The Mazda 5 is an excellent showcase for the many virtues of minivans, which have always enjoyed a certain degree of success in the USA. It offers plenty of space and practicality, with the added benefit of not carrying a heavy price tag. However, this discounted cost means that some sacrifices have to be made. These include mediocre materials and a reduced number of advanced safety features. Still, it presents shoppers with better handling than is normally attributed to such a large machine, as well as reasonable gas mileage figures. So, even though the middling engine only puts out 157 horsepower, the van can feel surprisingly fun. And while its production cycle may be at an end, the strengths of this model will certainly carry over to future designs from the automaker.
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Larger than your average compact car, the Mazda 5 is still pretty small in comparison to many other vans out there. It stands quite tall, though, granting a good view of the road. The years have witnessed an evolution in the originally blocky body design to the point where the exterior actually looks almost athletic. It offers excellent visibility courtesy of a slanted hood and a wide windscreen This, in turn, makes parking the car easier, too, assuming you account for its width. In base-model guise, it rides on 16-inch rims, while the upper trims look slightly smarter with 17-inch variants. Factory fit halogen headlights are swapped out for HID headlights on the upper trims, and supplemented by fog lamps. Six paint colors are offered, including Deep Crystal Blue, which each shows up very nicely in images.
The inline-four displaces 2.5 liters of gasoline to push the Mazda 5 van around. This results in outputs of 157 horsepower and 163 lb-ft - less than we would like for such a hefty hauler. The front wheels get exclusive access to this limited output, so you may prefer something from the competition if you live in an area prone to poor weather. Doing duty for the drivetrain is a five-speed automatic gearbox, which makes decent use of the limited power. Altogether, this combines to deliver a better package than one might expect.
Test drives show that it takes anywhere between eight and ten seconds to go from 0 to 60 mph, but once it gets up to speed, it starts to shine. With a top speed of 122 mph, it's just as comfortable on the highway as it is around town, although overtaking may present a few challenges.
Considering its ungainly dimensions, the Mazda 5 minivan is surprisingly sporty. Since it shares many mechanical design elements with the Mazda 3, it feels smaller than its large configuration would suggest. Once you have safely dropped the kids off at school, you can put it through its paces. When you let the throttle loose, it is eager to perform, swinging its back end around the corners like a puppy playfully wagging its tail. More surprising, still, is that this whimsical athleticism does not negatively impact on ride quality. The firm but pliant suspension and capable handling is actually reminiscent of a sporty wagon.
However, the new iteration is a little less engaging than it used to be, since the manual transmission has been deleted completely. Combined with the lack of AWD, this limits the auto's applications. But, if you plan on sticking to the road more traveled, it holds its ground against competitors quite well. And it manages to nip at the heels of the pack leaders despite its glaring lack of copious driver-assistance tech, which is quickly becoming the norm on modern rivals.
Almost all new automobiles present buyers with pretty impressive fuel economy, but the Mazda 5 is still quite efficient a few years after its discontinuation. It's no small hatchback with all that weight to lug around, so the 21/28/24 mpg city/highway/combined is not overly disappointing. Coupled with a 15.9-gallon tank, this allows the van to travel for up to 382 miles before it needs to find a gas station.
Courtesy of a mid-life refresh in recent years, the interior remains simple, yet stylish. But, as we have stated before, this is an area where the low asking price has real repercussions. Hard plastics are not hidden from view around the cabin, and the low-quality materials extend to high traffic areas, including the steering wheel and shifter. While not unusual on such a classification, the cloth upholstery on the Sport and Touring could be softer. Luckily the Grand Touring does away with it in favor of leather, which helps it live up to its name. The color palette is the same regardless of material, though. You are offered a choice of Black or Sand, if you can really call two options a choice.
You may not find the list of gadgets and such overly impressive, but when you take into account how much you are paying, the deal is not all that bad. Automatic climate control and cruise options start things off on the entry-level spec, along with keyless entry and ignition. The infotainment suite consists of AM/FM Radio, along with CD/MP3 functionality. If you want some of the more modern tech, like a trip computer or Bluetooth, you need to step up to the mid-tier trim. The final additions come when you take the plunge and spring for the top-of-the-range spec, which rounds out the package with SiriusXM and heated front seats.
The safety suite actually looks a little more bare by comparison. ABS and stability control are standard, naturally, along with a set of six airbags: front, side, and curtain. Furthermore, the only actual addition to this list is a rear parking sensor, which is unlocked on the mid-level Touring. While this certainly won't be a deal-breaker for many buyers, they may find the crash-test reviews more disconcerting. In its review of the Mazda 5, the IIHS doled out a few scores of Poor and Marginal. The NHTSA, on the other hand, did not even give the Japanese automobile a rating. J.D. Power's reliability review was more forgiving, if only slightly, with a final score of 69 out of 100. When you add to this the rather lackluster basic three-year warranty plan, it does not bode well, even considering that the drivetrain is covered for another two years.
When you take into account everything on offer, in terms of both features and intangible factors like fun, the base price of around $21,000 MSRP is quite appealing. The Touring pushes this up by about $1,000, while the Grand Touring pushes the price of the Mazda 5 up to about $25k. Overall, it still has much to recommend it, such as nimble handling and practical passenger and cargo capacities. However, its questionable reliability and lack of smart safety tech mean that it can't quite compete with modern US releases that focus more on family and peace of mind.
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