Friday, January 14, 2011

Auto review: Mazda2 a good starter vehicle

I don’t much like subcompact vehicles, but I could live with the new Mazda2 hatchback.

Mazda, with its alliance with Ford, has made the Mazda 2, like its sibling Ford Fiesta, something better than we have been accustomed to in these little buggies. If you are on a budget and would like to get even (at least a little bit) with OPEC, the Mazda2 is ready to help. With at least 33 to 35 miles per gallon with the five-speed stick shift, what’s not to like? 

The test Mazda2 had the optional $800 four-speed automatic transmission driving the 185/55 x 15-inch front tires.

I was able to better the stated mpg by as much as 2 mpg, and it’s well known I don’t try very hard to save gas.

There is only one body style, and it’s the do-everything model four-door hatchback. A 98-inch wheelbase puts the wheels at the very corners of the shapely sort of SUV styling. Normally, a short wheelbase means a jumpy ride as one wheel barely clears a bump before the rear wheels join in. Not so much as you would expect to notice it on the Mazda2. I have no idea how they diminished that annoying short wheelbase malady, but even on dirt roads, the jarring, lumpy ride was not there enough to notice.

Open up the little hatchback and there is enough room for several suit cases, and some leftover, too.

The rear seats are for transportation of two normal-sized adults. Three, if you’re on Weight Watchers. Don’t expect too much leg room or comfort back there. It’s better up front, and perhaps the first thing you may notice are the sporty black cloth bucket seats. They also have a snappy red piping and a weave pattern to the seating area. For a cheap car, the seats were better than some others that are double the price.

The dashboard is simple, and in the center area is the sound system with a CD player. The controls are easy to learn, and there are also controls on the steering wheel that I found easier to use and prevented me from taking my attention off driving to change the station, etc. For the driver there are two large gauges; one a tachometer, and a speedometer with an LED area for fuel, and a couple of other types of information. The LEDs are very difficult to see as are they on the radio face.

Here is a surprise: The driver’s side window is an “express” up and down. I could have baked a sheet of hot-cross-buns with the heater on low. You will not be cold on the worst winter day. The standard air-conditioning also worked fine, too.

Sure the small engine can buzz a lot when you have your foot into the gas, but as soon as you are at cruising speed you will forget its just a little bigger than a Harley motorcycle. I found myself going 80 mph and not thinking about it until getting a shock when I checked the speedometer. The electric power steering was very responsive, and again better than some of the same steering systems on much more expensive cars.

The longer I drove the Mazda the more I liked it, and it seemed like a perfect starter vehicle for a new driver. The very low entry price is about $13,980 — the test Mazda2 was about $14,780.  Makes one think once again: Why buy a hybrid for many thousands more? It would take years before you broke even against the Mazda2. I’d consider buying this car if I lived in Chicago.


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Location: Oakland County, Michigan

Ed Noble has been a car enthusiast his entire life. From the 1950s' on Woodward Avenue to writing automotive reviews for The Oakland Press Wheels page, car cruising is a summertime event he looks forward to each year. Ed will write new vehicle reviews for The Oakland Press and also provide some cruise news and other related information.

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