2010 Mazda MAZDA5 Review

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Bengt Halvorson Bengt Halvorson Deputy Editor
September 1, 2009

For families looking for fuel-efficient, maneuverable, and roomy transportation—with a fun-to-drive feel—the 2010 Mazda5 is your best and only choice.

To put together an especially thorough review on the 2010 Mazda Mazda5, TheCarConnection.com's experts read a number of reviews from some of the Web’s top sources and included the most useful information from them. And to arrive at a Bottom Line assessment, TheCarConnection.com reports on the firsthand driving experience as well as the ins and outs of this mini-minivan.

Whether you see the Mazda5 as a seven-eighths-scale minivan or a compact wagon with the roof raised and sliding side doors, the Mazda5 fills a niche that no other vehicle does in the U.S. market. And this year, with demand for fuel-efficient vehicles way up, sales have surged for this unique three-row, six-seat “sport minivan.”

With its mechanical underpinnings closely related to the Mazda3 sedan and hatchback—models that TheCarConnection.com ranks high for small-car shoppers—the Mazda5 brings much of that same eager, nimble character to the driver’s seat in a way that few other SUVs or minivans do. That handling prowess is assured via MacPherson struts in the front and a multilink setup in the rear, with 17-inch wheels and tires available. Surefooted four-wheel anti-lock disc brakes provide the stopping power to match. The Mazda5 rides well, too: smoothly but firmly and without much body motion.

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The only thing that hinders the Mazda5 from being a truly cohesive sporty package is its 153-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. With an empty load it’s somewhat peppy-feeling with the standard (on Sport trims) five-speed manual (a rarity among minivans) and acceptable with the available (standard on Touring and Grand touring trims) five-speed automatic. But fill up the van with six occupants—or even three or four adults and their bags, and the engine feels completely overwhelmed on the highway. Around town it does the job, but if you often road-trip with a full load, you might be disappointed.

The Mazda5’s interior is surprisingly spacious. Although the rearmost two seats are kid's stuff only, theater-style seating makes the most of those backseats, although the front seats are skimpy in size for taller or larger people and there’s no side support for when you do want to enjoy the cornering abilities. 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. The second-row seats slide fore and aft to allow more space for the third row (or more cargo space) as needed, and the liftgate actually has two detents to help out shorter users.

You certainly won’t find luxurious materials and trims in the 2010 Mazda5, but it gives the overall impression of being nicely put-together, with well-coordinated if simple surface textures. The instrument panel is straightforward, and there are no complicated interfaces to overcome. Ride quality is quite good; it’s firm overall but yields to potholes and the really rough stuff. One issue to some buyers might be road noise—the Mazda5 allows more in than the average minivan.

The 2010 Mazda5 does well in the federal government’s crash tests. Driver, front passenger, and side front impact protection score the highest: five stars. Rear side impact protection and rollover resistance score four stars. Electronic stability control, a must-have feature for virtually any vehicle and families especially, is newly standard across the model line. 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.

The 2010 Mazda Mazda5 includes a pretty impressive list of standard features in Sport or Touring trim levels, including a standard CD stereo, power windows and locks, and cruise control. An alarm system, a Bluetooth hands-free phone system, automatic headlights, heated sideview mirrors, and rain-sensing wipers are included with the uplevel Grand Touring model. Options on the base models include fog lamps, a CD changer, and a power moonroof, while a DVD-based navigation system, remote engine start, Sirius Satellite Radio, and an overhead rear-seat DVD entertainment system are available on the Grand Touring.

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2010 Mazda MAZDA5

Styling

Smaller than a minivan, yet more useful than most compact wagons, the 2010 Mazda Mazda5 puts function before form.

Mazda introduced the Mazda5 to the U.S. market in 2006, and the 2010 Mazda5 has changed little since then. 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.

Although from a few paces back the Mazda5 looks like a minivan, it does have a lower, slightly more rakish appearance. 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."

“Sensible” is a good way to sum up the interior design in the 2010 Mazda Mazda5. A large speedometer dominates the three-gauge cluster, and the gearshift is mounted on a center panel. Cars.com notes 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." The interior has “too many competing materials and surfaces, which gives it a disjointed and busy feel," laments the Edmunds reviewer.

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2010 Mazda MAZDA5

Performance

If you don’t expect to accelerate quickly, the 2010 Mazda Mazda5 performs well and is fun to drive.

The 2010 Mazda Mazda5 is more fun to drive than most other SUVs or minivans, but its 153-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine leaves it winded with a full load.

The Mazda5 has a firm, carlike suspension based on that of the sporty Mazda3 compact hatchbacks and sedans. “The squat look leads to the expectation that it can’t mimic the Mazda 3 in dynamics,” comments Car and Driver, “but it proves to be a reasonable copycat, thanks in part to its nearly identical curb weight.”

The 2010 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."

How the Mazda5 accelerates also has a lot to do with how heavily it’s loaded. The 2010 Mazda Mazda5 is peppy with one or two passengers, but with six passengers, it's downright slow, according to TheCarConnection.com’s experience. Loaded with passengers and/or cargo, "performance suffers," verifies Edmunds.
Most reviewers think that the lack of engine performance puts a damper on the Mazda5’s appeal, but not everyone feels that it’s underpowered. Cars.com thinks that the engine is "strong enough for its purposes." But Kelley Blue Book attests "the lack of V-6 power limits the appeal." As Edmunds summarizes, "the four-cylinder engine doesn't have enough oomph to handle heavier loads or passing at highway speeds."

