2009 Mazda MAZDA5 Review

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Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
November 9, 2008

The 2009 Mazda5 is one of the few good choices for buyers looking for minivan spaciousness in a vehicle that's fuel-efficient, maneuverable, and plenty practical.

In assembling this review on the 2009 Mazda Mazda5, TheCarConnection.com's automotive experts read a number of critical reviews and included the most useful information from them. Then the editors at TheCarConnection.com brought their firsthand experience with the Mazda5 to this review to make it especially insightful.

Take a wagon, raise the roof, and add sliding rear doors (or just make a typical U.S. minivan at seven-eighths scale), and that's the 2009 Mazda Mazda5—a vehicle not closely rivaled in the U.S. market. Slightly smaller than short-wheelbase versions of minivans, such as the Kia Sedona, it's a three-row, six-seat "sport minivan."

As it's based on the compact Mazda3 hatchback/sedan, nimble handling and excellent maneuverability distinguish the 2009 Mazda5 from other SUV and minivan possibilities on the road. That handling prowess is assured via MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink suspension in the rear, with 17-inch wheels and tires. Braking is provided by a surefooted four-wheel anti-lock disc system. The Mazda5 rides well, too—smoothly but firmly and without much body motion. But it's hindered by a 153-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that is only somewhat peppy with the standard (on Sport trims) five-speed manual (a rarity among minivans). With the available (standard on Touring and Grand touring trims) five-speed automatic transmission, the engine is barely adequate with a light load and completely overwhelmed when carrying around half of your kid's soccer team. Urban dwellers will be more suited to the Mazda5 than suburban exiles.

The 2009 Mazda Mazda5 impresses us by its surprisingly spacious interior, with seating for up to six people—although the rearmost two seats are kid's stuff only. Theater-style seating makes the most of those rear seats, although the front seats are skimpy in size for taller or larger people. A one-touch walk-in mechanism offers easy access to the third-row seats, and both the second- and third-row seats can fold down to create a virtually flat floor for transporting large objects. For more space in either the second or third row as needed, the second-row seats slide fore and aft. The rear liftgate has two detents for drivers of different heights, though if you're over six feet tall, you'll have to duck.

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While not as big and heavy as most family minivans or SUVs, the 2009 Mazda5 scores high marks in NHTSA impact protection tests, though it lacks an important feature, electronic stability control. Driver, front passenger, and side front impact protection scores the highest—five stars; and rear side impact protection and rollover resistance score four stars. Four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes with electronic brake-force distribution are paired in the standard-features list, which also includes front side and side curtain airbags that cover all three rows of seating. But life-saving electronic stability control—now standard on virtually all minivans and people-haulers its size—is nowhere to be found on the features list.

In Sport or Touring trim levels, the 2009 Mazda Mazda5 includes a standard CD stereo, power windows and locks, and cruise control. Available equipment includes air conditioning, fog lamps, a CD changer, and a power moonroof. For 2009, the Mazda5 gets a new exterior color (Liquid Silver), and the "Sand" interior theme is available with the black and dark blue exterior colors. Grand Touring models also pick up standard alarm systems, a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, automatic headlights, heated sideview mirrors, and rain-sensing wipers.

Top options on the 2009 Mazda5 include a DVD-based navigation system, remote engine start, an overhead rear-seat DVD entertainment system, and Sirius Satellite Radio.


2009 Mazda MAZDA5


The 2009 Mazda Mazda5 continues Mazda's sport design theme in a package sized between a wagon and a minivan.

The 2009 Mazda Mazda5 is an evolution of the people-hauler that Mazda introduced to the market in model year 2006. Variously described as a multi-activity vehicle, a mini-minivan, and a space wagon, the Mazda5 looks sporty and offers room for six passengers in the footprint of one of Mazda's smallest vehicles.

ConsumerGuide says the 2009 Mazda5 is "largely unchanged." It would not be a stretch to call the Mazda5 a "sensibly sized wagon," in the words of ConsumerGuide, if you overlook its sliding rear doors. A good idea, the Mazda 2009 Mazda5's sliders "make loading passengers in tight parking spaces easy," reports Edmunds, attributing the feature to the Mazda5's European roots. Cars.com notes "the Mazda5 has a wedge shape that's characterized by a raked windshield and a relatively upright rear liftgate." Changes for 2009 include the replacement of Sunlight Silver paint with Liquid Silver.

The interior design of the Mazda5 can be summed up as "sensible." A large speedometer dominates the three-gauge cluster, and the gearshift is mounted on a center panel. Cars.com confirms this, noting that the 2009 Mazda's "controls are sensibly arranged." The Mazda5 features electroluminescent gauges, which are lit day and night and especially easy to read, "along with rear sear air vents and controls [and] additional passenger flip-down armrests," according to Edmunds. That said, they lament that "the interior is filled with too many competing materials and surfaces, which gives it a disjointed and busy feel."


2009 Mazda MAZDA5


If not for its engine, the 2009 Mazda5 would be nearly perfect.

Nimble handling and excellent maneuverability distinguish the 2009 Mazda5 from other SUV and minivan possibilities on the road, but it's hindered by a 153-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine.

