While the Mazda2 is new to the U.S. market, it's actually in its third model year. Like other popular subcompacts, the Mazda2 was plucked from the global marketplace, where it has sold 400,000 units since 2007 in Europe, Australia and Japan. Mazda anticipates a doubling of small-car sales in the next three years.
Now in its second generation, the Mazda2 lost 220 pounds before its U.S. debut, which has helped not only with fuel economy but also with handling. Mazda has Americanized the car in other ways as well, adding cupholders, fine-tuning the suspension to be more responsive at slower speeds and tweaking its safety features.
Taking the Mazda2 to my usual stomping grounds — the Arroyo Seco Parkway and the battle zone of downtown L.A. — I felt agile, and, for the most part, safe.
The last thing drivers of small cars want is to lose an unintended battle with a large object. Traction control, stability control, anti-lock brakes and tire pressure monitoring are standard. So is brake override, a new system that gives priority to the brakes should the accelerator and brake pedals be pressed simultaneously.
Inspired by Toyota's sudden-acceleration fiasco, Mazda's brake override is debuting on the Mazda2 and will roll out to all other Mazda models by the end of the 2011 model year.
Mazda2 proves the adage: Good things come in small packages.