Test vehicle’s MSRP: $16,820 (base Sport model starts at $15,325)

Seating Capacity: 4 occupants (2 adults front, 2 small kids rear)

Standard Safety Features: a tire pressure monitoring system; advanced front airbags; side air curtains; ABS with electronic brake distribution; stability control; traction control; side-impact door beams; and crushable brake pedal assembly

Touring Standard Equipment: 15-inch wheels; rear spoiler; tilt steering; cruise control with steering wheel mounted controls; a leather steering wheel; remote keyless entry; upgraded cloth seats; air condition with a pollen filter; floor mats; body color door handles; dual power mirrors; chrome tip exhaust system; split folding rear seats; a hidden cargo cover; fog lights; and lighted vanity mirrors.

Standard Audio: A 6-speaker AM/FM/CD with a MP3

Bumper-to-Bumper Warranty: 3 years or 36,000 miles

Powertrain Warranty: 5 years or 60,000 miles

Trim Levels: Sport, Touring

Bluetooth CompatibilityAvailable

MP3 Capability: Yes

Standard Engine/Horsepower: 1.5-liter, 4-cylinder/100-hp

Recommended Fuel: Regular

Standard Fuel Mileage: 29-city/35-hwy (manual) or 28-city/34-hwy (automatic)

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What’s New: This subcompact joined Mazda’s line up during the 2011 model year.  For the 2012 model year, this vehicle is basically a carryover.

Pros: The easy-to-maneuver, no frills Mazda2 is available with either a manual or an automatic transmission. And when equipped with a manual, this makes the Mazda2 one fun-to-drive subcompact. The Mazda2 expressive exterior styling wears a number of vibrant colors, making this vehicle a standout in a crowded parking lot.

Beyond the styling, Mazda has managed to equip this subcompact, which offers extremely roomy front seats, with the basic features at a starting price of $15,325. Some of the standard features one can expect at this price point are a manual transmission, cloth seats, power windows, power door locks, air condition and a 4-speaker AM/FM/CD audio system.

Now for those seeking a few more amenities, they can opt for the much-needed center front seat armrest, an auto dimming compass equipped rearview mirror, all-weather floor mats and a rear bumper guard.  

Cons:

In order to keep the price point affordable, Mazda literally had to cut a lot of fat out of the vehicle. Unlike most vehicles, the Mazda2 isn’t available with a satellite radio, a sunroof or a light for that matter.

And while we found the front seats to be quite roomy, don’t expect the same in the extremely cramped rear seating area. There is literally no legroom for the rear seat occupants. Also when the rear seat headrests are in use, the driver’s view is severely obstructed.

Moreover, we were expecting better gas mileage. While upwards of 35 miles per gallon on the highway was a respectable number, we were hoping that this little car would at least achieve closer to 40 miles per gallon on the highway.

The Verdict:

For a starting price of $15,325, the base Sport model offers the perfect mix of style, spunk and function. Even when one steps up to the Touring model, similar to the one we reviewed, buyers can still get a lot for under $17,000.

As long as buyers aren’t looking for the Mazda2 to be outfitted with the latest high-tech features or for this to be the main family vehicle (or to carry around four adults), it’s a worthy contender in the growing subcompact field. The Mazda2 could be an ideal vehicle too.. for first time buyers looking to get into an affordable brand-new vehicle.

Competition: Chevy Sonic, Ford Fiesta, Honda Fit and Toyota Yaris 

Jeff Fortson is an auto analyst and editor of a car-buying website for women and minorities. To learn more about his popular car-buying workshop and/or to price a new-vehicle, drive on over to www.JeffCars.com. Follow him on Twitter/JeffCars.