard plastics are plentiful, but that is to be expected. The front seats are relatively comfortable and offer enough room for taller adults, though the lack of a telescoping steering wheel is a notable omission. Also disappointing are the rear seats, which are flat and cramped.
With the rear seats in place, cargo capacity is 13.3 cubic feet, which is small for a hatchback. With those 60/40-split seats folded (they don't fold completely flat), capacity goes up to 27.8 cubes -- again rather stingy, as an Accent holds 47.5 cubic feet while a Fit boasts 57.3 cubes.
The 100-hp output from the 1.5-liter four-cylinder is weak by today's standards, even for an economy car. But the 2012 Mazda 2 makes the most of it -- at least with the manual transmission. The outdated four-speed automatic has rough tendencies under acceleration, downshifting from 3rd gear to 1st. Not only that, but the automatic comes with a penalty of a few miles per gallon compared to the manual.
The light 2,300-pound curb weight reduces the strain on the free-revving engine to give this hatchback a sportier feel. It also helps the car's handling, and as a result the Mazda 2 is among the most nimble cars in its class. The steering is communicative and quick, rare traits among electric power steering units.