Advertisement
Find a Car
Go!

TCC Drives: Mazda5

Follow Bengt



Is it a Euro-sized minivan? A crossover? An MPV? A tall wagon with sliding doors?

Whatever way you see it, the 5 is a class of vehicle that we don't have enough of in the U.S.: zippy and fun-to-drive (in personality if not execution) yet cavernous inside. Not since being in the Kia Rondo — the closest match I can think of — have I been in a test vehicle that wows me with its available interior space as much as the 5.

Last time we did a full review of the 5, we found its interior smartly designed for people and cargo, and its steering and braking fully in support of Mazda's “zoom-zoom” brand image. But we thought that it fell short in one area: powertrain. The standard five-speed manual brought passable performance with a light load, but especially with the available four-speed and a load of people and effects, it felt anything but “zoom-zoom.”

With the Rondo now in the mix, we decided to revisit the Mazda5 and see if the new five-speed automatic offered for 2008 brought much improvement.

But first, interior space, which is the 5's forte: The 5 has seating for six, with two buckets in each of the first two rows, and a split bench for two in the third row. To clarify, there's really only seating for four adults; the third-row seats are ridiculously small in the legroom department but could prove useful if you're part of a parental carpool and need to transport kids more tot- than teen-sized. The third row flips forward easily, to a flat position, with just the pull of a strap, while folding the second-row seats forward is a simple two-step process. What you get is a cargo floor that's almost completely flat all the way to the front seats. But you'll need a blanket or tarp, as the delicate-feeling leather in our test vehicle continued around the back of the seat, which becomes the cargo floor.

That cargo space is huge. I tested it out by moving a band's worth of equipment. Including multiple instruments, a drum kit, a bass amp, and a large speaker cabinet, it all fit behind the front seats.

The only letdown, ironically, in all of this space-efficiency talk, is a lack of space and comfort for the driver. At 6'-6”, I could fit alright into the driver's seat, but I couldn't get truly comfortable and certainly wouldn't choose the 5 for a long trip for this reason. The proportions of the lower cushion in particular were just too small, and I'd imagine anyone over six feet with long legs to have the same issues — conversely, the seats weren't that wide either.

As before, we were very impressed with the way the 5 handled, steered, and braked (although the brakes on our test car were a little overboosted), and the ride was on the firm side but smoothed out a bit with a full load.

But the powertrain again was the low point. Essentially the same engine that feels so perky in the Mazda3, the 153-hp, 2.3-liter four may surprise you on the test drive with its super-aggressive, touchy throttle, but you'll get used to it and soon realize — to no fault of the engine itself — that there isn't really that much accessible oomph to move nearly 3500 pounds. So much for zoom-zoom. Having five speeds on the automatic helps though, especially at highway speeds where a downshift to fourth to squeeze past traffic is much smoother and less intrusive than we remember the four-speed's kick-down to be.

I won't go so far as to call the Mazda5 seductive, but it is seductively practical and has two things that are rare in this size of vehicle and otherwise impossible to get together: sliding doors and a manual transmission. If you don't mind an automatic and hinged doors, you should take a look at the Rondo, too, but if you're a city dweller and the not-so-mini, so-called minivans are just too big, the 5 — whatever it is — should be on your shortlist.
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (8)
  1. Good luck trying to find a 5-speed Mazda5.. I've been trying to get one for quite some time, but the dealers just don't stock them!
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. Oops.. I guess both trannys are 5-speed now.. I meant trying to find a MANUAL Mazda5!
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. Asian markets have had powered sliding doors since introduction of the Mazda5 and recently they have been introduced into Europe and England as well. Wonder why they're waiting so long to make them available in the US?
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  4. I own 2 Manual Transmission. Yes, they are difficult to find but at the same time the Mazda5 is the only similar model in the market that offers it. It is worth the find...
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  5. Oh, and with Manual Transmission many of the "under-power" issues are not really felt. The gear to RPM ratio is great
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  6. The dealer where I drove the Mazda5 had a couple of manuals in stock, and at least 2 dealers in San Antonio had manuals when I was looking. I liked the Mazda5, but liked the Rondo a little better for my purposes, but ended up getting a Subaru Outback wagon last month instead.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  7. I have always liked the 5... Unfortunately the lack of power has always kept me from seriously considering it. I owned an under-powered four-banger once and no matter how good the rest of the car is an underpowered four simply continues to disappoint for the life of the vehicle. Never again!

    If Mazda would give this thing zoom zoom power and a little more room for the third row the sharp styling would make the 5 hard to pass up. The 2008 looks even better in person than in the photos. Unfortunately my requirements include a usable third row, the MPV is no longer available and the access the the third row in the CX9 is rather poor. I like Mazdas but they can't quite seem to hit the mark.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  8. The Mazda5 would be perfect if they added a diesel engine option. With gas at over $1/litre this vehicle would fly off of dealers lots.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement
Advertisement
Take Us With You!
   
Advertisement

More From High Gear Media


 
 
© 2014 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by Homestar, LLC. Send us feedback.