2011

Viewing posts tagged 2011

Chevy Cruze Eco is a commuting dream machine

We first drove the new Chevy Cruze last year and loved it.  Small car size with large vehicle options. Now, after a successful launch, Chevy has rolled out another trim level to the popular vehicle; the Cruze Eco. It promises hybrid beating fuel economy at a lower, more conventional price-point.  Is this just hype or does the Eco deliver? Lucky for you, we recently drove one and have the answer.

Specifications as-tested

Model Year: 2011
Make: Chevrolet
Model: Cruze Eco

Engine: 1.4L turbo 4-cylinder / 138 hp at 4900 rpm and 148 lb.- ft. of torque at 1850 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic (6-speed manual available)
Drivetrain: Front-wheel-drive

EPA Fuel Economy: (auto/manual) 26/28-mpg city & 37/42-mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 35.8mpg

Base MSRP: $18,425
As tested MSRP: $20,625

Equipped Options:
Connectivity Plus Package[$525]
6-speed automatic transmission [$925]

What’s different

The Cruze Eco, from any angle, really isn’t very visually different from any other Cruze you’ll pass on the road. There are only three distinguishing features can identify an Eco from the outside; unique light-weight aluminum wheels, a rear spoiler for aerodynamics, and a small green Eco badge on the trunk lid. Although that doesn’t seem like much,  rest assured, it’s what you can’t see that makes the Eco different.

Developed alongside the Chevy Volt, the Eco has benefited from several technological advances born out of the Volt program. For example, the Cruze Eco wears the same low-rolling-resistance tires as the Volt. The two cars, which share a common platform, also share some of the same aerodynamic tricks such as smooth underbody panels and closing out part of the front grill. The Cruze is even equipped with an electronically actuated front lower air-dam, which can balance engine cooling and aerodynamics on the fly as needed.  From these outside enhancements, coefficient-of-drag has been reduced 10% over non-Eco models to an impressive .298CoD. For reference, that’s only slightly more than the C6 Corvette.

GM also targeted weight savings. Over 200lbs of weight was shaved off the “regular” model. One example, the Eco-specific 17-inch aluminum wheels,  save 21-lbs over the 16-inch wheels found on the Cruze 1LT. Welds and metal thicknesses were also examined for weight reduction and in some places the sheet metal is 1/10th of a millimeter thinner.

There have also been changes to the standard 6-speed manual transmission to improve fuel economy. A taller 6th gear and more aggressive 1st/2nd gears are Cruze Eco specific. The 1.4L turbocharged four-cylinder has not been changed over the non-Eco models and still produces a healthy 138-horsepower and 148lb-ft.

Hybrid like fuel economy

All these small changes add up to a big result. A Cruze Eco with a manual transmission gets nearly 6-MPG better than its non-Eco counterpart. That equates to 42-MPG on the highway, according to the EPA. Unfortunately, the Cruze Eco we drove had an automatic transmission and was only rated for 37-MPG highway. We’re a little miffed that customers have to pay  $925 more for the automatic only to get less than the widely advertised 42MPG.

Still, high 30’s MPG isn’t anything to scoff at.  With a manual, low 40’s MPG is downright impressive considering the Cruze Eco isn’t a hybrid.  Don’t believe us? Remember, 42MPG will actually beat some hybrids on the road, like the Camry and Fusion Hybrids. It’s important to note, however, that the Cruze Eco is much smaller than either of them. As a rough comparison, the Eco is in the same fuel economy range as the first generation Toyota Prius, but without the added weight of all that hybrid “technology”

Putting the heat on full-size hybrids it’s no surprise  the Eco also leads the compact car class in fuel economy too. Even with the lower rated automatic, Cruze Eco bests the Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic, rated at 35MPG and 34 MPG on the highway respectively.

However, it’s worth noting that the Civic and Corolla are currently both a few model years old. Newer competitors such as the 2011 Hyundai Elantra and 2012 Ford Focus are hot on the Eco’s heels. Both the Elantra and Focus promise 40-MPG or better. Even more of a concern for Chevy is that the Elantra promises 40-MPG standard, with no additional trim levels (The Eco is an extra cost trim level). So, while the Cruze Eco has a hot upper hand now, the comparisons are going to get much tighter over the next year.

How does it drive?

The Cruze really excels as a showcase of practical techniques for fuel economy improvement without expensive technology like battery packs and electric motors. The benefit in this is that, the Cruze is and drives like a normal car. In our time behind the wheel, only the low-rolling-resistance tires gave any hint of a Cruze that drives differently than a similar non-Eco model. With those tires, the Cruze tends to ride slightly softer and coast more effortlessly.

The 1.4L turbocharged Ecotec, used across the entire model,  is a new favorite engine of ours. There are very few engines that run as smooth as this, folks. It never feels stressed, strained, or buzzy, even at high RPMs. As mentioned above, our example Cruze Eco came equipped with the automatic, so we can’t comment on the manual for now.

Despite the lower fuel economy rating, we were still determined to see what our automatic Eco could really do. The EPA says our model should be able to push out 37MPG on the highway. On the winding roads and highways of New Hampshire, we squeezed out a respectable 35MPG, but no more (on winter gas). We only saw the full rating once; at speed, fully warmed up, 60mph, using cruise control. We’re left to conclude that to see the full potential of the Eco you’ll need to live somewhere flat and with straight roads. Otherwise known as, not New Hampshire.  With that said, 35MPG is still amazing and would take you over 500 miles on a single tank of regular gas.  Other media outlets who have tested the Cruze Eco with a manual transmission have reported fuel economy as high as 44MPG.

What you get on the inside

The Cruze Eco is no different inside than the base or LT models. You can get many of the same features as other models offer, but not all. If you choose the automatic, you can order up a remote start key fob, power driver’s seat, and reverse parking assist. Cruise control, a USB port, steering wheel mounted controls, and a leather wrapped steering wheel are required when you get the auto and optional when you choose the manual.

No matter which transmission you order, there are things you cannot get on the Eco at all. Navigation system, heated seats, and the premium stereo are all off the table. We’re fine doing without navigation but the lack of heated seats is disappointing. We also wished the Eco came with the cloth dash interior found on other models, however the only option is a faux-leather covering that looks rather dull.

Conclusion

A daily long-haul commuter’s dream in the nightmare that is rising fuel prices. If fuel economy is what you crave, the Cruze Eco is a home run in every way.

Strengths

  • Despite weight cutting, the Eco drives every bit as solid as the regular Cruze
  • Perhaps the smoothest engine/transmission combination we’ve ever driven
  • Impressive technology offering; OnStar, OnStar app compatibility, USB slot, aux-in, XM Radio, and low rolling resistance tires to name a few

Weaknesses

  • Interior feels rental car like- we miss the cloth interior inserts
  • 40MPG rating comes with a big catch – requires the manual transmission
  • Tame styling compared to 2011 Elantra

2011 Chevrolet Cruze Eco Photos

Subaru WRX shines with STi upgrades for 2011

A quick glance and you may not even notice that there’s something different about the WRX this year.  Take a closer look and you’ll see that the world famous all-wheel-drive sports car has been tweaked. We dive in to the 2011 model, take it for a spin, and find out what’s new.

