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."