Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Video: 2011 Mazda2 - Good, but not quite (Honda) Fit

You know that the Honda FIT is a good car when it's used as a benchmark when comparing other good cars....

The subcompact Mazda2 isn't a bad car, but "not bad" isn't enough to take the world by storm. In today's competitive car market, there are plenty of really good cars to pick from.

Good fuel mileage is a big reason buyers go for small cars. The Mazda2 returned an average of 30 mpg overall with an automatic transmission and 33 with the manual in our testing. While that's not too shabby, it isn't outstanding these days. The larger and more comfortable Toyota Corolla compact returned 32 mpg overall in our tests with an automatic, and the midsize Hyundai Sonata GLS clocked in at 27 mpg overall.

Both of those cars are newer designs than the wee Mazda, and that's one of the 2's problems: Engine, transmission, and other technologies are advancing so fast that an older design just can't deliver the fuel economy of newer models. And the Mazda2 is an older design, having been on sale in Japan, Europe, and other markets for several years before being introduced to U.S. buyers earlier this year.

That leads to the other problem. There's good reason why carmakers bring certain models to certain markets and don't bring others. Roads, driving habits, and lifestyles vary tremendously around the world. The Mazda2 does not drive like it was designed for U.S. roads. That's because it wasn't.

The 2 is a kick to drive around town, zipping in and out of tight spaces and easy to park. On back roads, it's also entertaining to toss around. But the 2 isn't a fun cruiser. It's noisy on those highways we Americans rely on to get around so much, with a choppy ride, and it can feel a bit darty, requiring a lot of steering correction to stay on course.

Honda brought the subcompact Fit to our shores a few years ago, and it, too, was a design not intended for the U.S market. But with much more interior room and a clever folding rear seat that turns it into a mini cargo truck, the Fit has been a hit with American buyers. It's one of our top-Rated subcompacts.

The Mazda2 entered the increasingly crowded subcompact category as a contender and outscored some others in our testing. But it isn't as Fit as some others.


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