May 23, 2013
Written by Steven Macoy
Thursday, 10 December 2009 12:08
We couldn’t help but notice the Mazda5 didn’t rate even a cameo appearance in a recent television ad showcasing the Japanese automaker’s most popular models. Perhaps the company views this micro-minivan as the ugly duckling in a line that includes sporty sedans and crossovers, as well as the racy RX-8.
There’s no need to keep the Mazda5 under wraps, however. Its wedge shape suggests speed and agility, and Mazda designers have done just about everything that can be done with the trademark minivan sliding doors and vertical rear. The minivan’s lines also hold out a promise of exceptional fuel economy, confirmed by the EPA ratings of 21 mpg city, 27 highway.Built on the platform of the sweet-handling Mazda3, the Mazda5 enters its sixth model year with an important safety improvement: Stability and traction control are now standard. In government crash tests, the Mazda5 received five-star ratings in everything but rollover risk and side-impact protection for rear passengers (four stars each).
Our test car was a Touring model with a base price of $21,250, reaching $22,480 with options and delivery charge. The base Sport model starts at $17,995. That’s thousands less than the base versions of the full-sized minivans built by Honda, Nissan, Toyota, Chrysler, Hyundai and Kia. All are capable of transporting more people and cargo. But their fuel-economy ratings don’t come close to the Mazda5’s, and they can’t match it for driving enjoyment.
In reality, the Mazda5 occupies a class by itself; only Kia, with its Rondo model, prowls the same market niche. But the Rondo’s doors swing out rather than sliding, so it isn’t really a minivan.
The Mazda5 seats four adults; two children can ride in the third seat. Luggage space is narrow with the third seat down, but cargo capacity reaches 71 cubic feet with the second-row captain’s chairs and the third seat lowered.
All Mazda5s are powered by a 153-horsepower, 4-cylinder engine that’s delivers brisk acceleration. Reviewers say the engine labors a bit when the car is heavily loaded, but we didn’t experience that trait. The base model comes with a 5-speed manual transmission; all other Mazda5s are fitted with a 5-speed automatic.
Our biggest complaint was the same one we had when we test-drove a 2008 Mazda5: Leg room is tight for 6-foot drivers, and adjustable pedals and power-tilt seats are unavailable. On the plus side, the two middle seats are adjustable fore and aft, enabling second- and third-seat passengers to negotiate a comfort level satisfactory to all.
The identity of Mazda’s target demographic for this model is unclear — small, active families? Tradesmen with a modest need for cargo room? Likely minivan customers who are willing to give up a little space to save on the purchase price and fuel costs, and want to season the minivan experience with fun? All are well within the Mazda5’s target zone, if size and seating capacity aren’t paramount.
Engine: 2.3-liter inline Four, 153 horsepower, 148 lb.-ft. torque
Transmission: 5-speed shiftable automatic
Weight: 3,475 lb.
Suspension: Four-wheel independent, MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear
Wheels: 17x6.5-inch alloy
Tires: P205/50R17 all season tires
Seating capacity: 6
Luggage capacity: 15 cu. ft.
Maximum cargo capacity: 71 cu. ft.
Fuel capacity: 15.9 gallons
Fuel economy: 21 mpg city, 27 mpg highway
Fuel type: Regular
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