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The Mazda2 (or Mazda, space, 2; “Mazda Mazda2” if you’ve always got a nomenclature argument going on in your head) might not be the first car everyone thinks of when the topic is affordable sportiness, but it’s a great platform for accessible performance and a nice daily driver. My Mazda2 has been my faithful companion for over six years; the vast majority as a vessel for motorsports fun. A decent amount of other folks have had a similar experience, too, I swear.

I think it’s worthwhile to share how it all started – why I decided to go with the Mazda2 way back in Spring of 2014. How I got the inclination, how I instantly fell in love on the test drive, and why Mazda loyalty pricing kicks ass. Well, maybe I won’t go into detail about Mazda loyalty… all you really need to know is it kicks ass. I’ll also explain how it’s been reliability-wise; I’ve been blessed with a reliable platform that’s easy to do routine maintenance on.

A Mazda 2 duking it out with a Chevy Sonic at Road America, Summer 2016. – Image: Peter Nelson

Mazda’s brilliant marketing, as seen through the forums

Back in the turn of the 2010s, Mazda introduced the 2 as “Zoom Zoom Concentrated”. It was marketed as an affordable, fun-to-drive little hatchback, that was the purest form of the Zoom Zoom (read: “sporty”) mantra. This was primarily done in praxis by doing everything possible to make it as light as possible. Manual-equipped models got good gearing to make the most of the car’s 100 horsepower. It’s finished it off with some styling that stood out, but matched the rest of Mazda’s lineup well.

Mazda actually went to great lengths to capitalize on the 2’s cheap/fun appeal, especially on the racetrack.

Mazda teamed up with Honda, as well as the SCCA and NASA, to create the B-Spec racing class. This class was engineered from the beginning to be the ultimate form of reliable, affordable wheel-to-wheel racing at the club level, and in my opinion it still is. SCCA Pro Racing’s Pirelli World Challenge even integrated its own version, Touring Car B (TCB) into their classing, so as to make pro-level racing more accessible and affordable.

Though the racetrack wasn’t the only place where the Mazda2 would be destined to shine; SCCA Solo II autocross would also be its playground. Street Touring F was the perfect fit with some suspension, brake, and tire upgrades, and the Nats results proved this.

I learned all about the Mazda2 while being an active member of Mazdas247.com, back when forums were how car nerds primarily interacted with each other on the world-wide web. Aftermarket and motorsports developments, forum members’ experiences at autocross events, and owners’ early first impressions all piqued my interest. The 2 was simple, engineered for fun, and had all this motorsports potential going for it; music to my ears. Speaking of simple: because the Mazda2 is an econohatch in every sense of the word, it fit my budget quite well.

One of Mazda’s concepts for SEMA, The Mazda 2 Evil Track. – Image: Mazda (FavCars)

Deal of the century

Before I stepped into the dealership to have a look around, I had an automatic 2003 Mazda Protege ES in my stable. Looking back, it was a good car though negatively impacted by its four-speed automatic transmission. I bought it during my final spring semester at college in 2009, shortly after my 1990 VW Jetta 8v died; I needed something reliable and cheap, fast.

A few years later in spring of 2014, the Protege had accumulated some mileage, a decent amount of rust, and I was on the lookout for something more fun. I walked into Pugi Mazda in Downers Grove, Illinois, and went about perusing what they had in stock. I tested a used Mazda3 that felt quick, though was in way-too rough of shape for its advertised price. Naturally, 99 percent of the Mazda2s in-stock were automatics. Luckily, the dealer had one that was way in the back of the lot which had been special ordered by a customer.

They gleefully threw me the keys, and I took it for a spin. Right off the bat, the mighty little 2 jumped off the line more enthusiastically than the 3. It also had a slick gear change, and cornered well for something that wasn’t marketed as a hot hatch. I guess you could say it was a lukewarm hatch, considering all the Zoom Zoom marketing behind it.

Some mild negotiation, a stack of paperwork, and firm refusal of dealer add-ons later, and a 2 was reserved to me for just about $14,000 out the door. This is where Mazda loyalty kicked in; if I recall correctly, $1,000 was shed off because of it. A few days later, I picked up my 2014 Mazda2 Sport with around 30 miles on it.

Image: CaliPhotography

It’s done me proud, despite being somewhat orphaned

My, how short-yet-long six years has felt. After a bunch of autocross events, way-too-many track days, several suspension setups, many, many 200TW tires, and dozens of brake pads, my Mazda2 has served me well. The mighty deuce has never left me stranded and maintenance has been cheap, easy, and rare (by nature, not by nurture). It’s also taught me a lot about having fun behind the wheel on track. It’s actually been a great platform to learn with in general; never before had I done so many brake jobs or alignment tweaks.

There has been one bummer component to Mazda2 ownership: Aftermarket parts availability. Or rather, the lack thereof.

When the 2 hit U.S. shores, several Mazda-centric aftermarket companies were offering a myriad of products. Suspension, styling, mild power upgrades – there was a decent amount to choose from. Though, since not many people bought these lovable eggs, that quickly dried up. By the time I got into the game I bought a few things right away, out of fear of them soon becoming discontinued.

Unfortunately, any kind of forced induction was always a pipe dream (mild pun intended?), at least for those who didn’t have the tools or know-how to do it themselves. There was the coveted Knight Sports supercharger kit sold in Japan, but it was big bucks. I’ve always been jealous of Honda Fit owners who can buy a supercharger kit for significantly cheaper.

Finally, the racing potential went away. SCCA Solo II classing changed and stole the 2’s STF thunder, and Pirelli World Challenge dropped the TCB class in 2018. However, at the club level, B-Spec has actually experienced a good amount of re-growth thanks to efforts by some hard-working individuals who race them. In a lot of regions of the country, B-Spec car-counts are increasing.

Despite all this, the 2 is still a great car, and I’m quite proud to have pedaled it around for so long. It’s amazing how far 100 horsepower has taken me. It’s taught me a lot, and served as fodder for countless writing pieces -including this one, and more to come! There’s still enough in the aftermarket to warrant keeping it around – thanks in part to it being the the Ford Fiesta’s step-sibling.

This dumb car makes so much sense financially to keep around. It’s cheap, tough, fun, and not at all fast; three out of four ain’t bad.

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