By on September 27, 2011

I have a confession to make: I am experiencing a struggle in my life. Normally, when middle-aged male church musicians say that, they mean they are secretly thinking about visiting a San Francisco bath house and rocking out with certain appendages fully visible. In my case, however, the desire to squeeze myself into something young, tight, and not quite masculine is entirely automotive. I’m talking about the Mazda2, of course.

The Mazda2 holds a title that’s important to me personally, even if it doesn’t exactly cause examples of the model to depart dealership lots with a Saturn V’s worth of force: it’s the lightest, simplest four-passenger small car money can buy. The MINI, Fiesta, and Sonic all outweigh it by a Roseanne Barr or more. Even the new Accent and FIAT 500 can’t quite match it. Hilariously, even the Miata outweighs the 2.

To help shove the littlest Mazda off the floorplans, Mazda is currently offering 0% financing. For five years. That’s right: if you can pay your own sales tax up front, it’s possible to have a new 2 for $233.38 a month. Is it worth doing?

We’ll start with some personal numbers. In the past year, I drove about 56,000 miles that I can document. 41,000 miles of that was in my 2009 Town Car. About 7,000 of it was in my Porsches. The rest was done in rentals. I understand that this kind of mileage is almost impossible to believe, but my daily commute and lunch trips alone account for 103 miles a day.

It occurred to me that I might possibly be able to justify part, or all, of a Mazda2 purchase based on fuel savings alone. Let’s say that I will drive 41,000 miles in the Townie again this year. I’m averaging 22.5 mpg over a variety of driving conditions. That is 1,822 gallons. If fuel averages $3.75, that’s $6,832.50, or $569.35 a month.

I should be able to average 35mpg in the Mazda2 during my commute. I came up with this number by carefully studying a number of well-documented metrics, multiplying by fuel specific weight and volume on seasonally-adjusted conditions, performing differential analysis on certain aspects of combustion-chamber swirl, and then pretty much figuring I could match the EPA highway rating. Replacing the Townie with the Mazda2 entirely would lower my fuel usage by 650 gallons per year. That’s a $2,439 savings, or $203 a month.

Those numbers look encouraging, don’t they? In the real world, however, the Town Car can do things the 2 can’t. It can carry five human beings without causing a fistfight or an incident of frottage, or both. It carries more in the trunk than the 2 does with the seats down, assuming you measure in full-sized Gibson Firebird guitar cases, which don’t fit in a 2 at all. It is invisible to law enforcement officials and it’s easy to drive downtown because I can park it by touch, as they say. (Said method is particularly amusing when, as occasionally happens, the cars ahead of and behind me are both late-model S-Class Benzos.) Most importantly, in bad weather it provides a nice solid ring of steel around my irreplaceable child. So the Town Car can go nowhere.

Nor would I expect the 2 to have the durability of a Panther. If I get fewer than 300,000 miles out of my Signature Limited it will be my own fault. Hell, at 64,000 miles it is still on the original brake pads. We all know that the Town Car will still be pimping when the Mazda2 has been recycled to China.

So the 2 can’t be my only daily driver, but it could be an additional one. I could split the mileage, which would still save me about $100 a month in fuel. Insurance for the 2 should be in the $40/month range, so I would have to come up with an extra $190 a month to have it.

Some of you will have already departed the article to comment about how one should always pay cash for cars, and the millionaire next door, and Dave Ramsey’s Financial Bondage, and so on. I’m not listening. If I had $14,000 just sitting around, I would buy two solid Les Paul reissues and a MESA/Boogie amp to sit with the fourteen LPs and two Boogies I already own. It’s bad enough that I don’t owe any money on my Porkers. I should probably take out some kind of equity loan on them and buy GM stock with it. Anyway. Although the zero-percent money represents a hidden incentive from Mazda, it ain’t like I could take the two grand in cash as an alternative or anything like that. Zero percent or nothing; that’s the deal.

Benefits of adding a Mazda2 to the “fleet”:

  • looks cute
  • amusing way to get around town
  • reduced wear and tear on the TC
  • if V. McB departs in a hurry for some reason, could use Mazda2 on first dates with women so I don’t look like an AARP member or Kevin Kline in “The Big Chill”, which are my current options
  • if I forget to sell it, could be first car for child

Disadvantages:

  • the aforementioned $190 a month, which is a nontrivial amount of money in this economy
  • represents seventh car in two-car garage/driveway combo
  • does not tow race car, which will annoy me during race season
  • somebody from some forum somewhere will see me driving it and post a thread entitled “Baruth is poor now LOLZ”. Actually, move this bullet point up to the list above.
  • will spend the next ten years explaining to people that it doesn’t have SKYACTIV, isn’t a hybrid, and can’t be plugged into a wall

Incentives expire September 30. My Mazda2 of choice is a five-speed “Touring” model in Projectile Bile Green. B&B — what say you?

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126 Comments on “Ask The Best & Brightest: Why Not Buy the $250/Month Mazda?...”


  • avatar
    Mark MacInnis

    If ya buy it, JaBes….how ’bout you put a big mirror on the front wall of your garage so’s you can get the full impact of the goofy-azz Pokemon grin on that thing’s kisser each time you depart or arrive home….

    That deranged grin alone makes me say THEY’D HAVE TO PAY ME the $250 per month to entice me to drive it….

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    your analysis does not include insurance costs, maintenance costs (and out-of-warranty repair costs) a place to park it, and your case for buying it lacks a firm purpose or need. IF you want something small, light, and simple to pimp around town in, buy a golf cart.

  • avatar
    mjz

    I was going to tell you NOT to get that green color (Spirited Green Metallic), but then I think I recall an article about you selling your Audi S5 that you had SPECIAL ORDERED in that same yucky green color. Oh well, to each his own. Mazda2 seems like a great deal though.

  • avatar
    Philosophil

    Geez, Jack. This is a tough one.

    It sounds to me like you want it, but don’t really need it, and that part of the reason you want it is because it’s such a good deal. It reminds me of some people I know who want to buy something because it’s on sale.
    “But we don’t need it!”
    “But it’s such a good deal..” and so on.

    Honestly, if you really want it (and can afford it without too much stress), then get it. If you’ll be stressing yourself (e.g., stretching your finances, etc.), then you probably don’t need the hassle of another car.

