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Long Term Update 4: 2011 Mazda2 Touring


Hi, I'm Emiliana, the contented caretaker of MT's long-term MAZDA 2 Touring. Or, as my sister and I call it, the Green Goblin, the Jolly Green Rancher, Kermit, the Appletini, or the Mighty Green Machine. It's small and cute with a smiley-faced grille, and it's painted bright, pearly Spirited Green, which the women on staff love and the men definitely don't.

The MAZDA 2 shares a platform with the Ford Fiesta, and when it rolled into the MT garage everyone was curious how it would compare to its Detroit sibling. Turns out it's about 5 inches shorter and 220 pounds lighter, and just a little bit faster. Those of us who drove both of them at Car of the Year thought the '2 had a slight handling FORD EDGE over the Fiesta. It's a zippy little hatchback, easy to drive, easy to park, and, with a base price of $16,230 for the Touring, easy on your wallet.

 The 1.5-liter, four-cylinder five-speed '2 is well-suited to my daily commute, which is about three miles of surface streets and eight miles on the 405. In the past month I've averaged 33.6 mpg combined, according to the dash calculator. That's a very good thing with gas prices climbing ever-upward.

The clutch is light and relatively easy to engage, but more often than not I lurch forward awkwardly when heading into first gear. While I'm not a racetrack-caliber driver, I am a good shifter, so I'm blaming the stutter on the transmission. With only 100 horses, the MAZDA 2 isn't a speed demon, but it wasn't meant to be one. Road noise, engine noise and vibration increase exponentially when the speedo passes 80 mph. The nimble little car keeps up with L.A. freeway traffic no problem, but whenever I have to merge up a hilly on-ramp into 70-plus-mph rush hour traffic, I floor it and hope there aren't any semis approaching. And though I've never been given a reason to doubt its braking prowess, I'm careful to make sure I have more than enough room to halt suddenly if needed.

 Inside, the MAZDA 2 definitely feels like a budget car. The Touring package's seats are plenty supportive if you weigh 110 pounds. They're black fabric with red piping, which I guess is supposed to look sporty, but it's a weird contrast with the green exterior. My biggest interior gripe is the lack of a USB port. This car's demographic is the iPod generation. While you can plug your MP3 player into the aux outlet, you can't control it with the stereo tuner buttons, and to recharge your iPhone/iPod while listening, you have to also plug it into the power outlet. Shifting gears and operating an iPod with the same hand while going 70 mph is risky behavior. There is a CD player, but who under the age of 30 even owns CDs?

 I'm perfectly happy with the headroom and legroom up front, but I'm only 5 feet tall. Adults of average size won't want to spend much time sitting in the back. Parents who are shopping for their teen's first car should take note: Nobody will get any action in the rear of a Mazda2, unless they're skinny, short, and an expert contortionist. Next month I'm moving, so it'll be interesting to see how much cargo I can cram into the back, and a drive to Disneyland is around the corner. For now, the '2 gets a bright green thumbs-up.
.hdr {color:#ffffff;font:bold 12px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#343434;} .hdr1 {color:#000000;font:bold 09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#aba9a9;} .hdr2 {color:#000000;font:09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#dddddd;} .hdr3 {color:#000000;font:09px verdana,arial,helvetica;background-color:#FFFFFF;} Our Cars Months/mi in service 7/9788 Avg econ/CO2 33.0 mpg/0.59 lb/mi Energy consumption 102 kW-hr/100 mi Unresolved problems None Maintenance cost $73.52 (1-oil change, inspection, rotate tires) Normal-wear cost $0

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