Specifications as-tested

Model Year: 2011
Make: Subaru
Model: WRX Premium

Engine: 2.5L turbocharged 4-cylinder / 265 hp at 6000 rpm and 244 lb.- ft. of torque at 4000 rpm
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Drivetrain: Continuous all-wheel-drive with 50:50 distribution

EPA Fuel Economy: 19-mpg city/ 25-mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 22.3mpg

Base MSRP: $25,495
As tested MSRP: $30,720

Standard Equipment: Traction & stability control,  all-wheel-drive

Equipped Options:
Satellite Radio & Navigation System [$2,000]

Required Fees:
Delivery Charge [$725]

Driven: 2011 Subaru WRX - Photo: Zane Merva/AutoInsane.com

Subtle and not-so-subtle changes

It didn’t take long for the current generation WRX to get a boost in power. First on sale in 2008, the all-weather sports machine got a 41-horsepower increase the very next year; from 224 to 265.  Now only two years later, the car has gotten another noteworthy upgrade.  This time it’s the exterior appearance, vehicle dimentions,  and suspension pieces that have been tweaked.

Typically, Subaru has differentiated the more expensive STi from the common-man WRX through the use of an STi specific body,  suspension pieces, wider rubber, and more horsepower. Not anymore. Starting this year, the WRX gets all the wide-body/suspension goodies straight from the STi. Although the STi will still have more horsepower, it will now look almost indistinguishable from the WRX in both 4-door and 5-door forms.

The combination of this year’s suspension tweaks and the horsepower upgrades from 2009 are staggering.   The WRX now carries a 2-inch wider body and suspension track.  It’s a menacing, low slung look that also helps the WRX grip. The 2011 is poised, solid, and feels like a civilized street-ready rally car.

Throw the new WRX into a sharp corner on a dirt road and you’ll find it drives like a rally car too.  Although other brands have tried to master all-wheel-drive, we always come back to Subaru as the de facto standard. No other car can match the predictability the WRX offers in the range of road conditions that it can.  In the summer, you’ve got a fast sports car that hugs corners like no-other. In the winter, you have a safe and dependable vehicle that will get you through anything.  Rain, snow, sleet, sunshine; you’re having fun and getting where you need to go.

Driven: 2011 Subaru WRX - Photo: Zane Merva/AutoInsane.com

Despite the wider body and track, weight gain has been kept to a minimum.  The 2011 model is only 34 lbs heavier than the 2010. It’s hard to spot a body panel that hasn’t been changed on the outside, but the interior remains largely unchanged from prior years.  In the cockpit, for 2011 Subaru has added bluetooth and iPod support to the base 6-speaker radio. Our optioned-up “Premium” tester was equipped with the optional Navigation System.

We liked the extremely supportive front seats in the WRX.  They gave plenty of grip around corners without being overly stiff on long drives.  For those cold mornings, the seats also offered two-levels of heat.

Driven: 2011 Subaru WRX - Photo: Zane Merva/AutoInsane.com

2011 versus 2010 – WRX Dimensions

2011 2010
Width 70.7 in. 68.5 in.
Wheelbase 103.3 in. 103.1 in.
Front track 60.2 in. 58.9 in.
Rear track 60.6 in. 59.1 in.
Wheels 17 x 8-in. 17 x 7-in.
Tires 235/45R17 225/45R17
Curb weight 4-door: 3,208 lbs
5-door: 3,208 lbs
4-door: 3,174 lbs
5-door: 3,174 lbs

Driven: 2011 Subaru WRX - Photo: Zane Merva/AutoInsane.com

Conclusion

The original all-weather sports car now looks even better with new STi bodywork.  Suspension and track changes add even better handling to an already great car. One of the few vehicles that’s just as much fun to drive in the winter as it is in the summer.

Strengths

  • Staunch turbocharged engine is smooth and powerful
  • The best all-wheel-drive system on the market, period.
  • Predictable handling, tossable, well centered

Weaknesses

  • Interior plastic trim/console is very shiny and hard feeling
  • Get the navigation system and you lose iPod compatiability
  • Can we please have a 6-speed manual?

AutoInsane.com exclusive 360 Video Walk-around in HD

Driven: 2011 Subaru WRX Photo Gallery

Lexus CT200h First Drive: Sporty and fuel efficient in a competitive niche

Like every automaker today, Lexus sees the important small-car market as a great place to grow business.  Enter the CT200h; a four-door, fuel efficient hybrid compact that the company hopes will draw new customers to the brand by being the cheapest Lexus yet. How does it stack up? We drove one to find out.

