2011 Mazda2 – Click above for high-res image gallery

The 2011 Mazda2 is a hoot to drive. It's a lithe, driver-focused machine that's entertaining despite its lack of power. This Mazda, like most cars from the automaker, places a priority on the driving experience, but in doing so, falls short in some other categories. The Mazda2 doesn't offer class-leading fuel economy, for example, nor does it boast the functionality of some other vehicles in its class. Case in point: the manual transmission model offers 29/35 miles per gallon city/highway. Not bad, but many cars in this class now top 40 mpg.

With the next-gen model, Mazda plans to completely overhaul the powertrain and employ its new SKYACTIV engine and trans technology, resulting in a Mazda2 that not only competes with others in the segment, but at least in terms of efficiency, has a chance to blow the competition away. The automaker says the upcoming 2 will hit 70 mpg and we're guessing that the lofty estimate comes after some preliminary testing under Japan's generous rating system. Even with that said, the next-gen 2 could become the world's most efficient gasser.

The next Mazda2 will launch in Japan in early 2011 and should head this way within a couple of years. When it does, it could become the U.S.' most efficient B-segment vehicle, and that has us eagerly awaiting its arrival.

Photos copyright ©2010 Steven J. Ewing / AOL

[Source: Reuters]

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