  • avatar
    sfbiker

    I say, do it. It’s a grocery-getter, a commuter, a car designed to be expendable. If it lives past the point when you’re done paying for it, turn it into a LeMons car, and paint it to look like Heath Ledger’s “Joker”, complete with psychotic grin. WHY. . . SO . . . SERIOUSSSSSS???!!!

  • avatar
    Russycle

    I like the 2, but your benefits list isn’t very compelling. You don’t need it in the short term, and in the long term you’ll wish you waited for the Skyactiv motor. I’d pass, but I’m sure you’d have no problem modding the motor for some extra HP down the road. With 6 rigs in the driveway already, I’d still pass. But do mention it to your neighbors, just to see their reaction.

  • avatar
    Advo

    Commuting is not fun for me. If it helps make it fun, then it’s a major consideration since so much time is spent commuting.

    Something to consider is a ring of steel around said irreplaceable child’s father. Don’t want to see a child killed nor parentless.

    I can’t really remember who wrote it, or what exactly it was written about, but I vaguely recall something about if one is added, one already owned goes. Maybe that’s my subconscious telling me how to simplify my life: or at least that I need to stop adding to the clutter.

  • avatar
    imag

    The Mazda 2 is great. I’m thinking of getting one myself when I return from London. Do it.

    But your cute bit about parking by touch had better be a troll. That’s a dick move and you know it. It’s amazing that you can go on and on about how other people can’t drive, but you can’t be bothered to know where the ends of your car are.

    • 0 avatar
      slow kills

      bumpers are for bumping

    • 0 avatar
      FuzzyPlushroom

      Even in my wretched Bush-I-era Volvos, I won’t park by Braille out of respect for other cars. However, if someone double-parks their shiny compensationmobile at the supermarket, I will fold in my side mirror and wedge my scratched-up bicoloured station wagon two inches from their driver’s door. Seems only fair.

    • 0 avatar
      stuki

      What’s wrong with parking by touch, especially as long as all involved have compatible height bumpers? Be careful if what you’re backing up to is a low nosed Ferrari; or worse, a motorbike, but an S-Benz? Just have some feel and don’t overdo it momentum wise.

      • 0 avatar
        imag

        Admitting one can’t park on a car site is as surprising to me as someone (especially Jack) saying he didn’t know how to use a clutch. It says you don’t know where your own vehicle is, and it says you couldn’t give a crap about anyone else’s vehicle either. In fact, he seems to derive glee in bouncing off someone else’s more expensive car.

        Modern car bumpers are generally painted; driving into them scuffs them and/or scratches them, especially when the license plate screws dig in, directly costing the owner money on resale (ask me how I know). If you do it because you can’t drive, that’s just sad. If you do it because you don’t care, it says you’re a douche.

        To your point, there is no reasonable speed to casually run multi-ton vehicles into each other when the mating surfaces are expensively painted plastic. Why you (or Jack) think that is acceptable is beyond me.

  • avatar

    Ok, I’m confused. My previous car, a 2003 Toyota Matrix base, 5 speed, got 30 mpg in town, 36 hwy. This is a larger car than the 2, but why then does the 2 get estimated 27 city, 33 hwy? Even my current car, a 2003 Matrix XRS automatic, gets 26 in town (but no more than 28 hwy).

    (It’s not that I’m a Matrix fanboy — it is just the form factor I need right now, and I’d still drive the 5-speed one if it weren’t for that pesky accident.)

  • avatar
    bodegabob

    I almost bought a 2 myself. When the negotiations got down to the nitty-gritty I found I could either get a 2 with some “luxuries” I didn’t really value or a 3 with everything I needed for the same price. I took the 3. Still, the 2 is a fun, sprightly little car that appeals to my minimalist aesthetic.

    And the 2 I was considering was green with white aluminum wheels. I am secure in my masculinity.

  • avatar
    carguy

    Jack, my advice would be to forget the MESA and get an Atomic amp and an Axe-Fx. Way more flexibility than what you have now.

    As for the car, I’m not sure the Mazda2 is equipped for longer journeys and is probably only practical as a urban commuter car. Chances are it would drive you nuts on longer journeys.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I have four Godin synth guitars (two LGX-SAs and two LGXTs) and the Roland GR-20, plus a spare Roland module mounted on an ES-339. I have a few options for nontraditional sounds, but unless I’m playing in a situation where I need to sound like Pat Metheny, a piano player, or a drum kit, I leave it at the house :) Will check out the Atomic amps!

    • 0 avatar
      H Man

      I think Jack needs a few Bad Cat amps. Seems fitting. And the eyes light up.

    • 0 avatar
      H Man

      I think Jack needs a few Bad Cat amps. Seems fitting. And the eyes light up. I used a 5 watt Mini Cat in my kitchen a few years ago with 2 mics on it and it sounded Panther sized.

  • avatar
    MarkP

    Gas is pretty cheap right now, but what about in a year or two? It’s not really fair to base the decision on hunches about projected fuel cost, but short of another really bad recession (I mean on top of the one we have right now), there is not much reason to expect gas to go anywhere but up on average.

  • avatar
    honfatboy

    The old adage I heard was:

    Do you need it?
    Do you love it?
    Is it a good deal?

    If you can answer “yes” to two of the three questions, you’ll never regret a purchase.

  • avatar
    shappy

    We have a Mazda2 in our long-term fleet. Read about it here before making any final decisions: http://blogs.insideline.com/roadtests/Vehicles/2011-mazda-2-touring/

  • avatar
    highrpm

    Don’t do it. Like others have already said, you aren’t really saving money here when you factor in registration, insurance, additional maintenance costs, etc.

    If you didn’t already own two fun cars, I’d say that maybe this car would do it for you. But it’s not very fast or very sporty. Yes it is a good runabout, but why bother when you aren’t saving money in the end.