The 2009 Mazda Mazda5 is peppy with one or two passengers, but with six passengers, it's downright slow. Car and Driver tested the Mazda5's 0-60-mph acceleration, clocking it at a "ho-hum 9.4 seconds." Loaded with passengers and/or cargo, "performance suffers," says Edmunds. Cars.com finds the Mazda5's engine is "smooth-revving"; they claim it "can sound buzzy at higher rpm," but contradict themselves when they declare the engine is "strong enough for its purposes" and, later, "it wouldn't be hard for the...Mazda5 to be underpowered." As Kelley Blue Book attests, "the lack of V-6 power limits the appeal."

Originally designed for narrow European lanes, the Mazda5's compact dimensions "make maneuvering through traffic a snap and parking a much friendlier proposition," says Edmunds. The 2009 Mazda5 is somewhat peppy with the standard five-speed manual (a rarity among minivans). The base Sport is only available with a five-speed manual transmission that ConsumerGuide calls "slick [and] easy-shifting." The Mazda 2009 Touring and Grand Touring trims have as standard a five-speed automatic. With the available five-speed automatic transmission, the engine is barely adequate with a light load and completely overwhelmed when carrying around half of your kid's soccer team. The auto transmission's shifts are "smooth," comments Cars.com, "and it features a clutchless-manual mode" for those drivers who only occasionally want to shift for themselves. Car and Driver claims "just five percent [of buyers] opt to shift for themselves" but feels "the auto tranny preserves enough of the fun quotient for most drivers."

The underpowered engine reflects the 2009 Mazda5's middling fuel economy: Manual-equipped Mazda5s achieve an EPA-rated 22 mpg city, 28 mpg highway, while automatic-equipped units go 1 mpg less. ConsumerGuide "achieved 21.4 mpg," observing that "the 5 uses regular-grade gas." Mother Proof also tested an automatic, reporting, "The Mazda5 got about 20 mpg in [a] hilly neighborhood." With the Mazda5's lack of power, drivers have to flog the engine and fuel economy suffers. As Edmunds observes, "the four-cylinder engine doesn't have enough oomph to handle heavier loads or passing at highway speeds."

Unchanged since its introduction, the 2009 Mazda Mazda5 shares the suspension and underbody with the automaker's compact Mazda3. Consisting of MacPherson struts up front and a multilink rear suspension, the Mazda5's handling, steering, and ride garner praise in reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. ConsumerGuide gushes, "The Mazda5 is surprisingly sporty. Grip is good and body lean is modest." At 0.80 g, the Mazda5 "outgripped...full-sizers on the skidpad," finds Car and Driver. Cars.com feels the Mazda5's steering "is designed to engage the driver" and that a turn of the wheel "delivers a quick change of direction [with] a fair amount of feedback." They also assert that while the suspension is "on the firm side...it provides a tolerable ride." Edmunds notes: "When it comes to handling, the 5 is a snap to park and feels agile during low-speed driving...Unfortunately, stability control is not an option, an omission that became glaring to us during track testing... our test driver was surprised by the 5's proclivity to get sideways in the slalom."

All models are equipped with ABS with electronic brake-force distribution and brake assist that, says Motor Trend, "keep brake force balanced front and rear and boost braking power in emergency stops."


2009 Mazda MAZDA5

Comfort & Quality

The versatile 2009 Mazda Mazda5 can carry six in a pinch, but not luggage for six at the same time.

Clever engineering makes good use of what space is available behind the 2009 Mazda5's three seating rows.

The vehicle's unique 2+2+2 design gives up seven-passenger seating in favor of more individual room, notes Motor Trend. As Cars.com reports, "the second-row seats can slide and recline," and the front seats "leave you feeling good even after hours at the wheel [though] they're fairly snug and may not be comfortable for all types." Very tall drivers "wanted longer cushions and more rearward travel," according to ConsumerGuide, who also find the second row to have "good legroom...abetted by the slide and recline adjustments." Front-seat passengers get inboard armrests, while second-row passengers include outboard armrests for added comfort.

The sliding doors in the 2009 Mazda Mazda5 "provide outstanding entry and exit to the 2nd row but not to the 3rd row, which requires serious contortions," says ConsumerGuide. Cars.com explains the appeal lies in the Mazda5's ability to "offer surprising utility in a package that's not as mundane as many small cars." They state "there's very limited space behind the third row...when those six seats are occupied," but the "measly cargo area can be expanded to 44 cubic feet by folding the third row down." With the second row folded down, too, the Mazda5 yields 79 cubic feet of cargo room, with enough length to fit a five-foot two-by-four. The rear liftgate "barely clears six-footer heads," notes Motor Trend, but the low floor aids loading and "the liftgate has two stops, one for people of average height and a higher stop for taller folks, making it easier to reach for people of any height."

The 2009 Mazda Mazda5 has abundant small-item storage, including hidden trays beneath the second-row seats and rear cargo floor, notes ConsumerGuide. Mother Proof details them: "plastic storage bins under both of the second-row seats...a table with two cupholders on the passenger side that folds out into the aisle between the seats...the table surface pops out to reveal a [nifty] toy net...[and] there's another bin hiding under the floor of the rear cargo area." Cars.com sums it up well: "the Mazda5 manages to offer surprising utility in a package that's not as mundane as many small cars, and that will appeal to some shoppers."

