Preview: 2011 Mazda2 car previews mazda
2011 Mazda2 (photo by Gerry Frechette). Click image to enlarge

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By Gerry Frechette

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2011 Mazda2

Los Angeles, California – The Mazda2 subcompact was shown in its North American form for the first time at the Los Angeles Auto Show this month, and from outward appearances, it certainly looks like it will be a contender in what is becoming a crowded segment.

We can’t offer the same assessment from any other perspective, as journalists weren’t permitted to look into the interior, engine bay or trunk of the car on the Mazda stand at the show. Perhaps, the specifications and equipment of the North American ‘2’ weren’t quite as finalized for its debut in Los Angeles as had been anticipated.

Originally launched in 2007, the Mazda2 was first introduced in Europe, Japan and Australia. Given that it has won dozens of awards since then, including 2008 World Car of the Year, one can assume that there was some demand from Mazda’s customers and dealers to have the 2 available in Canada. The owner of Albi Mazda near Montreal, the largest volume Mazda dealer in the world, has been quoted as saying he can sell 2,500 of them a year, with only a small effect on sales of the Mazda3 compact. To date, total global sales have reached approximately 370,000 units.

Preview: 2011 Mazda2 car previews mazda
Preview: 2011 Mazda2 car previews mazda
2011 Mazda2 (top photo by Gerry Frechette; interior photo courtesy Mazda Japan). Click image to enlarge

In Canada, smaller cars and hatchbacks have a much larger market share than in the U.S., and higher gasoline prices here help to drive the demand. As well, the Canadian dollar is getting stronger than the declining U.S. dollar versus the Japanese Yen, allowing for lower pricing here. But in order to sell it in North America, a business case had to be made for it in the United States first. Now that that has happened, the wishes of Canadian Mazda fans and dealers will be granted.

The Mazda2 joins a line-up of cars promoted with the Zoom-Zoom tagline, so it will have a sporty image to live up to when it hits the showrooms in late summer of 2010. As we have seen on some other recent sub-compact designs, the 2 benefits from the clever use of creases and angles in its design, to make what is essentially a stubby vehicle look somewhat sleek and athletic. Mazda calls its exterior design theme, “coordinated movement,” which supposedly makes the new Mazda2 look as though it is moving while standing still.

Mazda says the 2 will back up its sporty looks with a level of driving refinement and dynamic performance not previously seen in its class. That remains to be seen, but the battle lines are drawn, as consumers are obviously demanding the full package, regardless of a car’s diminutive size. The manufacturers are delivering the goods, including superior fuel efficiency, high crash safety performance and ample passenger space, and Mazda intends for the 2 to be a player.