MONTREAL -- Mazda is expanding its model line and adding a subcompact -- the redesigned 2011 Mazda2.
The basics: The new Mazda2 is a five-door hatchback, the smallest and lowest-priced vehicle Mazda will sell in the United States. Sales begin in August.
The Mazda2 and the 2011 Ford Fiesta share vehicle architectures and a handful of parts sets: front and rear wheel bearings, front bumper strut mounts and the front sway bar and links. But everything else is unique to each vehicle, including the engine and transmission, Mazda says.
This is the third-generation Mazda2. The two previous generations were not sold in North America. After the U.S. launch this summer, the redesigned Mazda2 will go on sale in Europe, Asia and Japan.
Mazda expects subcompact sales in the United States to double in two years to 1 million annually. The segment includes vehicles such as the Honda Fit, Kia Soul, Mini, Nissan Versa, Scion tC and Toyota Yaris. Mazda expects most of the sales to be fueled by Generation Y, an estimated 73 million people between the ages of 16 and 32.
Additionally, “We expect that for 25 percent of our buyers, this will be their first new-car purchase,” said Robert Davis, senior vice president of product development and quality at Mazda North American Operations. A comfortable ride, good handling characteristics and a solid feel to the vehicle were priorities during development.
One noticeable difference between the Mazda2 and Fiesta is in horsepower and torque. Mazda's standard 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine has 100 hp and 98 pounds-feet of torque. The Fiesta has a 120-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine with 112 pounds-feet of torque.
While the amount of standard and safety equipment increased over the second-generation Mazda2, the automaker targeted a range of areas for weight reduction to enhance vehicle performance. The reductions were the result of the application of new materials and methods to make the body structure lighter and stronger, along with the reduction in weight of parts and assemblies.
For example, vehicle weight was reduced a combined 5.7 pounds through a redesign of the hood latch and hinges, door latches and regulator motors in the doors. A wider range of applications for ultrahigh-tensile-strength steel in the body shell cut vehicle weight 50 pounds. Some of the components in the suspension systems were replaced, resulting in a 28-pound weight savings.
In all, the company said, there was a 10 percent weight savings between the second and third generations of the Mazda2.
“We went through piece by piece and analyzed, detailed every gram we could shave off each piece,” product development engineer Dave Coleman said during a Mazda2 presentation.
Interior comfort was another area. The primary emphasis was on the front-row seats and, to a lesser extent, rear-passenger comfort. Studies found that the majority of subcompact-car buyers were single or married couples without children.
“Almost 85 percent of the time, they are the only person in the car,” said Chris Hill, a vehicle line manager at Mazda North American Operations.
Mazda's focus during development was on the driver and front-seat passenger -- “maximizing their experience in a subcompact car” rather than adding weight by increasing the wheelbase to boost rear legroom, for example, Hill said.