Car and Driver tests the Mazda5's 0-60-mph acceleration, clocking it at a "ho-hum 9.4 seconds"—actually not bad for an economical family vehicle.

Fuel economy is significantly better than larger minivans, especially in the city. 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." MotherProof also tests an automatic, reporting, "The Mazda5 got about 20 mpg in [a] hilly neighborhood." Although TheCarConnection.com has seen quite good fuel economy with the Mazda5, several sources point out that real-world fuel economy might suffer because you’ll have to drive the 5 so hard to keep up.

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 2010 Mazda Mazda5 handles surprisingly well, given its outward appearance, but it makes more sense considering that the Mazda5 shares its suspension and underbody with the compact Mazda3—one of TheCarConnection.com’s fun-to-drive favorites. 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 that the Mazda5's steering "is designed to engage the driver" and 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."

City-friendly agility and maneuverability is another Mazda5 bonus. 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."

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2010 Mazda MAZDA5

Comfort & Quality

The 2010 Mazda Mazda5 can carry up to six people, but it’s not an exceptionally refined or comfortable experience.

Thanks to some design and engineering magic, the 2010 Mazda5 fits three seating rows into a vehicle with a compact-car parking footprint. Even more surprising, the 2+2+2 arrangement allows lots of room, as long as you’re one of the front four.

The second-row seats in the 2010 Mazda5 are just as comfortable as those in front, according to some reviewers. 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." Front-seat passengers get inboard armrests, while second-row passengers include outboard armrests for added comfort.

Not all reviewers praise the special division, though. Very tall drivers "wanted longer cushions and more rearward travel" in front, reports ConsumerGuide, who also find the second row has "good legroom...abetted by the slide and recline adjustments." Also, ConsumerGuide says the sliding doors in the Mazda Mazda5 "provide outstanding entry and exit to the 2nd row but not to the 3rd row, which requires serious contortions."

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 2010 Mazda Mazda5 seems perfectly configured for small or growing families; there’s abundant small-item storage, including hidden trays beneath the second-row seats and rear cargo floor, according to ConsumerGuide. 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."

Getting into the up-close look and feel of the materials, reviews aren’t as overwhelmingly positive. ConsumerGuide reports that the cabin uses "price-appropriate materials," but build quality is high and "hard-plastic surfaces are tempered somewhat by rich graining and good overall assemble quality."

A few reviewers note the coarse sound of the Mazda5’s engine, which Cars.com says is "smooth-revving" but "can sound buzzy at higher rpm." Road and wind noise is also an issue. ConsumerGuide reports "coarse pavement induces audible tire thrum that resonates through the large, open interior." Cars.com notes that the "cabin gets a bit loud when going [fast], with both wind and road noise contributing to the din." MotherProof deems the noise "annoying" and "ever-persistent" and asserts "conversation is strained at highway speeds, especially with folks in the backseat."

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2010 Mazda MAZDA5

Safety

Although crash-test results aren't as perfect as we've come to expect from people-movers, the 2010 Mazda Mazda5 now has all the requisite safety features for family duty.

The 2010 Mazda Mazda5 has reasonably good crash-test results, in a class of overachievers. The federal government awards the Mazda5 five stars in frontal impact protection; in the NHTSA side-impact test, the Mazda5 achieves five-star results for front occupants but four-star results for those in back. Considering the Mazda5 is a vehicle that might frequently carry back-seat passengers and the class of minivans and compact SUVs is jam-packed with five-star ratings, that's more of a demerit here than it might otherwise be. Although crash-test information from the often more critical and descriptive Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) would help here, the IIHS hasn't rated the Mazda5.

The news is more assuring with respect to features. The 2010 Mazda5 now includes electronic stability control, along with anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD) and brake assist (BA).

Regarding the brakes, J.D. Power explains that "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."

"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 the Mazda5 include side impact airbags for the front seats and side curtain airbags for all three rows. 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.

Compared to many other new vehicles, outward visibility is quite good in the Mazda5, with a relatively high perch and low beltline. Kelley Blue Book says that drivers "[have] a commanding outlook over...the instrument panel." There is no backup assist camera available on this 2010 Mazda, and an anti-theft alarm system is available only on the top-of-the-line Grand Touring trim as standard.

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2010 Mazda MAZDA5

Features

The 2010 Mazda5 has amazing utility features but only satisfactory comfort and luxury details. You're out of luck if you want a loaded one with a stick or an affordable one with leather.

The 2010 Mazda Mazda5 doesn’t come especially well equipped, but it has a reasonably long standard equipment list and won’t disappoint.

There are three trim levels for the 2009 Mazda 5: Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring (GT). Among the features on the base 2009 Mazda5 Sport are 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, keyless entry, 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.

The 2010 Mazda5 Touring model steps up to fog lights, a rear spoiler, a moonroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and a six-CD changer. And for those who want a loaded vehicle, the Grand Touring trim of the Mazda5 piles on automatic xenon headlights, rain-sensing wipers, leather upholstery, heated front seats, and Bluetooth.

Available on all trims are a DVD entertainment system, a HomeLink universal garage/gate opener, and a cargo cover. Options on the 2010 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.

MotherProof notes, "Leather is only available on the [top-of-the-line] Grand Touring trim;" TheCarConnection.com, however, cautions that prices can get quite high on the Grand Touring, so if you want the best deal you might have to settle for cloth.

A number of features in the 2010 Mazda5 seem perfectly designed for busy moms or those with their hands full. The rear liftgate features two stops to suit different heights. 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. 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.

MotherProof details all the places to put loose items: "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."

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.

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