We are entering a new age of the automobile, an age of extremes. On one hand, those with the means now have access to cars that can practically drive themselves, with all the creature comforts you might expect in a luxury hotel.
Then there are those of us who manage to scrape together enough money to buy a new car, albeit one under $20,000. These cars can be an exercise in minimalism, and the 2013 Mazda2 hatchback is one of the most minimalist of all. But if a fuel-efficient, no-frills ride is what you’re after, the Mazda2 fits the bill in many ways and more. Read on to find out why.
Performance: Though the 2013 Mazda2 comes in just two packages, the base Sport and upper-level Touring, there is nothing sporty about the gutless 1.5 liter engine. Offering a paltry 100 horsepower and 98 ft-lbs of torque, the Mazda2 feels slow because it is slow. 0-60 mph takes an agonizing 10+ seconds, and the engine can be quite loud when you push it, which does not make for a pleasant driving experience. The Mazda2 could certainly benefit from the much-touted SkyActiv engine technology.
Thankfully, I had the 5-speed manual-equipped Mazda2, which made me realize that there is a certain soul to this car, but it isn’t under the hood. Rather, it is in all four corners. This is a fun car to toss around in the turns, and though slow, it certainly feels like a race car zooming down the highway at 70 mph, going deep into a banked turn, just like the real racers do. Just avoid the outdated four-speed automatic if you value your sanity, because it makes a slow car even slower.
One Sentence Review: Though painfully slow, with a manual transmission and lots of turns, this little hatchback is more fun than it should be.
Exterior: This is a cute car, no doubt, but its a bit bland and outdated too. The front fascia smile is sure to appeal to high-school girls, but the addition of a spoiler feels tacked on. Not every car needs a spoiler, people, and the fact is the Mazda2 just isn’t the best-looking car out there. It’s due for a refresh or replacement soon, but for now it’s just very “Meh.”
Just about every other car in the $14,000 to $17,000 price range is better looking than the Mazda2. If aesthetics are your only criteria, keep looking.
One Sentence Review: Attractive only if you don’t look at any competitor cars.
Interior: Basic, plastic, and cheap. Those are the three words to describe the Mazda2 Sport’s interior. Thankfully, even the base of base models comes with air conditioning CD/MP3 player, power windows and locks, 4-speaker sound system, and a 60/40 folding rear seat. But you don’t get much else for your $14,720.
Stepping up to the Mazda2 Touring model for $16,210 gets you 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a six-speaker sound system, and upgraded cloth seats. For the extra $1,500, it’s worth the upgrade. But at that price point there are other cars with better options available to you; it is really hard to make the case based on value.
Fuel Economy: Here again, the Mazda2 falls short of the competitors, with an EPA-rated 29 city and 35 mpg highway, for a combined rating of 32 mpg. That is respectable, and my observed fuel economy of 31 mpg in mixed-used driving was close-enough to that rating. But other cars do better than the Mazda, thanks to outdated transmissions and a weak engine.
One Sentence Review: There are better options if fuel economy is your thing
Overall: It is hard to recommend the 2013 Mazda2 on any logical basis, unless you are the kind of person who needs the cheapest new car money can buy. The one thing the Mazda2 has going for it is a sporty suspension that makes it a fun car to drive on twisty roads.
But with a weak engine, a spartan interior, and bland aesthetics, I would have a hard time recommending it to my friends over any of the other, better options, including Mazda’s own Mazda3, which I also reviewed. I see no reason to buy the Mazda2 unless literally every penny counts, or you plan on turning it into a B-spec racer. In that case, I can think of no better car to earn your money.
One Sentence Review: The 2013 Mazda2 falls short on almost every mark, and not even Mazda’s racing DNA can save it.