    I drive a bigger vehicle as my daily driver. Every time I consider the possibility of getting a used Civic or something in order to split the driving, my numbers never work out when I factor in the added insurance, repairs, etc. And this is for a USED car…

  • avatar
    ComfortablyNumb

    Sajeev would probably tell you to buy another Panther.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    Can’t really fault your logic,but in general you don’t fall into the expected customer group at all. Neither do I, but if I were looking for a brand new reliable car, and I didn’t have anyone else regularly occupying the passenger spaces it would be far up on my list. I love the ‘lightweightness’, and the Lightning McQueen grille. I just understand why someone would pay as much for a brand new tiny car as they could pay for a slightly used luxury or sports car.(Or just any average used ‘normal’ car.)
    PS: I the TC people actually have space for a fist fight, if you put 5 adults in a Mazda 2 they probably would not be able to move their arms at all ;))

  • avatar
    jpcavanaugh

    I own an 07 Honda Fit Sport and a newly deceased 99 Town & Country. While the T&C is no Town Car, it was a very quiet and comfy highway cruiser. The Fit is not.
    A little, zippy car like the Fit (or the 2) is fun for errand-running and all-around city/suburban use. Until you get tired and cranky. Then bad pavement will not help your mood.
    The Chrysler became my default day-to-day car, which worked out fine, because my wife preferred the Honda.

    The point of all this is that the idea of a 2 (zippy, zingy fun and fantastic gas mileage) may not live up to the reality of a 2 (suffering mileage during spirited driving, intolerance for rough pavement, and seats that are nowhere near as comfy as your Townie).

    To conclude, this may be a better idea now than it will be in a year. But hey – the deal is good, and used car prices are really strong, so you can’t get hurt too badly if it doesn’t work out.

    • 0 avatar
      Japanese Buick

      This. If you are used to a comfortable, quiet, roomy car, you’ll find daily life with a little buzzbomb intolerable once the novelty wears off.

      I know. my primary driver is an LS400 but I also have a Miata. I love driving the Miata under the right conditions but as a long term daily driver it would be torture. I don’t drive as much as Jack but I do average about 2 hours a day in my car during the week, and a nontrivial amount of stop and roll highway traffic.

      I only drive the Miata when the weather is nice (plus once in a while in the winter to keep the engine running) and I know it won’t be a long day in the car. The 2 could be good for that, but you have Porsches for that so I’m not sure the 2 adds much.

    • 0 avatar

      But this works for just about anything, not just Panther or T+C. I loved driving these compacts until I got a jeep (although I was never licensed by SCCA or whatever). Now, every time I get into one, they are tinny. I had a rental Sentra with a very impressive powertrain a couple of weeks ago. I played with it for a couple of hours and then could not wait to get back into jeep for the rest of the trip. Same with Fiesta. There’s just no going back.

  • avatar
    stryker1

    Pass. The point of such a car, by my reckoning, is to have a “just right” vehicle for someone who mostly drives alone, and is not hung up on horse-power. The small hatchback is ideal in this case because it retains a fair amount of utility, without wasting alot of space, gas, or money on the MSRP. The Joy of such a car is in knowing you’re driving exactly the right amount of car that you require, and no more, and you’re not paying for alot of space and toys you don’t need.

    I don’t see the point of driving such a car in addition to a fleet of other cars.

  • avatar
    Nostrathomas

    I’m glad I’m not the only one who really loves this thing. Small, basic, cheap and fun? Sounds good to me.

    Also love the green. Anything else would make it an appliance. The green gives it zip!

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    “Frottage”

    Very clever little reference there, if it means what I’m thinking I remember it means.

    When in doubt, go with your gut. I’d probably go for the car since I kind of like goofy little hatchbacks. I saw the first one the other day and didn’t mind it at all. :)

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    First let me say thanks for making me throw up in my mouth a little bit with the opening paragraph – I never know what to expect on this site which is one of the reasons it rocks.

    I have two main concerns with the 2: first is that it won’t be nearly as quiet, comfortable, and isolating as the Town Car. This may not be an issue if you drove 10k miles per year but I suspect you’ll be looking for reasons to get back in the TC for anything longer than a trip to the grocery store.

    Second is that the 2 isn’t exactly a chick magnet…unless of course you are hoping to pick up Suze Orman. If attractiveness to the opposite sex factors into the equation than the Fiat is the only way to go.

  • avatar
    Feds

    After 8 years and 145k miles with a Protege5 (and 0.00 hours/miles in a Mazda2), I see 2 more points to consider:

    Mazdas will annoy you on the highway. Want 75 mph? Dial up 4500 RPM. Not that I’ve had any powertrain related issues/failures. I’m just bothered knowing that the engine could easily be spinning 2000 fewer RPM, and I’m paying a reasonable fuel economy price for the sake of saving a downshift or two.

    You’re going to want new tires. I went from the stockers to a “max performance summer” (which killed the ride and made lots of noise, but reduced the understeer, which was totally worth it) to a “max performance all season” (which fixed the ride and dropped the dB to acceptable levels at the expense of a damped turn in response).

    On the guitar front: You now have an excuse to spend a whole bunch more money on fancy roof racks (Toolie, NOT THOOLE)and unstealable cases. That, on its own, is a good enough reason to buy one.

  • avatar

    The Mazda2 has a fantastic chassis, a great driving position and a feeble engine that’d make the straight-line performance of a Hillman Minx look like that of a Bugatti Veyron. Fun car though: a modern 323.

    Oh hey, I just found a BPT-swapped GTX on craigslist. Buy that instead.

    • 0 avatar
      wmba

      Uh, bad simile for those of us who have driven a Hillman Minx. The Mazda 2 is a limousine compared to a Hillman – its progress was measured in furlongs per fortnight when you were in a hurry. Lazing about, we just used to take the bus instead.

  • avatar
    jmo

    Nor would I expect the 2 to have the durability of a Panther. If I get fewer than 300,000 miles out of my Signature Limited it will be my own fault.

    Wouldn’t almost any new modern car last 6 years even if it was driven 50k a year? Now, would any new modern car last 15 years @ 20k a year – that I’m not sure of at all.

  • avatar
    Caraholica

    Well Jack, you are pretty much the last guy I would expect to indulge in this mental exercise, which I do daily BTW, so I would endorse the one factor others have brought up here.