The functional cabin uses "price-appropriate materials," according to ConsumerGuide, who explain "hard-plastic surfaces are tempered somewhat by rich graining and good overall assemble quality." The windows aft of the front row are tinted. Overall, ConsumerGuide rates the 2009 Mazda5's build quality high.

Road and wind noise is an issue in the Mazda5. Cars.com notes that the "cabin gets a bit loud when going [fast], with both wind and road noise contributing to the din." ConsumerGuide reports "coarse pavement induces audible tire thrum that resonates through the large, open interior." Mother Proof deems the noise "annoying" and "ever-persistent" and says "conversation is strained at highway speeds, especially with folks in the backseat."


2009 Mazda MAZDA5


The Mazda5 lacks electronic stability control, but it does offer every passenger a side airbag.

The 2009 Mazda Mazda5 does quite well in crash tests, indicating good occupant protection, but it lacks a couple key features.

From their tests of a Mazda5, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the vehicle five stars for the driver and passenger in a front collision and five and four stars for the front and rear occupants, respectively, in a side collision. It estimates that the Mazda5's rollover resistance warrants four stars, which is good considering the Mazda's lack of stability and traction control. "Front-seat passengers receive standard front airbags that measure the driver's weight, distance from the dash, and the severity of the crash before deploying," reports Motor Trend. Other standard safety features on this Mazda (2009) include side impact airbags for the front seats, side curtain airbags for all three rows, anti-lock brakes, and a tire pressure monitoring system. Cars.com notes, regarding child car seat anchors (LATCH points), that the second row has upper and lower anchors, but the third row has only upper anchors. All six occupants get three-point seatbelts. Mother Proof seems perturbed about the safety feature built in the optional navigation system: "[It's] easy to use...but the car has to be stopped to program in a destination...it means a passenger can't work the system if the car is in gear. This is supposed to be a safety feature, but it means a passenger can't work the system either."

Traction control and, most importantly, electronic stability control are not available standard or as options for the 2009 Mazda Mazda5. Stability control is now considered a must-have by safety advocates, and virtually all other rivals have it, so this is a severe inadequacy. However, electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA) are standard. J.D. Power explains, "EBD automatically balances front-to-rear braking forces to optimize stopping power...BA provides full braking power in emergency braking situations." Motor Trend notes, "All models get 24-hour roadside assistance."

Considering the amount of glass, visibility is good. Passengers sit up high in the Mazda. For 2009, drivers "[have] a commanding outlook over...the instrument panel," comments Kelley Blue Book. There is no backup assist camera available on this 2009 Mazda, and an anti-theft alarm system is available only on the top-of-the-line Grand Touring trim as standard. Good news for those who live in a state that forbids holding a cell phone while driving (such as California or New York): The top Grand Touring model includes a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, according to Motor Trend.


2009 Mazda MAZDA5


While the 2009 Mazda Mazda5 has a good features list, you're out of luck if you want one fully loaded with a manual transmission.  

The 2009 Mazda Mazda5 offers (depending on trim) many standard features and options galore.

There are three trim levels for the 2009 Mazda 5: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring (GT). In addition to keyless entry and power windows and doors, the base 2009 Mazda5 Sport is equipped with the five-speed manual transmission, 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, rear-seat air conditioning with separate controls, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, cruise control, a trip computer, and a six-speaker sound system with CD and an auxiliary audio jack, reports Edmunds.

A five-speed automatic, fog lights, a rear spoiler, a moonroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and an in-dash six-CD changer are standard on the 2009 Mazda5 Touring trim. The Grand Touring trim of the Mazda5 piles on automatic xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and Bluetooth, according to Edmunds, who adds that "all Mazda5s are pre-wired for [Sirius] satellite radio." All models get 24-hour roadside assistance, a comprehensive three-year/36,000-mile warranty, a five-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, and a five-year/unlimited-mile corrosion warranty.

Available on all trims are a DVD entertainment system, a HomeLink universal garage/gate opener, and a cargo cover. Options on the 2009 Mazda5 Sport trim include the moonroof and a rear spoiler. Remote start is optional on the Touring and Grand Touring trims, but the DVD-navigation system with touch screen is optional only on the Grand Touring trim, according to various reviews read by TheCarConnection.com. Mother Proof notes, "Leather is only available on the [top-of-the-line] Grand Touring trim." The rear liftgate features two stops to suit different heights. To keep weight and cost down in this Mazda, 2009 Mazda5s do not have a power driver seat. They do, however, feature a ratchet-style lever to adjust seat height. On all trims, "a console emerges from under the second-row passenger seat and contains cupholders for both middle-row passengers and an ingenious net catch-all for odds and ends," describes Kelley Blue Book. Pearlescent paint is also available at extra cost.

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2009 Mazda MAZDA5 4-Door Wagon Automatic Grand Touring

Mazda5 Grand Touring

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Overall a pretty good vehicle. Had some persistent problems with electrical system.
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