Mar 052012

Note: This review was originally published on September 24, 2010 on my original WordPress blog.

Back in early spring of 2002, while I was still in college, I test drove a Mazda Protégé ES. The idea was to determine if Mazda’s then-new “Zoom-Zoom” marketing campaign was really representative of the cars it was selling. The answer, I found, was a resounding yes. I had a blast in that car. It handled great, had decent pep, and gave you all sorts of stuff standard that the Civic only offered as options — alloy wheels, fog lamps, trunk spoiler, etc. It was a lot of car for the money and, fair or not, it became the benchmark by which I continue to judge every Mazda I drive.

Despite setting the bar high, Mazda has generally done a very good job of meeting or exceeding expectations, in my opinion. I have been very pleased with the 3, the 6 and the MX-5 and I was downright impressed with the MazdaSpeed 3 when it hit the streets.

But Mazda is entering new territory in the U.S. market with the introduction of its new entry-level 2 model. The car looks like a winner on paper — the price is very competitive, the value for the money is high, and the power and gas mileage specs are right in line with other cars in its class.  The question, though, is whether it can do all of those things and still keep the “Zoom-Zoom” spirit of those other Mazdas.

To find out, I tested a manual transmission example in base trim. As I discovered, the answer is not a clear-cut yes or no. Continue reading »