    Imagine its 4 am and you are leaving the house with the normal amount of too many miles to cover that day. As you semi-cheerfully survey your personal automotive landscape for the choices you have that morning, how many times do you think that the M-2 is going to come up the winner? I’m thinking not too many, when its sitting next to a 22.5 mpg Panther, here’s a preview of what you will be thinking; “Hey- the Town Car mileage is pretty good and its just for today, and man I do love that front seat. You know I’m a big guy and I work hard at this, I am into cars after all, they matter to me you know? just the way some people go on about wine-I do that with cars, shouldn’t i be able to drive something I feel good in?”

    And then it will go “Maybe tomorrow for that Mazda 2- you know it didnt seem that funny looking when I bought it, what was I thinking?”

    Dont ask me how I know this. Boot up some new floormats and wiper blades and keep that Town Car rolling into the sunset with a smile on your face.

    • 0 avatar
      dvp cars

      ……right on…..often replicates my dilemma when facing an 800 mile round trip. My current fleet, much downsized and reflecting economic realities, consists of an 04 Volvo 2.5T AWD Wagon, a 97 Sierra V6 P/U, an 01 Z-24 coupe, a 98 BMW 323is coupe,a 1958 Chrysler 300D (fuhgetabout it), a 64…(no, that one’s a secret) and an 02 Park Av with 150k miles………..you don’t have to guess which one almost always gets the nod….the Bimmer is amazing on gas, and gets an occasional workout, but 30 mpg and comfortable “office” seating make the big B a consistent choice.

      • 0 avatar
        Joshua Johnson

        Here, here. I purchased a 01 Park Ave Ultra after I started accumulating too many miles on my Jag S-Type R. High on my list of priorities, besides some semblance of power, was a quiet interior and comfortable seating. Getting a steady 30 mpg on the highway makes me wonder why anyone would by an econobox that gets a measly 3-5 mpg better, but forces one to suffer through the hell of high strung engines and crappy seats.

    • 0 avatar
      tankinbeans

      @Joshua Johnson

      Perhaps I’m missing your point, but I think the reason why people would choose an “econobox” would be for the better city mileage. I know that when you’re sitting you’re getting 0mpg, but with a smaller engine and fewer cylinders firing you’ll get 0mpg out of a lower volume of gas.

      Highway mileage is great, but mileage in the city kills any gains on the freeway, unless you drive like Ms Daisy.

      • 0 avatar
        Joshua Johnson

        In all honesty, I know that it comes down to personal preferences, objective and subjective. I do a lot of highway miles would personally, rather sit in a comfortable and quiet chamber and get fewer mpgs (city) than sitting in a 4 banger that isn’t nearly as comfortable.

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        I understand what you mean and completely agree that tastes/preferences will be different. For me, I’ve driven a couple V6s and many I4s and honestly have trouble telling the difference most of the time, an I4 is just fine. My car is big enough for me, and more than powerful enough. At 70 mph it’s only spinning 2500 rpm, which for me is reasonable.

        I drove mostly in the ‘burbs so the extra mileage in the city is nice, but to each his own. Far be it for me to tell you what to drive. :D

      • 0 avatar
        Joshua Johnson

        Believe me, as a finance geek I had a hard time rationalizing not buying a cheaper to operate auto for commuting. But after becoming accustomed to quietness and effortless power, its extremely hard to go back. I spent a week in my brother’s Mazda 3 for a road trip before I bought the Buick. Nice little car and does its job admirably; it just wasn’t for me.

        Echoing your sentiment, whatever floats your boat. My original comment was more in jest than anything :) (the downside to electronic communications)

        Now how about those solo F-150/Silverado drivers (I kid!)

  • avatar
    jastereo

    I’d call it a toss-up but I agree with JapeneseBuick up there, I think you’d get tired of the smallness/buzziness after a while. No Porsche-ness to make the smallness & tossability worth it to you for the long haul.

    Also – I think you meant William Hurt in the Big Chill (he was the “yankee drug dealer” in the 911 Targa.)

    In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a joke to be made here about yourself, Porsche drivers in general, and the fact that Hurt’s character was somewhat incapacitated in the lovemaking department due to a war injury or something… I just can’t seem to find it, so I’ll leave it at that.

  • avatar
    benzaholic

    Can’t believe nobody called you on the Big Chill reference. The Porsche driver with the “special” parts box taped underneath was played by William Hurt, not Kevin Kline.

    One should be clear about their aspirations.

    [Edit: Missed the callout by that much.]

  • avatar
    JuniorMint

    Get iiiiiiiiiit, go-kart passenger cars are highly underrated

    And as has been stated, gas is only going up from here.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    I think you’re way off base. If you want an in-town runabout, why not get an ’05 Scion xA for about half that much? Insurance will be cheaper, and you can bang around town without worrying about every little nick.

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    No. Buy a scooter.

  • avatar
    Prado

    Go for it! The real savings isn’t only in the gas you will save. It is in postponing the purchase of your NEXT automotive object of desire, which will most likely cost alot more than a Mazda2. If it can keep you entertained for a couple years or so, consider it money well spent.

  • avatar
    phreshone

    Unfortunately neither the Ford Focus or Fiesta (both 40mpg +5mpg on the mazda) have the 0% financing on 2011’s, but you can get the Fusion with 0% financing (ford will even let you finance the sales tax) — you’ll get 33 mpg, and you’ll be able to carry your equipment—- if that doesn’t work for you, then its something you don’t really need…

  • avatar

    Wait.

    I like your idea of a higher-mpg slot in the stable.

    +& To that end goal, if you buy this one, you’ll curse yourself for not just waiting for SKYACTIV to come out.
    (unless they all turn out to be unreliable little grenades)

    .
    +As anyone who skims through the specials knows,

    a certain bit after they end 1 promotional deal,

    they just start another one.

    .
    Given: The next, SKYACTIV-equipped 2 will not look any better than the current 2.

    Therefore: It won’t sell well,
    Then: They will just start another special on it at some point, either @, or 3+ months after launch.

  • avatar
    redliner

    “the desire to squeeze myself into something young, tight, and not quite masculine…”

    I see what you did there.

  • avatar
    highrpm

    OK, another idea. What about spending a lot less money and picking up a motorcycle?

    Bikes usually get great fuel economy. The riding experience will be completely different than anything you currently own. You can buy a fast one if you want, and it’s a buyer’s market right now.

