2012 Mazda Mazda2 review, specifications, photos, features

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The new 2012 Mazda Mazda2 hatchback

Initially launched in 2007 in Japan, Europe and Australia, the nimble little Mazda2 was quick to garner enthusiastic acclaim, including "2008 World Car of the Year" as well as other global "Car of the Year" honors from home-country Japan to faraway Greece.

2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo

Making its North American debut last year as a 2011 model, Mazda2 proved to be as much as success stateside, earning a spot on many "Best Cars" and Top Ten lists.

2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo

"The smallest vehicle in our lineup has made an immense impact to the market and to Mazda since its introduction in the U.S.," said Jim O'Sullivan, president and CEO, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO). "The Mazda2, with its polished design, dynamic performance and affordable fuel-efficiency, offers one of the most exuberantly vibrant personalities within the subcompact segment."

2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo

And since its debut last model year, Mazda2 sales continue to steadily rise, especially as fuel economy, features and safety increasingly play key roles in how consumers research and shop for new cars.

2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo

Exterior Energy

Sleek, smooth and seriously easy on the eyes, Mazda2's seemingly simple styling offers a subtle hint at its underlying sporty nature. While others associate out-of-the-box thinking with clumsy boxy designs, the Mazda2 prioritizes functionality with finesse, compactness with comfort.

From a carefully crafted base form, shortened body overhangs and trimmed corners give the Mazda2 a slender physique. Swooping character lines that start from the front wheel arch, energetically flow across the vehicle's sides and cleverly wrap around the C-pillar and trunk lid create a complete and distinctive personality. As light patterns play atop the Mazda2's charismatic exterior charm, a moving-while-standing visual appeal evokes senses not expected from a subcompact.

Other key exterior design elements include a sporty wedge shape and ready-for-fun front grille that conveys a eager sense of forward motion and deeply sculpted angles in which the body is drawn inward fore and aft of the A-pillars.

Mazda2 is available in six energetic exterior colors: Liquid Silver, Spirited Green, Brilliant Black, True Red, Crystal White Pearl and Aquatic Blue.

2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo

Generous Interior

The Mazda2's sleek exterior design snuck its way into the inviting interior as well. The striking mostly-black canvas enhances a cabin experience that is immediately spacious and intuitive. The contoured dash presents control buttons and the instrument panel in a forward, easy-to-reach manner. With the overall interior design focusing on a central area for all driver and passenger audio and climate control functions, the central dash shape is minimized and curved away from occupants to further create a feeling of openness. This design not only offers immediate operational know-how but further develops the Mazda2's unique personality, an emotional connection which began from its ground-up exterior design.

To complement the function and freedom tone of the center dash are high-quality ergonomics used throughout the cabin. Silver garnish adorns the A/C vents, door armrests and the shift knob and its surrounding gate and trim on Sport models. Touring models receive upgraded features such as a leather-wrapped steering wheel with steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. And soft touches abound, such as the black patterned cloth seats and fabric trim inserts on all doors to an available leather-padded center console armrest for added comfort. Touring models receive upgraded black seat upholstery highlighted by red piping.

While subcompact vehicles do not offer the cargo capacity to compete with the likes of minivans and SUVs, claustrophobic crampedness doesn't have to come standard either. Mazda2 offers an efficient 13.3 cubic feet of storage room. With the 60/40 split fold-down rear seats folded flat, that cargo capacity expands to 27.8 cubic feet, which is more than enough space to accommodate that weekend jaunt to the big-box warehouse store, not to mention the numerous cubbies and storage spaces throughout the interior, such as bottle-holder pockets in the doors and a center console storage tray.

2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo

Driver-Oriented Dynamics

Speaking of driving excursions, the Mazda2 is as confident a grocery getter as it is a rowdy racer. Fitted with an MZR 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, which produces 100 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 98 lb-ft of torque at 4,000 rpm, don't let its diminutive demeanor fool you. After all, the Mazda2 is inherently still a Mazda.

The Mazda2 driving experience is a familiar one, and for good reason. In fact, two good reasons: 1) a sense of linear acceleration and deceleration that responds crisply to how far the accelerator pedal is depressed, allowing the driver to control car speed as desired; and 2) a sense of liveliness through immediate response to the accelerator for quick off-the-line acceleration and overtaking. Zoom-Zoom is injected into every Mazda vehicle, regardless of how little or large its GVW, and the Mazda2 is no exception. Able to carry a family-of-four load of food or attack a corner with feline-like finesse, the Mazda2 is quick and agile, all the while sipping its fuel.

