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Thinking small? Mazda says me 2!

Posted by: Mark Bilek

2011 Mazda 2Arriving right now in Chicagoland Mazda showrooms is the new Mazda 2. It gives Mazda an entry in the hot subcompact car market, where it faces competitors like the Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit, Nissan Versa and Toyota Yaris.

Mazda is confident that the market for subcompact or "B" cars will double in the next three years. Though most would expect most of this growth to come from Generation Y, the current 22-30 set, Mazda is also fairly certain a lot of small-car sales will come from baby boomers who are flying the coop from large cars into something more practical.

The new 2 is available only as a five-passenger four-door hatchback. Two trim levels are offered, Sport and Touring. Both are powered by a 100 horsepower 1.5-liter four cylinder engine. Prices start at $13,900 and range up to $17,000 for a fully equipped Touring model.

Based on a brief media-preview drive, I can tell you that the 2 is easily the sportiest entry in the class, though not in a way you'd expect. With only 100 horsepower, it isn't the quickest. In fact, you have to row the five-speed manual transmission just to keep up on hilly terrain. But the 2 is quite fun to drive and holds the road well, much in the same way that a Volkswagen GTi is a blast to drive on twisty roads. The electric-assist power steering feels "right" and the brakes are strong and linear. The 2 is also considerably lighter than competitors and uses that to great advantage.

Inside, the 2 sports classy but not upscale trim and good room for two adults up front. Rear-seat room is marginal, but no worse than most others in the class. Cargo space is adequate and the rear seats fold in a snap, creating a cargo hold large enough to easily swallow five or six suitcases.

Mazda hopes to sell 20,000 2s in the U.S. this year. Given the car's credentials and the aggressive pricing, that should be an easily attainable goal. There's a lot to like in the 2 and the fact that it's got that "Zoom Zoom" feeling in a segment dominated by humdrum competitors is sure to give it a leg up.

Look for a more in-depth review of the 2 on DriveChicago.com in the weeks to come!

2011 Mazda 2 2011 Mazda 2

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