    I never saw mention of bikes in your articles so this may be a moot point…

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I’ve broken my legs, my ribs, my wrists, my elbows, and my neck. I no longer ride street motorcycles because even a minor crash will be economically and personally devastating. It’s one thing for me to re-paralyze myself racing for a plastic trophy; another to do it picking up adult DVDs in a Gixxer Thou. :)

  • avatar
    gessvt

    As a broke college student, I drove an assortment of little 4 cyl FWD cars out of necessity. Fine. Years later, I traded an aging 9-5 Aero for a new 2006 Cobalt SS and almost immediately regretted the decision.

    Repeat after me: Life is too short to drive FWD sh*tboxes.

  • avatar
    dingram01

    My god. The church player wants to get played? Don’t do it Jack! You’ve touched on insurance costs, but you’re forgetting taxes too. If Ohio’s like Connecticut where I live, wouldn’t you have to pay a tax each month on top of your monthly payment? Property taxes? And then that depreciation, along with the fact YOU’RE. GOING. TO. HATE. THAT. CAR after about two weeks.

    The super-duper deal ends at the end of the month? So what? The exact same deal will only return next month.

    Now…while of the subject of financial rationality, better sell off those excess guitars (say, all but three or four) and amps while you can actually convince people to pay the insane prices they’re getting these days. I sincerely hope you didn’t pay those sorts of prices yourself. In a few more years, when things like electricity and shelter are solely the domain of the very rich, them Les Pauls are gonna bring about $100 each.

    In the early 80s, when I was 14 or so, in the anti-guitar synthpop years, I remember the store had a LP Custom sitting under glass for I think $350 or so. Serious money then, but nothing like the insanity of now. At the time, seemed nobody wanted them. Wish I’d bought every one I could get my hands on!

  • avatar
    NN

    it’s your money, not mine. BUY IT. At least for the sake of Mazda, they need your business, and I’d like them to stay in business. Plus, it’s probably the most simple and straightforward car on the market today, which you’d probably enjoy.

  • avatar
    zznalg

    How about a Golf TDI? That way, though you’ll pay more up front you’ll get 45-52 or so on the highway and enjoy driving it at those speeds. Plus you and your child will be safer in it. And you could fit the guitars.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Go for it, Gore would love you for helping the environment.

  • avatar
    DDayJ

    Just out of curiousity, what are the other two cars that make up the six? I remember three Porsches and the T/C right?

  • avatar
    N8iveVA

    San Fransisco bath houses and frottage in the same article. Whoo hoo, this is a good day.

    and it doesn’t sound like you really need the 2, so skip it. Although i love that green too.

  • avatar
    pharmer

    Don’t do it. Talk Murilee out of that old Civic instead.

  • avatar

    Are you really going to climb out of a Mazda2 while clad in Kiton?

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    To me there are only two questions that need answering:

    1. Can you comfortably afford it? Seems like between the savings in gas and the super cheap financing the answer to that is yes.

    2. Do you want it? Sounds like the answer to that is yes as well.

    Heck, I am being tempted by the super cheap lease rates on FIAT 500s, and I JUST took delivery of a (not leased) BMW 328i Wagon. Do I NEED a FIAT 500 – oh Hell no! But I want one, and I can afford it, so I might just do it completely for the hell of it.

    But I have to say that Jack you baffle me. How can anyone who is a serial and multiple Porsche driver, semi-pro racing driver, and former owner of several of the best German sedans STAND to “drive” a bloody Town Car. OK, I get it, they are reliable, and they are cheap, and they are pretty quiet. But they are just so God-awful to “drive”. And I say “drive” because all you really do is kind of point them in the right direction. You do live in a fly-over state so I guess most of the roads are pretty boring, but seriously? That last bit is tongue-in-cheek, I know some fun roads in Ohio.

    The only way I would have a Town Car is if I could comfortably afford the driver to sit up front and let me lounge in the back!

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      About ninety minutes of my day is spent just pointing a car in the general direction of work or home. I have to be on the phone working or making appointments for virtually all of that time, and usually I’m also sneaking in a meal, too. The Town Car rides smoothly enough that I can literally pour myself a (non-alcoholic) drink from a bottle into an open cup on the move.

      The modern TC isn’t as lousy a steer as you might think. It will easily double most posted offramp limits, even in the wet. The freeway on-ramp from my current day job is a marked 25. The Townie can approach at 56 off the brakes and exit at 73. I’ve certainly never held anyone up on the public roads in this thing unless I was deliberately trying to do so :)

      Best of all, I have about zero impulse to do anything above 85 in the car. It’s good for my license, it saves me drama.

  • avatar
    Byron Hurd

    You know of my love for most things Mazda, Baruth, and even I would be hesitant to push you toward the 2. Have they perhaps added Bluetooth at some trim level with the 2012 model? That would be enough to sway me in the positive direction.

    But seriously, in a country where every major city prohibits handheld phone use, why on Earth would you sell a commuter car without some sort of hands-free option from the factory? Even Scion’s laughable afterthought would be an improvement.

    • 0 avatar
      srogers

      Buy an aftermarket bluetooth speakerphone for $50 and who cares. I shake my head at the features that some consider deal breakers.

      • 0 avatar
        Japanese Buick

        @srogers, I use an aftermarket bluetooth speakerphone in my LS400 (since it’s a 98 there is no built in bluetooth) and I’ll tell you why it’s a deal breaker with a new car.

        First of all, the aftermarket speakerphone needs to be kept charged. That’s a separate task to remember and keep up with since it’s not wired into the car.

        Further, the sound and microphone quality is far inferior to installed.

        But the biggest reason is one that doesn’t become apparent until you’ve used one for while. It not being wired into the car causes some interesting disadvantages. The main one is that does not turn off when you turn off the car. This may not seem that bad but there are two major side effects of this:

        1. The battery drains when not in use
        2. The thing doesn’t let go of your phone until you get far away. This may seem like a minor thing but it’s not. It’s really annoying to have my phone ring, answer it and no one is there and then I realize it’s because the aftermarket bluetooth speaker phone which is in my car that’s nearby, still has control of the phone, so the caller is saying “hello? hello?” over the speakerphone to the empty cabin of my car. This has happened at home with the car in the driveway, or at a business I’m shopping or eating at if I happened to get a good parking space and my car is right out front. It’s not a rare occurance and is a significant unexpected downside of using a non-installed bluetooth speakerphone.

