The Mazda5 fills so many niches that you might call it a wagon; others would say van, while my summation is a mini-minivan with sporty overtones.
That’s not using several words where one would do, but to more adequately describe this fun-to-drive little runabout.
Ford and Mazda have had a financial and manufacturing alliance since 1979. Ford once held a controlling interest in the Japanese auto maker, but in recent years has cut the stake to 3%.
Even if Mazda did soften the ride a bit for the new model year, the Mazda5 still has a sporty nature on back-country roads. With 157 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 163 pound-feet of torque from its inline 4, the Mazda moved out quickly from red lights and stop signs — a nice surprise. But try to merge onto a fast-moving interstate and the need for more grunt makes itself known.
From a dead stop to a 60mph takes less than 10 seconds with the aid of a fast-acting, five-speed automatic transmission. Yet a driver’s left to wonder, “What would this be like with a small turbo?”
No, that wouldn’t do much to help gas mileage, rated at 21-28 mpg by the EPA. It runs on regular unleaded and gave me 25 mpg overall.
When it comes to the comfort side of the equation, there should be few complaints. There’s plenty of room for a 6-foot-tall driver. The tachometer and speedometer are placed in twin pods right in front of the driver. Auxiliary information comes from a small window in the instrument pane, and a bigger one just above the central stack.
Auto writers have complained for some time that the center stack info window washes out on even at the hint of a sunny day because of its poor contrast. And still, only after sunset, or in the shade, will you see what you have been missing all day.
The two bucket seats that comprise the second-row seating are multi-adjustable to accommodate wee ones on up to budding basketball players. They also get to control their own ventilation via vents and buttons at the end of the center console.
Wide open, the sunroof generates only a little wind noise and thanks to the overall mini-minivan design, eats up very little headroom. More athletically inclined kids can select the third-row seat. It’s a great launchpad for harassing their older siblings. The sliding side doors are easy to open and third-row seats are quite firm.
With all three rows of seating up, storage space is limited to 5.6 cubic feet. You may be able to stash a case of beer back there, but it would be sitting on its side. A case of your favorite wine would require folding the third-row of seats, easily done via the rear hatch. That increases carrying capacity to 27 cubic feet. Folding the second row increases that to 55.4 cubic feet for serious hardware store visits.
Three models are offered, with our tested Grand Touring package topping the list. With only two small options, the test vehicle went out the door at $24,720 including transportation.
Interior materials were on the economy side of the ledger. Fit and finish were good.
For those who don’t need the space available in a large van or sport utility, the Mazda makes for a very wise choice. The price is right; it will haul a fair amount of stuff, is economical and has a “recommended” rating from Consumer Reports.
It won’t turn heads in the neighborhood, but will mark the owners as very smart consumers.