The smallest & most affordable Lexus yet

When it goes on sale next March, the CT200h will be the cheapest, smallest, and most fuel efficient vehicle in the Lexus lineup. It will also be a hybrid; based largely on the third-generation Toyota Prius.  However, looking at the CT you’d never know. Unlike it’s poor selling bigger sibling the HS250h, the CT200h has almost no resemblance of being a hybrid.  Aerodynamic wedges and angles have been traded in for soft curves, a low/wide stance, and an upscale look.

Emphasis has been placed that the CT is a drivers car.  Lexus’s aim is to have  “fun and luxury hybrid together in the same sentence.”   It’s a different approach for Lexus but one that’s badly needed to tap into competitive buyers.  It’s those cross shopping buyers that Lexus is trying to go after.  The brand expects that 75% of CT200h owners will be first time Lexus buyers.

2011 Lexus CT200h First Drive - Photo: Zane Merva/AutoInsane.com

A small market of opportunity

The CT200h will be up against some stiff competition in the niche entry-luxury market.  This is the same segment that the BMW 1-Series, Audi A3, and Volvo C30 are currently fighting it out in.  In Lexus’s favor, none of the competitors are hybrids. Aside from going up against BMW and Audi, the entire segment only moves 1,500 cars each month.  Interestingly, Lexus believes they can grow the segment  70%  by selling nearly 1,000 CT200h a month.

Whether Lexus can sell that many cars against the likes of the 1-Series is dubious. Both the A3 and the BMW 128 start in the high $20,000 price range with the C30 priced at $24,600. Lexus has yet to release any pricing on the CT but told us to expect “close to $30,000”.  If the CT200h starts anywhere above $29,450, it will be the most expensive vehicle in this class. With only 138-horsepower between the gas and electric motor,the CT is also set to be the least powerful. The base A3, 128, and C30 all come with 200, 230, and 227-horsepower respectively.

The CT200h does have one very big advantage above the rest in this segment; fuel economy. While BMW, Audi, and Volvo are all quicker, the CT200h gets nearly double the fuel economy. That’s right, while the segment average is a respectable 20-25mpg, the CT averages a combined rating of 42mpg. We even coaxed out 50mpg during our city testing. Very impressive.

So, while the CT200h has a massive fuel economy advantage, it falls short in other areas of this segment.  With that said, it’s highly doubtful that potential buyers will be left sitting on the fence to decide between a hybrid Lexus or gas powered BMW.  Our guess is that buyers of the CT will be specifically looking for a hybrid and wouldn’t have accepted anything else.

2011 Lexus CT200h First Drive - Photo: Mark Elias/Lexus

Improving on the Prius

The CT will only be available with a hybrid powertrain extremely similar to the one found on the newest Toyota Prius. The nickel-metal hydride battery has been reduced in size but not output.  The gas-engine is the same 98-horsepower unit found in the Prius.  Also of difference is the voltage control system.  While the Prius’s battery power is continually stepped up to 650-volts, the CT200h runs at a more tame 500-volts in eco and normal mode. Only in sport mode (or full throttle) is the battery output stepped to 650-volts to provide quicker acceleration.  Why would Lexus do this? For one, it’s smoother.  It also allows the CT to run longer on battery power.  By drawing only 500-volts on a regular basis, the CT’s electric motors draw down its battery pack slower.

The CT has four driving modes. EV for slow speed electric only propulsion, eco for better fuel economy, normal for linear throttle feel, and sport for aggressive driving.  Eco, normal, and sport driving modes all come with customized throttle, suspension, and steering wheel calibrations.  Sport mode also activates a red instrument panel color and replaces the battery charging meter for a tachometer.

On the road we found ourselves utterly surprised with the CT200h. The car maintains trademark comfort that you’d expect out of a Lexus but runs with a distinct crispness to the suspension tuning we were not expecting. Like a skateboard, the CT happily curves and cuts through traffic and sharp turns. On the highway we found the car to be smooth, relaxed, and comfortable.

In all, we had a chance to drive the CT200h nearly 100 miles over flat southern Florida terrain and it intrigued us. We can’t wait to get more time behind the wheel for a full report.

2011 Lexus CT200h First Drive - Photo: Zane Merva/AutoInsane.com

Interesting Facts

  • Combined fuel economy is rated at 42mpg
  • Lexus expects 75% of all CT200h buyers will be new to the Lexus brand
  • The battery pack has an expected life of 15-years
  • NuLux seating surfaces are 50% lighter than leather
  • Most of the CT200h’s interior is recyclable and includes plastic recycling numbers to aid in disposal
  • Uses the same gas engine as the Prius
  • Lexus expects CT200h buyers will be mostly male between  30-40 years old and with household income over $100k/year
  • Select sport mode and the CT’s gauge cluster lighting turns from blue to red and the charging indicator turns into a tachometer

Conclusion

All the comfort you’d want from a Lexus combined with the technology from a Prius wrapped in a package more sporty than you’d expect.

Strengths

  • Impressive fuel economy; we achieved 50mpg in suburban Florida
  • Sporty suspension tuning gives a fun ride without taking away comfort
  • Cheapest Lexus yet (approximately $30k)
  • Hybrid system has been improved over Prius

Weaknesses

  • Not as quick or powerful as other competitors in this niche
  • NuLux simulated leather still looks and feels like simulated leather
  • Battery ventilation system produces audible fan noise from second row seats
  • Interior dash accent piece (which adds a lot of  style) is a extra cost option

Lexus CT200h First Drive Gallery

2011 Hyundai Sonata arrives ready to impress

When you hear “mid-size sedan”, which cars come to mind?  Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu, or Ford Fusion?  If you didn’t think about the Hyundai Sonata, it’s time to think again.

2011 Hyundai Sonata - Photographer: Zane Merva

Specifications as-tested

Model Year: 2011
Make: Hyundai
Model: Sonata SE

Engine: 2.4L DOHC  direct injection 4-cylinder / 200 hp at 6300 rpm and 186 lb.- ft. of torque at 4350 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Drivetrain: Front-wheel-drive

EPA Fuel Economy: 22mpg city / 26mpg combined / 35mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 29.7mpg

Base MSRP: $22,595
As tested MSRP: $25,915

Standard Equipment: Traction/stability control, key-less entry, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, USB/Aux/iPod port, dimension audio system, automatic headlight control

Equipped Options:
Navigation & Sunroof Package [$2,600]

Required Fees:
Delivery Charge [$720]

>>See our full 2011 Hyundai Sonata Road Test Photo Gallery<<

Driving Dynamics & Performance

2011 Hyundai Sonata - Photographer: Zane Merva

The 2011 Hyundai Sonata is fun to drive. Let that sit in your mind for just a moment. In a segment usually promoted using safety and fuel economy, “fun to drive” is not a term you’d expect out of a family sedan.  Yet, the Sonata delivers.

On the road we were immediately surprised by how quick and agile the Sonata felt.  We never expected the base 200-horsepower model to feel so good. In this market base engines are almost expected to feel sluggish and anemic. Somehow, Hyundai has bucked the trend. The base 2.4L inline-4 in the Sonata feels more than adequate, in fact it feels quite healthy. Only minimal fanfare is required to accelerate on the highway and around town low end torque provides quick getup and go. Should you desire more power, look for a 274-horsepower turbocharged 2.0T option later this year.

In addition to proper acceleration, the Sonata can be tossed around and feels comfortable on any road surface. A solid chassis and communicative steering empower the driver to feel in control behind the wheel.