        I can live with these annoyances in my 13 year old car, but if I’m buying a new car I’m not putting up with them.

      • 0 avatar
        Byron Hurd

        @srogers:

        If this were a sports car or even a sporty car, it wouldn’t be a deal-breaking omission. However, we’re talking about a car whose mission first and foremost is to be a convenient, practical appliance. The lack of an almost universal convenience feature is notable in that context, especially when Ford’s rival on the same exact platform is a fantastic example of modern connectivity.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Not to mention, for under $200 you can buy car stereos with built-in bluetooth if its THAT big a deal to you. For $150 Parrot make a wired up built in as well. Or buy a solar-powered aftermarket bluetooth speaker… no charging needed. Or use a simple bluetooth headset that you dont forget to charge because its with you, just like the cell phone you also need to charge.

        I am with @srogers, some people’s “deal-breakers” are laughable.

    • 0 avatar
      Byron Hurd

      And I find the use of the term “deal-breakers” by you guys to be laughable. There’s a Fiesta across the street for a few hundred bucks more that has the options I want, so why shouldn’t I buy it instead and skip the headache of aftermarket equipment?

      You guys act as if I’m saying I’d throw my hands up in the air and storm off, abandoning the entire purchase process because the car doesn’t have what I want. It’s a competitive market. The fact that I own three Mazdas doesn’t compel me to buy a fourth just on principle.

      Feel free to make a case for the 2 if you want, but attacking a legitimate criticism isn’t going to convince anybody.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        No 0% financing on the Fiesta, thats why… and you were the one who made a bluetooth speakerphone the primary reason in your post to recommend against this car. Thats why I used the term “dealbreaker”, as in you wouldnt consider this car if it didnt have a bluetooth connectivity option.

        But you do raise a better point, I was not aware that the 2 cost pretty much the same as the Fiesta. A quick look at the web site shows the 2 Touring costs about $16k, which even at 0% financing is closer to $270 a month, since rebates do not apply. There isnt much markup on them either, so even though its cheap, its not AS cheap as I thought.

  • avatar
    Dipstick

    Go for it and I tell you why.
    It appears your previous choices (ford’s town ‘n country and porches?) had nothing to do with reasons related to driving dynamics or expenses so you should stop bringing those up as arguments. It appears you make your picks based solely on perceived self image. For example you may say: I have to drive porches because I review cars and I am a cool guy but I will drive a ford ironically – that could be cool too. Maybe lately you were in Europe and now you think you would look cool in a small simple hatch. In US?Yeah… why not?

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      I bought all my “porches” before I entered the business. My newest Porker is a 2004. I’ve been writing about cars since 2007.

      I don’t drive the Town Car “ironically”. As a matter of fact, I don’t do much “ironically”. What you see is what you get. If I say I’m interested in something, or excited about something, I mean what I say and I don’t care if it doesn’t meet your standards. Irony is a defense used by people who aren’t confident in their choices.

      Thanks for the comment, though!

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        Irony is the wrong word, but you definitely live with very little regard for popular opinion and seem to pride yourself on your uniqueness.

      • 0 avatar
        Dipstick

        I believe you when you say you are “interested and excited in something” – in this case the Mazda 2. I find it hard to buy into the arguments of financing and driving dynamics as reasons to buy the Mazda 2 as your previous automotive choices contradict them both.
        My point is that the excitement sometimes has nothing to do with the 0% financing and a lot to do with what you so wonderfully put it: “wanting to squeeze myself into something young, tight, and not quite masculine”

      • 0 avatar
        blau

        I keep trying to explain this to the ironic mustache-wearers that I know: that they’d be happier if they admitted that they just like how they look with a mustache.

    • 0 avatar
      JuniperBug

      Have you read any of Jack’s stuff? Did you miss the part that just about everything – including a VW Phaeton or two – that he owns, gets caned at the track? Or the fact that the guy covers over 50k miles per year? Hmm… maybe long distance driving favours cheap, reliable luxo-barges and track driving favours German sports cars, eh?

      It sounds like you’re talking out of your ass on this one.

      BTW: Porsches, not porches. The difference in driving dynamics between the two is not trivial, and your ignorance of the difference highlights my assessment above. ;)

    • 0 avatar

      So if Jack drives a Ford ironically, does Sajeev drive Fords sarcastically?

  • avatar
    ajla

    Of course, you could always sell a Boxster, forget about the Mazda, and purchase a Chevy Volt.

  • avatar
    philadlj

    My Civic’s radiator blew last week, and whenever I have to write another check for repairs on the old girl, I always mosey over to the car configurators. This car is probably the closest thing to my Civic, but I promised myself my next car would have a sunroof. The 2 doesn’t even offer one, nor does the CR-Z. If I wanted one in a Sonic, I’ll be paying more than $20K. With the Veloster, $22K. Suddenly that new radiator doesn’t sound all that expensive…

    BTW, thank you for writing about cars. Jalopnik’s doing a one-a-day review of food trucks. Not about the trucks, about the food. Give me strength.

    • 0 avatar
      TEXN3

      It’s not worth the headache of limiting car choices to have a hole in the roof. They’re great during spring and fall…and when the sun isn’t right above you. Actually, they’re not bad in summer as a way to vent heat but you can crack your windows open. I’ve had 2 vehicles (Integra, TL) with sunroofs, 1 without (Outback).

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      My wife does that too… insists on a sunroof, which most manufacturers either dont offer at all on cheap cars, or only offer on the top line rip-off trim level. For a feature that we literally never use. The sun either bakes down on you, or its too hot to lose the AC, or her hair is fixed (almost always since shes a hairdresser) and she doesnt want the wind to blow it, or its raining, or there is some smoker driving in front of us or next to us and opening the roof makes it stink in our car. Plus, it makes the car more flexible and can potentially leak or break.

      If money is not of a concern, go for it. Or, if its a cheap standalone option, sure, why not. My Protege5 had a sunroof, cost me $300 over the cost of the one without it, and helps with resale value. But if you are shopping price for a sweet deal, why hamper your choices with something so useless? Thats just like the bluetooth guy above!

