Quite a few members of the automotive press have driven and been impressed by the Mazda2’s sporty handling characteristics, light weight, and great transmission. When I drove one on a twisty road, I realized that it was exactly what I had hoped my 2009 Civic Si would be, a practical, economical front wheel drive car that would still be tons of fun in the corners, and just over a week later, I traded the Si for a 2012 Mazda2 Touring in “Liquid Silver Metallic.” (For our Canadian readers, this car is roughly equivalent to the GS model. It lacks automatic wipers and headlights and heated mirrors, which is a typical difference between US and Canadian models, and is also missing the GS’s side sill extensions. Color choices are also slightly different.)
The car is relatively well-appointed, with quality materials used throughout. The single CD player supports MP3/WMA files and has an auxiliary input. I’ve used that input to rectify one of my main complaints about the Mazda2, its lack of satellite radio, by installing the aftermarket XM Radio unit visible between the seats in the above photo. The seats and interior trim, which are exclusive to the higher trim level, look great and have been well-received by everyone who’s been in the car. One omission that I’m going to take care of is the lack of an integrated Bluetooth system. Mazda has just released one, which should be included on 2013 models, and can be installed in 2011 and 2012s. It supports streaming music wirelessly in addition to the typical phone calls. The stock shift knob was far below the quality of the rest of the interior, so I’ve temporarily replaced it with a leather one from the local parts supplier, and will eventually find something really cool from one of the Mazda specialists. Another necessary change was to add the center armrest, which is an accessory that can be ordered through the dealer. It removes the rear cupholder, and needs to be swiveled up to access the two front ones, but it adds some much-needed storage and is a must-have for long drives. The armrest can be seen in the photo below.
I’ve had the car for almost four weeks, and have already covered nearly 1150mi (1850km) in it. Yesterday, I joined a caravan of Mazda enthusiasts from my area (Sacramento, California) to a large Mazda meet in Dublin, CA, exactly 100mi (160km) away. The Mazda2 did a great job on the trip, and I’m looking forward to taking it on the 400mi (650km) drive to Los Angeles, which I do several times a year. It achieved great mileage on the drive, too, and there’s still over a third of a tank left in the car. At the car meet, the Mazda2 was a focus of attention, despite being surrounded by nearly 100 other Mazdas, many of them heavily modified. I seem to be the first enthusiast in the region with a Mazda2, and everybody was interested in checking out just what you get in Mazda’s smallest, least expensive model. Most came away quite impressed, especially at the quality of the interior and exterior and the amount of space inside.
Simply driving from place to place isn’t why I bought this car, though. Although it will remain a daily driver, “Project” is in the title of this post because I’m planning on taking advantage of this car’s dynamics, along with a few upgrades, to have some fun on the track and at Autocross events. There’s a rapidly growing aftermarket for this car, and I plan on taking advantage of it. Suspension is one of the higher priorities, and I’m planning on slightly lowering and stiffening the car, while still keeping its drivability in mind. One upside of the car’s torsion beam rear suspension is that a simple brace can provide noticeable improvements in handling, reducing understeer, but is cheaper and easier to install than the sway bars that most larger cars use. Replacing the car’s stock all-season 185/55/15 Yokohamas is critical, so some stickier 195/55/15 tires and lightweight 15″x7″ wheels to mount them on is are the top of the list as well. I’m also planning on installing an aftermarket air intake, which will inexpensively add a few horsepower and improve throttle response, and installing some performance brake pads and lines for those long days at the track.
The future holds a lot for this fun, practical car, so stay tuned!