With a curb weight of 2,306 lbs (manual transmission), the Mazda2 is the lightest vehicle among its competitors. This was achieved by implementing weight-saving measures such as the increased application of high tensile strength steel as well as spot welds on door openings and weld bonding on the liftgate opening to improve rigidity while successfully shedding unnecessary pounds. Lighter, stronger materials and an enhanced assembly structure benefit the vehicle in manufacturing but also the consumer with increased overall efficiency.

2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo

When equipped with the standard five-speed manual transmission, Mazda2 delivers an impressive EPA-rated fuel economy of 29 city/35 highway. The optional four-speed automatic transmission (available on Sport and Touring models) offers an estimated fuel economy of 28 city/34 highway, which is a plus-one improvement over the introductory 2011 model year for both city and highway figures.

And being a Mazda, great fuel economy does not mean piloting a slug. The Mazda2 is outfitted with a highly regarded suspension system, which has MacPherson struts at the front and a torsion-beam axle at the rear. With settings tuned specifically for North American road conditions and driving styles, the resulting dynamic performance yields consistently responsive handling and an effortless, stable ride. And a 0.31 coefficient of drag contributes to the fuel economy as well as quietness of the cabin.

However, not all subcompacts are developed equally, which is why only a select few have opted to join a newly-formed "B-Spec" Showroom Stock racing series. The subcompact category, or B-segment, is the fastest growing segment in the automotive world, and to further support its grassroots intent, all B-spec race cars will feature showroom stock engines and chassis, be fitted with a competition roll cage and other safety features and sport manufacturer-approved suspension components, wheels and tires. With the goal of providing racing enthusiasts the opportunity to compete as a financially attainable dream, more manufacturers are seeing the series' potential. And true to its familial motorsports DNA, the Mazda2 is all but ready to hit the gas when the green flag is dropped.

2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo

Nice Package

To some, "showroom stock" means a bare-bones base model, but not so with the Mazda2. Standard niceties include a pollen filter-equipped air conditioning system, power automatic door locks and windows (with a driver's one-touch up/down feature), a remote keyless entry system, a tilt-adjustable steering wheel and a four-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3-compatible audio system with an auxiliary audio jack.

Upgrading to a Touring model adds exterior features such as 15-inch aluminum alloy wheels, fog lights and a body-colored rear spoiler. Interior additions include cruise control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel with steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3-compatible audio system and a trip computer. The four-speed automatic transmission is an available option for either Sport or Touring models.

For a more custom fit Mazda2 experience, available accessories are Bluetooth®-enabled phone connectivity, a center armrest with storage bin, an auto-dimming compass-equipped rearview mirror with HomeLink®, all-weather floor mats and a rear bumper guard.

2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo

Safety Comes Standard

Whether racing or running errands, safety is never an option with the Mazda2. Small in size but not on safety, the Mazda2 has been meticulously developed to absorb impacts and protect all occupants. Its "Triple-H" construction of interlocking body frames creates a highly-rigid body structure, scoring the highest rating of "Good" on frontal and roof strength impact results conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Mazda2 bested the Toyota Yaris, Honda Fit and the more expensive Mini Cooper in these categories.

Standard advanced safety features include six airbags (advanced dual front, front-seat mounted and full-length side curtain) with improved double chamber side airbags, a "crushable" brake pedal assembly, Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH), front seatbelt pretensioners with force limiters and a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS).

2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo

Also, all Mazda vehicles come with the Mazda Certified Roadside Assistance Program. Using either the toll-free number or free Mazda Assist app for iOS- and Android-operated mobile devices, owners and their family members can contact roadside assistance 24 hours a day, 365 days a year throughout the United States and Canada. In addition, the New Vehicle Limited Warranty includes a comprehensive three-year/36,000-mile warranty, which covers every part of the vehicle except those subject to normal wear, a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty and a five-year/unlimited-mileage corrosion warranty.

Find more new 2012 Mazda Mazda2 pictures in our 2012 Mazda Mazda2 photo gallery (34 photos)

New 2012 Mazda Mazda2 specifications, photos and images courtesy of Mazda.

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