  • avatar
    BMWfan

    Jack,

    I’m thinking that your calendar is flipped to the wrong month, and you actually believe it is April 1st.

  • avatar
    Kevin Jaeger

    I used a somewhat similar rationalization to by myself a good condition ’94 Miata last year, bringing the family fleet to five vehicles.

    I have to admit, though, that it would take pretty extraordinary conditions to actually save money by adding a vehicle to the fleet. The only way this would actually save money is if it replaced one of the vehicles in the fleet. Assuming Vodka M drives a lot less than you, perhaps she could drive one of your vehicles while this replaces her Hyundai? You commute in the Mazda 2 then trade with her whenever you need the space or towing capacity of the Town Car.

    While this seems to work in theory, I know not all women can just trade vehicles without a lot of drama. They tend to use them as extended purses and accumulate a lot of comfortable clutter. Hopping into another vehicle for a day just isn’t in the cards with most women, but if you’re lucky and Vodka M is one of the more flexible ones this plan may work.

  • avatar
    Demetri

    “it’s the lightest, simplest four-passenger small car money can buy”

    The Scion iQ actually has it beat by 175 lbs. The new Yaris has a slight 10 lb edge. New Versa is only off by 50. Can’t imagine any of those being Baruthian steeds, but I wouldn’t have guessed the Mazda2 either.

    • 0 avatar
      AKADriver

      Having driven all but the iQ there, the Mazda 2 is still in a dynamically different league. It’s quite impressive how Toyota and Nissan manage to make their tiny, lightweight B-segment cars drive quite a bit like JB’s Town Car.

  • avatar
    Joss

    Scyactiv coming -WAIT- BETTER DEALS AHEAD – but not on Scy. Ask yourself: theft (unlikely) or wrecked in an accident that’s not my fault who gets the insurance money? Me or the financing Co?

    If you can – try renting for a weekend or two – see if the allure wears thin.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I say go for it, I like the 2. To me, its fairly practical, very fun, and very cheap. I LOVE the green, definitely get that color too, and drive the snot out of it. Its like a Mini but without the insane price premium. And the deal reminds me of my old Protege5. They were blowing them out in 2003, I picked mine up for $14k OTD, I didnt NEED a new car but it was too sweet of a price to pass up. I loved the car, it was fun and the payment made me smile every month as much as driving it every day did.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    Buy it!!! Buy it!!! Buy it!!! Do it…you know you want to…what’s another car…especially one so small…it would hardly increase your “car footprint”

  • avatar
    korvetkeith

    I used to drive about a thousand miles a week in my aurora. A couple of times I was using my sisters ’01 626 4cyl. This was not an acceptable replacement. The aurora totally spoiled me and high nvh or even moderate nvh vehicles like the 626 are serious penalty boxes to me now. The cars I’d driven a lot before this were a YJ jeep, an 84 Z51 corvette, and lifted 2 door tahoe W/T with mud terrains. So I was pretty well conditioned to shitty sounding and riding vehicles. The TC has probably ruined you for a real economy car.

  • avatar
    Zombo

    I just saw a Hyundai Veloster at a dealer for the very first time . At $18300 with a 2584 pound curb weight I’d consider that before a Mazda 2 .Cooler looks , more interior room and a six speed with a much better warranty and 40mpg highway to boot !

    • 0 avatar
      Kevin Jaeger

      I find the Veloster very tempting, too. It’s a little more expensive, though.

      • 0 avatar
        Strippo

        The Veloster is designed for the person who has been commuting over 20,000 miles a year in a first generation Miata.

        Plenty of front legroom and tilt/telescoping wheel? Check.
        Grand touring level electronics to occupy your time? Check.
        Enough cargo area for a week-long getaway for two? Check.
        Manual transmission to go with all the tech? Check. (I’m looking at you, Ford Focus SEL/Titanium.)
        T-a-l-l sixth gear for highway cruising? Check.
        40 mpg instead of 29? Check.

        So I added one to my little stable over the weekend.

        The Miata just became fun again.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    Go for it!

    You’ll find the TC parked for all the long trips and take it instead.

    It’s a lot less fatiguing to drive a long way in a little narrow car that doesn’t take up much of the lane, that gives good feedback through the wheel, that doesn’t have any slack in it than a big isolating one that floats along. You don’t have to stay “on top” of it so much.

    The best road-trip car we’ve ever had was my dad’s ’99 Civic Si – it just rolled along at 4100 RPM for hour after hour, and the driver could always go the whole tank without starting to feel logy. The worst was the ’93 Grand Prix it replaced – zero steering feel and a baggy chassis so the driver was always fighting it.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      “It’s a lot less fatiguing to drive a long way in a little narrow car that doesn’t take up much of the lane, that gives good feedback through the wheel, that doesn’t have any slack in it than a big isolating one that floats along. You don’t have to stay “on top” of it so much. ”

      Hey, I have one of those, it’s called a 993, and after six or seven hours on the road you get out feeling like you spent an evening in Pete Townshend’s Marshall stack.*

      *this, unlike the first paragraph of the story, is not a gay joke :)

      • 0 avatar
        chaparral

        Don’t you have to be continuously aware of that engine behind you in the 993?

        I guess I hadn’t thought of front-wheel-drive as a benefit here, but it make sense – wouldn’t an FWD car want to continue going exactly where it’s going on the freeway? My ’94 Miata was a little more tiring as a 500-miler but not too much.

  • avatar
    dwight

    If it had enough leg room for my crazy long legs, then I would have it on the top of my list of cars to buy new. It was a blast to drive and I didn’t want to give it back after the test drive. But I was very uncomfortable with my ankle cranked way back which jabs into the hip. After a 30 minute drive, I just want to get out of the car. But it drove so sweet.

    Instead, I drive an almost as fun Civic.

  • avatar
    steveua

    Jack, you could still buy the 2 and have money left over for one of those fantastic 15 watt hybrid tube modeling Fender Super Champs. But, if you have to get another Boogie, make it the F-50. Best Boogie ever.

