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First Drive: 2011 Mazda2

Getting out of the penalty box.

by on Aug.23, 2010

No penalty box this; the 2011 Mazda2.

Unless you’re talking about an exotic sports car, driving something small has typically been an act of endurance – repayment for bad karma, perhaps.  But there’s no reason a subcompact has to “feel  like a cheap penalty box,” insists Dave Coleman, the product development engineer behind the new 2011 Mazda2.

The 5-door hatchback is the Japanese maker’s latest-generation subcompact, and the first Mazda2 to make it to American shores.  A not-too-distant sibling of Ford’s new Fiesta, the Asian offering aims to tap into the growing demand for smaller, more affordable, more fuel-efficient vehicles.  And if our time behind the wheel is any indication, Mazda just might pull it off.

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In recent decades, Ford and Mazda have cooperated on a variety of vehicle programs, the Mazda2 just the latest.  But those who believe Fiesta and Mazda2 are effectively the same car are in for some surprises.  The two projects diverged early on, insists Coleman, who claims there are now only four parts shared between the two.