Five-Point Inspection: 2014 Mazda2

Mike Schlee
by Mike Schlee

The Mazda2 is one of the most under-appreciated subcompact cars on the market.

Fun, efficient and affordable, the little Mazda never really caught on. At 155.5 inches in length, the 2 does reside on the smaller side of subcompact hatchbacks and maybe people find it too small. Or maybe it’s the fact the 2 only offers 100 HP? Whatever the reason, later this year Mazda hopes to address all of the current models short comings with an all-new Mazda2 that promises to creep upmarket with advanced technology, infotainment and efficiency.

Before that happens I thought I would take one last spin in the current Mazda2. I’ve always been a fan of the car since it first came out. I find its lightweight, above average driving dynamics and decent fuel economy feel well suited to the subcompact market. With a swarm of new competitors upping the small hatchback game, has the current Mazda2 overstayed its welcome or does it still offer something different in a fun, affordable package ?

2014 Mazda2

The Mazda2 was built from the ground up using the minimalist strategy. By keeping the curb weight low, the engine could remain small, tuned for modest power to allow for greater efficiency. The 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine making 100 HP and 98 lb-ft. of torque is hooked up to a five-speed manual or a four-speed automatic.

SEE ALSO: Mazda2 Crowned Japan’s Car of the Year

Behind the times in 2010, this drivetrain is downright archaic by today’s standards. Power never felt abundant in the Mazda2, but felt adequate during my previous drives in the car. Now though, with more powerful competitors switching to six-speeds and CVTs, it’s starting to become obvious just how underpowered the Mazda2 is.

With a sixth gear, 20 more HP or both, things would improve dramatically. But as it stands, a lot of high-RPM driving is required to get the buzzy little engine to propel the car forward. At least the shifter engagement is still terrific.

With official fuel economy ratings being pegged at 29 MPG in the city and 35 MPG on the highway, the Mazda2 trails a lot of its heavier competitors that also make more power. But forget the numbers for a moment. Even though the Mazda2 needs to be wrung up the engine-rpm ladder to garner acceptable forward motivation, I was still able to average an impressive 34.6 MPG during a week of mixed driving.

2014 Mazda2

The Mazda2’s senior citizen status shines through with the interior. The available options, placement of accessories like the USB port that are clearly afterthoughts and the general material quality all show the small hatchback’s age. For what it lacks in high-end materials and modern conveniences though, it makes up for in style. Despite a now eight+ year-old design, the Mazda2 still has more flair some of its subcompact competitors.

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The rear seat area is usable for adult passengers thanks to 33 inches of rear legroom and 37 inches of headroom. Just don’t expect adults to be comfortable for long. The cargo hatch also has a surprisingly usable 13.3 cubic feet of space behind rear seats.

During my week with the Mazda2 I did notice one annoying nuance: the driver’s side front windshield wiper blade doesn’t reach high enough on the window to completely clear it. That ends up leaving taller drivers like me looking into a partially un-cleared area of the windshield during messier weather.

The Mazda2 may well be the closest thing to a front wheel drive MX-5 Miata. Wait, stay with me here for a second while I explain. With a curb weight of just 2,306 pounds, Mazda approached the 2 in the same way the company approaches the MX-5 roadster; by keeping weight down, driving dynamics can be exploited further.

Despite a torsion beam rear axle and skinny 185/55R15 tires, the Mazda2 still handles well for its class. Body motion is controlled and the car is willing to change direction at a moment’s notice. Even with a fairly large steering ratio, the car responds instantly to driver input and provides good feedback for a vehicle that in no way resembles a sports car.

With a starting price of $15,515 after destination charges for the Sport model, the Mazda2 is priced competitively with the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa Note and Toyota Yaris. The problem is all three of those cars were heavily updated over the past two years.

The Mazda2 remains a no-frills subcompact car that isn’t quick, but still has a fun to drive charm. The time has come though for it to be replaced and I look forward to see what the 2015 Mazda2 has to offer.

Discuss this story on our Mazda2 Forum.

GALLERY: 2014 MAzda2

Mike Schlee
Mike Schlee

A 20+ year industry veteran, Mike rejoins the AutoGuide team as the Managing Editor. He started his career at a young age working at dealerships, car rentals, and used car advertisers. He then found his true passion, automotive writing. After contributing to multiple websites for several years, he spent the next six years working at the head office of an automotive OEM, before returning back to the field he loves. He is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC), and Midwest Automotive Media Association (MAMA). He's the recipient of a feature writing of the year award and multiple video of the year awards.

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