    I don’t understand all the small hatch disbelief. Europeans have known the joys of the small hatch/hot hatch for many years, and the Saloon is dying over there since a good hatch fulfills all of the family needs as a large car, but with better versatility, more usable space, and sublime gas mileage. Whilst I own a large, late-model, four-door American V-8 muscle car because I too desire a large and sturdy ring of steel around my offspring replete with a multitude of comfy airbags, I often pine for my days of small-hatch ownership especially when parking, going around the occasional corner, or simply staring in disbelief at (a) the fuel pump price readout, (b) the average fuel mileage EVIC readout, and (c) the actual fuel gauge after just a few moments of fun-time on some back roads.

    A good friend of mine summed up the nature of these large cars (Panthers included) nicely after witnessing me floor it in a possibly too-enthusiastic highway on-ramp merging event, stating “well, cool man, there goes about six dollars worth of work-week ass-kissing and slavish pandering.”

    I thought, gawdammnit, he’s right, what the hell? I hate sinking kazillions of my heard-earned pennies, skittles and other pocket contents into something I can neither see, feel, hold, play, read, place forgotten in the basement under a blanket or otherwise appreciate it unless is is busy being burned into the atmosphere at an alarming rate.

    So I feel your pain, and appreciate, well, your appreciation of small hatches. But making a payment when you don’t have to seems foolhardy at best. I’m in the less-financial-bondage-right-now camp. And honestly, while a very real part of buying a new car is to gain gee-whiz safety gizmos to shield the little one(s), a Mazda 2’s physics sort of nullify that statement just a bit.

    If you have to do it, do it for the gas savings and insurance – and a lot of readers forget, those are probably savings which will actually *increase* as time goes by as gas and insurance cost are guaranteed to increase over time.

  • avatar
    jogrd

    I loved the Mazda 2 I test drove. It was great fun at low speed and seemed very agile. I went for a competitor but I like the idea of the cheap car saving miles that I won’t put on my harder to replace big car. I’m obviously worse off financially but the gas difference covers the payment at least.

  • avatar
    wcpfour

    No. Just no.

    I like small hatches as much as the next guy, but I can’t bring myself to find the 2 even quirkily appealing. And spending money to save money never works in the end.

  • avatar
    WheelMcCoy

    Jack,

    frottage! Not only am I learning about understeer from you, now you are teaching me vocabulary! Of course I doubt I will get to use either in my reality.

    About the Mazda2, you should get it. You crunched the numbers and it’s doable. Cars are your passion and your profession, and having an eclectic collection of vehicles would make you that much better at what you love and do.

  • avatar
    Johnny Canada

    Jack, have you ever considered another SRT-4 for street duty?

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    BTW, Jack, have you considered selling one of the Porsches or V McB’s Hyundai? It doesn’t seem like that would be as unfair a trade as replacing the TC ?
    (I live in a world with only 24 hours a day so I can’t understand why one would need three Porsches when you already have a track/race car)

  • avatar

    Light is Right. Do it!

  • avatar
    HiFlite999

    Almost always the cheapest option is to buy a POS and drive it into the ground. However, and seldom mentioned in these columns, NEW (with some models exempted) will most likely be much more reliable. I gave up on the POS scheme after: brake caliper falling off on expressway at 2 am, rusted through brake line combined with barely-fuctional e-brake put me through a busy intersection on a red light, engine quitting dead on a date with hot chick, ignition switch breaking on date with another hot chick, engine quitting dead in middle of intersection, numerous engine-no-starts from rotting wiring, multiple climate control failures, window regulator failures and busted door handles, etc, etc, etc. While piece of mind is not free, it comes pretty cheap with cars like the Mazda2.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I wouldn’t buy it. It is too small and not as safe in a crash. I remember when you hit a deer in the Lincoln and all that was lost was a headlight cover and a bumper ding. Hitting a deer in this would total it.

  • avatar
    ARacer

    Jack, when are you going to get a Komet amp or other brand single channel amp? Mesa Boogie amps are for guitars that have no tonal personality. Your Gibsons are being strangled by those amps.

    • 0 avatar
      Jack Baruth

      In terms of single-channels, I have:

      * 1966 Gibson GA-5T
      * the “Evil Robot” Phil X amp
      * a Trainwreck clone built by a pretty sharp fellow in Detroit
      * and a few point-to-points by a fellow named Dave Harris, one 10-watt 6QB5 (or something like that) and a 15-watt that I think uses EL84s.

  • avatar
    BMWnut

    Bob Dylan sang: “she knows what you need, but I know what you want.” Jack doesn’t need another mean green machine, but he certainly wants one.

    Now the question is, will he or won’t he? Don’t keep us in suspense, Jack….

  • avatar
    B-Rad

    I know I’m way late to this thread but I just bought a 1986 Volvo 740 GLE wagon this week….just because. Well, that and it’s a station wagon, a Volvo, and 15 years old with only 105,000 miles. And I knew that it was time to start building up my fleet.

    Anyways, buy it Jack. It may not be manly, but neither is an ’86 740 wagon. At least the 2 will be fun to drive. My wagon doesn’t even have a manual.

  • avatar
    mfpantst

    Later than late to this party. So last Octoberish I went through this same decision process. I owned a 2003 Acura TL which I was putting 25k miles/year on and was about to crack 200k. Totally would have went further but maintenance on that car is not the cheapest. Plus gas mileage wasn’t great and the car ran on premium. So I decided to do some car shopping. Somewhere less than 18k was my budget and 4 doors plus a manual transmission were practically requirements. What I ended up with was the Mazda2 being the best, most fun car I could get. In another publication I recently read “fun to drive is not high on the b-class buyers list.” Let’s say that’s total bull, at least for me, and fun to drive was first. If I were to go through all the cars I’ve owned, starting with a ’95 Integra “fun to drive” was always one of the first things I wanted. The Mazda delivers on this and does it while not looking like the Honda Fit (primary reason I wouldn’t want a Fit, secondary to the actual cabin layout of the Fit).
    Anyways, I’m actually about 14k total miles in and on my second 2. See, on the shortest day of the year I hit a deer broadside @ 60 mph in my Mazda2. Walked away. The car was completely totaled, but I was completely fine. So I went out and bought another Mazda2. That’s my main point- the car is pretty damn safe, if I’m going to be hitting a deer head on and walk away.
    So to recap, Fun, Safe, and not-terrible MPG. Plus cheap. Works for me!

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