Nearly equaling the Mazda2’s steering feel and responsiveness is the five-speed manual transmission.  Although it may seem out of date with a mere five forward gears, this tranny is a real gem for a front-wheel-drive vehicle, never mind a subcompact.  The throws are short, smooth, and exact and are right up there with the best currently from Honda.  The clutch is overly light, though, and hard to modulate.  Finding the exact clutch engagement point takes a bit of practice but since the transmission is so fluid in its operation, it will compensate if your engagement is missed slightly.

2013 MAZDA2 GS2013 MAZDA2 GS
2013 MAZDA2 GS. Click image to enlarge

Even as a featherweight vehicle, the 1.5L is not enough motor for the Mazda2.  At 100 hp and 98 lb-ft of torque, the engine is always revving hard to keep the Mazda moving.  If this engine were given Mazda’s ‘SkyActiv’ treatment, well then it would be near perfect, and get better fuel mileage.  As it drives now, the engine returns decent fuel economy and I was able to average 7.3 L/100 km during my week with the car, which is not too far off its official Natural Resources Canada ratings of 5.6 L/100 km highway and 6.8 L/100 km city.

The 1.5L power plant does rev freely through its entire rpm range and reminds me a lot of the 1.6L unit found in my 1990 Miata.  Something I wasn’t expecting from this engine is how dead quiet it is at idle.  It barely makes its presence known until reaching the high rpm range, and even then is not thrashy or rough.  Other NVH levels in the Mazda2 are about what should be expected in a thin-skinned subcompact; in other words, be prepared for noisy highway driving

Perhaps Mazda’s greatest feat with this car though is the styling.  As my wife noted upon seeing the car in our driveway, Mazda has pulled off a successful job in styling the Mazda2 to look attractive and not suffer from the awkward, disproportionate look that so many other subcompacts suffer from.  Even with diminutive 15-inch wheels, the Mazda2 looks good from all angles, if not cute.

What Mazda has done with the 2 is make a modern, stylish car based on some of its older technology.  At an as-tested price of $18,300, it is a contender amongst the best of the subcompact segment already.  Just imagine if Mazda upgraded the drivetrain and feature content….

Pricing: 2013 Mazda2 GS
Base price:
A/C tax: $100
Freight: $1,495
Price as tested: $19,895

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Crash test results
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS)

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