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Mazda2, a workhorse that seemed

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Mazda2, a workhorse that seemed

DETROIT – The last time I test drove the Mazda2 was when it first went on sale in this market after being launched in Montreal. I liked the Mazda2 then and I like it now.

The Mazda2 is a workhorse. That may seem like an odd characterization for a five-door (hatchback) with a 100 horsepower four-cylinder engine that made 98 pound-feet of torque. Though a five-speed manual transmission is available, my test car had a four –speed automatic.

At 115.5 inches long, 66.7 inches wide, 58.1 inches high and weighing 2,359 lbs, the Mazda2 certainly qualifies as a subcompact car. But size does not determine the lifting capacity of a vehicle, especially when you’re not talking about weight.

First, my test vehicle had an EPA rating of 27/33 mpg in city and highway driving. My point is that the operating cost of the Mazda2 was awfully reasonable. In other words, it worked for peanuts.

Second the Mazda2 had front-wheel-drive. I think FWD is the next best thing to putting power to all four wheels. Only the most severe weather, as in snow that approaches double digit inches, can keep it parked or cause it to get stuck. In short, it was an all-weather worker.

During the time of my test drive, there was not any snow but the Mazda2 was “road worthy”, as a colleague of mine likes to say. Although 100 horsepower doesn’t seem like much, my test car was spunky. The acceleration pedal was so sensitive that early on in my test drive, I was startled by the car’s get up and go as it almost got up and went a few times. I had to adjust to the car’s power.

Although it was a subcompact, I never felt like I was in a tiny vehicle. That’s important when it comes to a small car. Perception is reality and in this case the Mazda2 did not seem unsafe because of its size. The car was quite comfortable.

It seemed bigger inside I think because of the horizontal layout of its instruments. There was a vertical center stack. A slot for the CD player sat above the radio and menu readout. The three-dialed climate control system was underneath and the shifter was housed below. The center console looked more like an armrest, but then again that’s what center consoles are pretty much used for.

The car had a black interior. The seats were cloth, the seating surfaces were embroidered with red piping, and I found the front seats quite spacious. Access through the back door to back seats was pretty easy for a small car, but head space was a bit crimped.

And cargo space was not bad, almost 28 cubic feet with the rear seats folded, which is just what I had to do to get in a vanity top that I had purchased. Still, it fit with room to spare.

 I had a bare-bones Mazda2. Except for the armrest, which was $170 and a rear bumper guard for $70, there were no options on my test vehicle. Still, in addition to the CD player with WP3 capability, there was a rear roof spoiler and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. The car was nicely equipped with standard stuff like air conditioning and power windows, locks and side view mirrors.

Mazda is asking $17,480 for the Mazda2, an all-weather workhorse that can get you where you want to go day in and day out.

Frank S. Washington is editor of AboutThatCar.com.

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