Subcompact Shootout – 2011 Mazda 2, Ford Fiesta and Honda CR-Z Review

Expert Reviews Ford Honda hybrid Mazda

By Kurt Gensheimer

Back in the early 1990s when I was a few years away from my first driver’s license, one of the hottest cars you could own was the tiny little 1991 Honda CRX Si in yellow. It was small, quick and had an obnoxiously loud paint job that called attention to itself wherever it was. I’d sit in the back seat of my parents’ car as they¬†chauffeured¬†me to and from school, fogging up the window as I gawked at that yellow CRX which was always parked in some lucky guy’s driveway. I saved every waking cent until the day I was old enough to drive and flush enough to buy my own yellow CRX. It never happened. By the time I had enough money, my tastes had changed, and the CRX had morphed into the less desirable Del Sol.

But with the creation of the CRX, Honda had struck a chord with millions of consumers. It was a subcompact that had a look all its own and impressive performance numbers for its day in both acceleration and fuel efficiency. Fast forward 20 years past the fuel guzzling SUV era, and wouldn’t you know it, subcompacts are once again de rigueur. Auto manufacturers have to figure out a way to meet the impending 35 mpg corporate fleet average by 2016, and fuel sipping subcompacts are the way for them to get there, hence the barrage of new subcompacts from every manufacturer.

Honda has harkened the cries of CRX fans everywhere and introduced the new CR-Z, which is aimed to have the looks and sportiness of the original CRX combined with the hybrid efficiency of the new Insight. Mazda has taken its ‘gram’ strategy of cutting unnecessary fat everywhere possible to create a subcompact weighing a mere 2280 pounds, the lightest car in this comparo by an incredible 300 pounds. Ford has finally employed its strategy of a global platform and brought the wildly successful European Fiesta to the States, the first time a Fiesta has been sold on US soil since 1980.

Each of these subcompacts comes from a unique perspective, and concurrently, their redeeming qualities attract a unique buyer. We firmly believe that every car on the road today is ideal for someone, so rather than ranking these micro machines from first to last, this review will show which car appeals to which buyer the most. Because really, all three are terrific machines in their own respect, each with unique attributes that appeal to totally different consumers.

Mazda MAZDA2

2011 Ford Fiesta

2011 Honda CR-Z


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  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    The CRZ is hideous compared to the original CRX and what is the only reference is the dark cabin.What made the CRX such a great car for the new wave youth was that it was not your parents car in any way.This dingy dark CRZ is only going attract color blind commuter drivers and there are better options.What is wrong with the Honda there missteps are killing them.From that awful Accord,to the useless Ridgeline,to the ancient Civic and thank god the recently expired Element.What has happened to the brave little company that gave us cars we needed rather then wanted.They offer nothing I would own and seem to appeal to only senior citizens .Gone is the high quality .Have you seen an Elements foldaway rear seats in pieces ?.

  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    I drove the Fiesta at the off the Ford Road Show truck in San Mateo.I have also driven one at Towne Ford and really are surprised you say the car is lethargic .To me it great right off line and got up to speed quickly.In wet conditions it functioned perfectly unlikely the CRX.Remember as much as I loved my CRX it had terrible traction control and one of the front wheels would lead.Time maybe fogged those memory’s but this is a much better car and the price difference between the Mazda2 and Festiva would still put me in the Ford camp because you get a lot.This a great car and I think you had bad gas or something our experiences could not be further apart.It makes me anticipate the Focus even more.

  • Peter Anastopulos says:

    I owned a 1988 CRX Si in silver with black interior and loved that car.It stayed modern for so long and eventually gave way to a Volvo V70 R wagon.I still miss that CRX and have always been a hot Hot hatchback fan .I have owned an Renault R5 in double black and a Rabbit GTI.It was cool in the 80′s as was my Mohawk and Doc Martins.Everything comes back around and now in my 50′s they are cool again.Could not come soon enough since I have refused to ever buy an SUV and my options were shrinking for something new vehicle.Today the options are growing what I will end up with if it comes out soon is a 2012 Focus RS if that happens but this Mazda 2 could be my back up plan.

  • francois says:

    Insightful comparison! I love the CRX si references since I was an owner. That car was killed and replaced by the Del Sol. Those were the dark days of Honda as they demonstrated complete lack of soul and vision.

    They’ve come back though with better driving cars and the introduction of the Fit and the Element.

    All these cars are worthy! It is a good day in the auto industry as they produce low cost cars with soul and vision.

    If only I wasn’t so old with a full household.

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