There are two factors that contribute to the Sonata’s handling prowess.  First, it weighs 200lbs less than Malibu and 100lbs less than Camry and Fusion.  Second, the Sonata’s base engine, rated at 200-horsepower,  is  30-horsepower up on Camry/Malibu and 25-horsepower up on Fusion/Accord.

The Sonata, which equals rivals at 22mpg city also tops with more highway fuel economy. Even with a horsepower advantage, Sonata is rated at 35mpg on the highway. That’s 4-mpg better than Accord and Altima,  2mpg better than Camry and Malibu, and 1mpg better than Fusion. Have no doubt that 35mpg in a four door family sedan is impressive but we found that advertised economy allusive.  Our best observed highway mileage was 31mpg.

Design Execution, Appearance, Fit & Finish

2011 Hyundai Sonata

There’s something new, yet familiar about the styling on the 2011 Sonata.  Its sweeping exterior side profile is semi-reminiscent of a Mercedes CL and the HVAC “torso-body” button on the interior center console is a close duplicate of what you’d find in a Volvo.  However, set next to a  Toyota Camry or Chevy Malibu the Sonata looks crisp and refreshing. It’s a touch of style that makes a statement without coming off as in your face. The Sonata’s styling will appeal to a wide audience.

Hyundai calls the new design “Fluidic Sculpture” and has also started using the design philosophy in other models, such as the new Tuscon.  Sculpture like or not, we really enjoyed both the interior and exterior styling of the new Sonata.  It felt stylish and interesting without being too busy or distracting. Every button and switch was easy to use and fell within arms reach.

While Hyundai has done many things right with the Sonata, it didn’t take very long to find a few things that felt needed improvement.  Many of our gripes centered around the interior. The choice of plastic found around the cup holders is prone to scratches. At night, we also found that many of the interior indicator lights did not dim as much as they should. For example, the gear shift selector back-light stayed too bright for our eyes.  The same was also true for the headlight/fog-light/high-beam indicators in the gauge cluster.   After dark when night adjusted vision is at a premium these brightness issues were annoying and compromised our ability to see the road in front of us.

Audio, Electronics, & Technology

2011 Hyundai Sonata - Photographer: Zane Merva

The new Sonata continues to impress with its technology offerings. Standard Bluetooth hands-free is a segment first.  Standard USB/AUX input jacks are also well appreciated. For $35 Hyundai offers a iPod/iPhone integration cable that plugs into the USB and line-in port at the same time. While we appreciate that Hyundai and Apple are playing nice, we’re confused why you need the special cable. The Ford Fusion and Chevy Malibu allow customers to use their existing USB cable for iPod/iPhone control. If you try that on Sonata, it just won’t work. If you don’t have an iPod/iPhone, you can always load up a spare USB drive with music for your listening pleasure.

If you splurge for the optional integrated navigation system you’re in for a treat. A high-resolution display allows for easy readability at a glance.   Hyundai has also partnered with Sirius XM to offer Weather, Stocks, and Sports information.  Just like Sirus/Ford Travel-link, you can view weather maps, warnings, sports scores, and stock prices on your screen. Stock and sports information is handy and weather features are not only cool but could be life-saving in severe situations.

Comfort & Ergonomics

2011 Hyundai Sonata - Photographer: Zane Merva

In concert with the typical job of everyday commuting, the new Sonata is comfortable and easy to live with. Steering wheel controls are comfortable to use without contorting your thumbs, audio and navigation operation are intuitive, and Hyundai’s switch-gear feel is solid and precise.  We did find it odd that Hyundai does not offer an automatic climate control option.  We found the manual system to require small adjustments every 10-20 minutes to stay comfortable.

The seats in the Sonata are comfortable for long and short hauls alike. During our week with the car we always arrived at our destination without cramps or aches. That’s not something we’ve always been able to say of the other cars in this class.

