Test Drive: 2011 Ford Fiesta vs 2011 Mazda2 car test drives mazda ford car comparisons
2011 Ford Fiesta vs. 2011 Mazda2. Click image to enlarge

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Review and photos by Peter Bleakney

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2011 Ford Fiesta vs. 2011 Mazda2

Consider the 2011 Ford Fiesta and Mazda2 as fraternal twins. While they share a platform and were conceived on the same drawing board in 2007, something happened on the way to the showroom.

Basically, their parents split up. Apparently Mr. Ford came home late one night with 10W40 on his collar and Ms. Mazda went at him with a tire iron. Or something like that.

Nonetheless, as the corporate winds blew Ford and Mazda apart, their B-sector front-drive offspring took divergent gestational paths.
This was illustrated to great effect while having both a Fiesta and Mazda2 in my driveway for a week.

Initially I was hoping to get similarly equipped cars – at least ones with the same type of transmission – but as it turned out the Mazda2, which is the lighter and sportier of the two, came in its most athletic guise as the limited Yozora Edition with a five-speed manual transmission. The more comfort oriented Fiesta SE hatchback bore its trick six-speed twin-clutch automatic transmission (PowerShift in Ford lingo), a first for this segment.

Test Drive: 2011 Ford Fiesta vs 2011 Mazda2 car test drives mazda ford car comparisons
Test Drive: 2011 Ford Fiesta vs 2011 Mazda2 car test drives mazda ford car comparisons
Test Drive: 2011 Ford Fiesta vs 2011 Mazda2 car test drives mazda ford car comparisons
2011 Ford Fiesta vs. 2011 Mazda2. Click image to enlarge

These cars represented the two extremes of this platform, but price-wise they were very close: the Mazda2 at $19,280 and the Ford Fiesta at $19,529. (For an in-depth analysis of Fiesta/Mazda2 pricing, click here).

The Yozora Edition (Yozora is Japanese for “night sky”) starts as the entry-level Mazda2 GX trim with either 5-speed manual ($13,995) or 4-speed auto ($15,095). Added to this is air conditioning ($1,195), Convenience Package ($895; heated door mirrors, 4-speaker audio, remote keyless entry, steering wheel mounted cruise and audio controls, exterior temp gauge, some interior brightwork, body coloured door mirrors and handles) and the $3,195 Yozora Edition Package which includes 16-inch alloys shod with 195/45R16 Toyo Proxes T1R performance tires (you also get a set of 15-inch steel rims with winter rubber), boy-racer rear spoiler, Yozora floor mats, chrome exhaust tip, stubby antenna, and a 2+2 decal package that from a distance makes the car look like you’ve grazed a concrete wall.

You can get the Yozora in any colour you like as long as it’s black. (That’s a Ford line, isn’t it?)

My Fiesta was the $16,799 SE model riding on 185/60R15 all-season tires. Optional equipment included the PowerShift tranny ($1,250), SYNC voice-activated infotainment with 6-speaker audio ($650), Sport Appearance Package ($450; cruise control, 15-inch aluminum wheels, front LED marker lamp), and Winter Package ($350; heated front seats and mirrors).

Test Drive: 2011 Ford Fiesta vs 2011 Mazda2 car test drives mazda ford car comparisons
Test Drive: 2011 Ford Fiesta vs 2011 Mazda2 car test drives mazda ford car comparisons
2011 Ford Fiesta vs. 2011 Mazda2. Click image to enlarge

The obvious difference in these subcompacts lies underhood. The Ford is motivated by a 1.6-litre Ti-VCT Duratec four-cylinder making 120 hp at 6,350 rpm and 112 lb.-ft. at 5,000 rpm. The Mazda’s engine is a 1.5-litre four putting out 100 hp at 6000 rpm and 98 lb.-ft. at 4000 rpm.

It’s here you might cry “No contest!”

Not so, at least as these two were equipped. Working in the Mazda’s favour is less weight – around 93 kg (216 lb) in this case (1,075 kg vs 1,168 kg). Not an inconsiderable sum in a car of this size and power output. Additionally, the Ford’s engine is a coarser unit. The Mazda four seems smoother and more eager to rev.

The six-speed twin-clutch auto in the Ford is tuned for maximum fuel economy. Under normal operation, it short shifts at low rpm and is reluctant to kick down. It has no manual override. The Fiesta can be frustratingly lethargic if you’re looking for right-now acceleration when on the move, but with tall gearing it’s a relaxed tourer, showing only 2,300 rpm at 100 km/h.

Conversely, the Mazda’s five-speed box is a hoot to operate. The stubby shifter sprouting from the centre console offers short, snickety shifts that speak of Miata/MX-5 DNA. The clutch has a quick and satisfying take up. All controls come together in a playful mechanical harmony. With shorter gearing, the Mazda2 is busier on the highway showing 2,800 rpm at 100 km/h.




About Peter

Peter Bleakney is a Toronto-based automotive journalist. He is also a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada (AJAC).