Mazda2
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Overall

This small hatchback thinks it’s a sports car, but its relatively spacious interior and non-sports-car low price gives it away; all-new model is expected for the 2015 model year.

Drivetrain

A 100-horse 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine drives the front wheels; you can upgrade to a four-speed automatic transmission, but the precise five-speed manual gearbox with its smooth clutch engagement shouldn’t be overlooked.

If small, frugal cars are your what you fancy, the Mazda2 should be on your radar. The sub-compact arrived in North America for the 2011 model year and has received little in the way of updates. That’s expected to change for the 2015 model year when an all-new 2 shows up from Mazda’s new plant in Mexico. Compared to the one-size-larger 2014 Mazda3 hatch/wagon, the Mazda2 hatchback is about two-feet shorter, four inches narrower and it cuts more than six inches out from between the front and rear wheels. Mazda’s grinning grille, a feature that is rapidly disappearing from the other models in the lineup, remains in the Mazda2, along with some neatly creased and curvy body panels and a fashionably shaped rear end. Cabin entry is through a set of wide front doors while rear-seat access is a bit tighter but doesn’t present a major impediment for average-sized adults. The 60:40 split-folding rear-bench doesn’t compress completely flat into the load floor, but it still provides sufficient cargo room although a roof-mounted rack could be required for skis, bikes or other bulkier objects. The Mazda2 is equipped with a 100-horsepower 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine connected to a five-speed manual transmission or optional four-speed automatic. The base Sport arrives with air conditioning, remote keyless entry, tilt steering wheel, four-speaker stereo system and power windows, locks and mirrors. The Touring adds cruise control, fancier seat covers, 15-inch alloy wheels (instead of steel wheels on base cars), roof-mounted spoiler, leather wrapped steering wheel, and a six-speaker audio system with steering-wheel-mounted controls. Among the few listed options are a center console with armrest and an auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass. There’s no sign of an available backup warning or navigation system or even a power sunroof on the option sheet, but that simply means you’ll be forcibly restrained from spending more money than you planned.

Base price (incl. destination): $15,500
Type: Four-door hatchback
Engine (hp): 1.5-liter DOHC I4 (100)
Layout: Front-engine, front-wheel-drive
Transmissions: Five-speed manual; four-speed automatic
MPG (city/hwy): 29/35 (MT)
Safety: Front airbags; side-impact airbags; side-curtain airbags; anti-lock brakes; traction control; stability control
Weight (lb.): 2,310