>>See our full 2011 Hyundai Sonata Road Test Photo Gallery<<

Conclusion

A right-sized car with a beefy base engine and a thrifty price.  Engaging driving attributes, good looks, and great fuel economy make the Sonata deserving of careful consideration for anyone in the mid-size sedan market.  Hyundai has taken everything good about family sedans and improved on it while simultaneously injecting the Sonata with a spark of style and fun.

Strengths

  • Lowest base price & highest fuel economy among Camry, Accord, Malibu, and Fusion.
  • Standard iPod/AUX/USB input
  • Optional Navigation system includes XM Weather/Sports/Stocks
  • Class leading engine feels more powerful than 200-hp

Weaknesses

  • Semi-soft plastic on steering wheel and center console scratches easily
  • Gear-selector back-lights and gauge cluster headlight/foglight indicators are  too bright for sensitive eyes
  • iPod/iPhone audio control will only work with exclusive Hyundai cable

AutoInsane.com exclusive 360 Video Walk-around in HD

2011 Hyundai Sonata Road Test Gallery

When you hear “mid-size sedan”, which cars come to mind? Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Chevy Malibu, or Ford Fusion? If you didn’t think about the Hyundai Sonata, it’s time to think again.

>> Read our entire road test review of the 2011 Hyundai Sonata SE <<

Specifications as-tested

Model Year: 2011
Make: Hyundai
Model: Sonata SE

Engine: 2.4L DOHC  direct injection 4-cylinder / 200 hp at 6300 rpm and 186 lb.- ft. of torque at 4350 rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic

EPA Fuel Economy: 22mpg city / 26mpg combined / 35mpg highway
Observed Fuel Economy: 29.7mpg

Base MSRP: $22,595
As tested MSRP: $25,915

Standard Equipment: Traction/stability control, key-less entry, steering wheel mounted paddle shifters, USB/Aux/iPod port, dimension audio system, automatic headlight control

Equipped Options:
Navigation & Sunroof Package [$2,600]

Required Fees:
Delivery Charge [$720]

Behind the wheel of the new 2011 MAZDA2

A small car with good looks, gas mileage and an affordable sticker. Mazda is hoping to offer a little Zoom-Zoom for every one.

The base price starts at just under $14,000 and tops out at about $17,000. Fuel economy up to 35 miles per-gallon, made possible with an attention to weight savings and aerodynamics.

I didn’t get to spend a lot of time behind the wheel at this press event. I will hold off on making a judgment on the MAZDA2 until I get to spend a little more time in the car.

Mazda says opulence is out, sensible is in. We will see if the American market agrees. Originally launched in Europe, Japan and Australia; it has been the recipient of many awards since its debut in 2007.

Mazda has managed to squeeze a lot of standard safety and luxury features into even the base model.

The 2011 MAZDA2 is available in two trim levels – the entry-level Sport and Touring. Both trim levels are powered by a 100 horsepower, 1.5-liter four-cylinder engine, available with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Standard features include 15-inch steel wheels with full wheel covers, 185/55/R15 all-season tires, body-colored door handles and power mirrors, air conditioning, power windows and door locks, AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo with four speakers, audio auxiliary jack, tilt steering wheel, remote keyless entry system, rear window wiper/washer and 60/40 split fold-down rear seats.

The MAZDA2 Touring takes everything on the MAZDA2 Sport and adds upgraded seat fabric with red piping, 15-inch alloy wheels, fog lights, rear roof spoiler, chrome exhaust tip, leather-wrapped steering wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls, trip computer and a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3 stereo system.

Available accessories include a rear bumper guard, wheel locks (Touring models only), all-weather floor mats, cargo net, center console with armrest and auto-dimming rearview mirror with compass, Homelink® and orange backlit buttons.

MAZDA2 Sport with 5-speed manual transmission features a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $13,980, while the top-of-the-line MAZDA2 Touring with 4-speed automatic transmission has a MSRP of $16,235.

Tell us what you think of the MAZDA2. Will you be considering this as your next ride, maybe in spirited green metallic?

Look for a full review and more information as soon as we get are hands on one for a little longer.