2014 Mazda2 GS
2014 Mazda2 GS
2014 Mazda2 GS
2014 Mazda2 GS. Click image to enlarge

Review and photos by Brendan McAleer

Originally published April 7, 2014.

Small. Efficient. Cheap. Do any of these sound like words you’d put on your online dating profile? They do not.

Fun, sporty, fully loaded – that’s more like it. Well, perhaps not “fully loaded,” unless you’re angling to connect with MayorToronto123. Point being, spending time with the bottom end of the automotive food chain is often abject misery.

But not here. As I walked towards this little red hatchback, parked in a stall at Los Angeles international airport, I don’t mind telling you that I couldn’t keep the grin off my face, or the skip out of my step. This was going to be fun. This was going to be epic. This was going to be one hell of a trip.

The car was pretty much as happy as I was, judging from its goofy grin. Mazda’s Nagare styling language took a bit of a beating critically for being somewhat cartoonish, but it always fit the diminutive Mazda2 down to a T. How could you not love this thing – just look at it!

Actually, I’ll tell you how you could not love it: just clamber on inside. This is the highest-spec trim, but the seats look like they’re using piping from a 1970s ski jacket. The plastics are as hard as the capsule out of a Kinder Egg, and it is quite cramped in out back, both seating and trunk. Nominally there’s seating for five, but only if the five are Sleepy, Happy, Grumpy, Bashful, and Doc. The rear seats fold, but they don’t fold flat like a Honda Fit.

There is also not a lot of what you might call automotive content. The Mazda2 has a six-speaker stereo, but that’s only on the top trim. The basic car has two speakers – two! – and air conditioning is an optional extra. USB connectivity is now standard, and Bluetooth became available in last year’s model. Other than that, this car is nearly seven years old and the interior feels like it.

The powertrain is not likely to set the world on fire either. Exactly 100 hp is available at 6,000 rpm, and 98 lb-ft of torque comes on at 4,000 rpm. Those are the sort of power levels you’d expect from Eeyore, as is the available four-speed automatic transmission, an additional $1,150.

Happily, this particular tester doesn’t have an automatic. It has a five-speed manual gearbox with one of the nicest-engaging shifters in the business, decent clutch feel, and a perfectly proportioned steering wheel. Unlike the base versions of the Mazda3, it also has a proper analog tachometer.

2014 Mazda2 GS2014 Mazda2 GS
2014 Mazda2 GS. Click image to enlarge

In the first few feet, you can tell how sweet this little car is. If it were a dog, it’d be a Jack Russell with one floppy ear, bounding up on the sofa and knocking small children over so that it could lick their faces. With a yipyipyip from the tires, we zoom out into the bright California sunshine and join the teeming hordes.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever played pinball, but that’s almost exactly what driving a Mazda2 is like. The suspension is a little squashy, but there’s little in the way of inertia, so you just weld your foot to the floor and shuck and jive through traffic. If there’s a gap, you can fit in it, and as traffic oozes out of town towards Hollywood, this bright red jumping bean fizzes and pops and zips past catatonic cell-phone users.

I park the car in the underground garage near the Petersen museum, where it slots between two giant concrete pillars leaving a comical amount of room. This place is home to rarities and exotica, including a DeTomaso Pantera with bullet scars from an Elvis tantrum, and the Magnum P.I. Ferrari.

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