Overall, the Mazda2 is just more fun to drive and the ride is more comfortable. The Fiesta is available as a sedan or hatchback, while the Mazda2 can be had only as a hatchback.
Exterior & Interior
The inside is very nice, though spare. There are plenty of cupholders, the gauges are easy to read and the radio is easy to operate, but there's no "wow" gadget. Heck, the only way to hook your iPod to the stereo is through a headphone auxiliary jack.
In a way, I think that's good: There's too much going on in modern interiors that distracts from driving. But I also know I'm in the minority in liking a simple interior. Either way, I think Mazda deserves a star for not wrapping the dashboard/center stack area in some cheap, metal-finish plastic. The Mazda2's design is simple and clean.
Mileage, Safety & Reliability
As I've said, the Mazda2 is related to the Fiesta, but one area where there's a noticeable difference between the two is in the mileage department. Where the Mazda gets an estimated 27-29 mpg in the city and 33-35 mpg on the highway, the Fiesta gets 28-29 mpg city and 37-38 mpg highway (40 mpg in the fuel-saving SFE edition).
As a new model, the Mazda2 has not yet been crash-tested, nor is there sufficient data for reliability ratings.
Mazda2 in the Market
I've driven pretty much everything in the small-car field, and the Mazda2 is one I'd recommend any shopper take for a test drive. Its ride is the best in the category, yet it's still more fun to drive than many. If you're the type who likes something sporty, you'll like the Mazda2. If you want a car that won't beat you up -- you'll like the Mazda2.
I'd also recommend the manual transmission, even though I didn't dislike the automatic. I just think the manual is the icing on the cake when it comes to driving enjoyment.
Starting MSRP $14,370--$15,855
City: 28 -- 29
Highway: 34 -- 35
100-hp, 1.5-liter I-4 (regular gas)
4-speed automatic w/OD