Mazda Motor Corp (7261.T) said it would begin selling the Mazda2 hatchback in the United States toward the end of 2010, getting a late start in a segment that has held up relatively well as consumers seek cheaper and smaller cars.

Japan's fifth-largest carmaker had said for the past few years it was not ready to launch the subcompact model in the United States since profit margins were too low, choosing instead to prioritize the rollout of crossover SUVs.

You've asked us for it for a while now, and we've been studying the market to make sure we can make a business case for it across North America, Mazda's regional chief, Jim O'Sullivan, was quoted as telling an assembly of U.S. dealers.

The Mazda2, which was named 2008 World Car of the Year, will go up against Honda Motor Co's (7267.T) Fit, Hyundai Motor Co's (005380.KS) Accent and General Motors' GM.UL Chevrolet Aveo, among others, in the entry-level segment.

Mazda said it would provide pricing and other details closer to the launch date.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim)