Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2 Much or 2 Little?

One of my besties, Kelly, came to visit me in Chicago, where I am neck-deep in producing mobile apps. Upon arrival, she was convinced she'd pick the "wrong" car as she perused Enterprise's selections, and was prepared to be lambasted by me upon arrival at the hotel.

She arrived in a black Mazda 2 (so glad for black) — the diminutive, entry-level offering from the Zoom-Zoom division. I wasn't mad at all. Mazda is doing great things. Their Skyactiv technology is bringing performance and efficiency to the streets. And the upcoming 6 is a STUNNA! But a 2? A base model? It's been a while since I've sampled what I consider basic transportation. Would I suffer and die in the absence of 8-way leather seats, OnStar, and a turbocharger?

This 2 had the basics covered. Power windows, mirrors, and locks. A/C. A CD player with an MP3 jack. Stability control. And not much else. Control layout is logical and intuitive. The look inside is attractive, bordering on fun, without getting cute.

Within the first five minutes behind the wheel, I realized the 2 was a hoot. Even when burdened with four adults, the 2's 100hp mill had enough power to keep us from getting nervous on onramps. The ride is firm and assured, most likely as a result of the wheels being pushed to the far corners. Steering gave good feedback as the 2 cruised effortlessly and comfortably on the varied pavement of the land of Lincoln. Solo jaunts were much more fun. The 2 loves to be whipped around, responding instantly to inputs like it's waiting for them. Granted, not at light speed. But it does what it's asked to very well. And parking the tiny 2 is easier than finding pastrami at Eisenberg's—er—cholesterol at Gino's.
2 CUBED: An Enterprise Encounter  
Me: The low coolant light came on in my Mazda 2.  
Enterprise Agent: Sorry 'bout that. I can switch you into a Nissan Cube. 
Me: Please tell me you have some coolant. 
You've gotta love a rental company that obliges potential hits to the ego. 10 minutes later, I was back in the 2 after a coolant top-off.
Four of us were able to get quite comfy in the 2. Though it's a very small car, we never felt cramped. A six foot IOS developer sat behind this driver of the same height and was reasonably comfortable, though he did say he felt like we were spooning. A slight splay of his knees was required. The two sub-six-foot folks on the starboard side fared much better.

If I were to venture into the "just enough" market, I know I could live with a 2. The rental didn't have cruise control and lumbar support. Without these, long highway cruises could get tedious. On another note, fuel economy in the 30's isn't great for a car of this size - especially since so many larger cars return numbers in the 40's. But I read some new engines are on the way that will bring better fuel economy and some more zoom.

So I didn't die. To the contrary, the 2 proved entertaining. Basic transportation has come a long way. And while I don't have much to compare the 2 against, I'm sure I'll have an opportunity to do so soon. I used to rent cars better than the ones I owned. Now, I'm all about cheap. Give me fuel economy or nothing! (Then I go home to my 8-way leather, OnStar, and turbocharger).

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