It's shorter than many mid-size four-doors, but the Mazda 5 has room inside for six passengers. It's a feat of packaging that makes it a real alternative to a larger eight-passenger minivan, for those who don't need ultimate capacity.
In front, the 5 could use more plush upholstery. The seats are flat and feel skimpy, but the buckets are wide enough for most adults, and there's ample head and leg room. The same is true for the second row, where two adults will have enough room for a child to fit between them.
It's the third row that doesn't work for every passenger. The split bench is hard to climb into, fine for the kids that fit into it easily, not so good for the adults that will find their knees positioned toward their chins once they're back there anyway.
Keep in mind, neither of the 5's sliding side doors nor its tailgate can be optioned up to power control. It's less necessary since it's a smaller vehicle, but those trading down from a Sienna or Odyssey or Grand Caravan might notice the loss.
The third-row seat folds away in what's clearly the Mazda 5's versatility trump card. At the pull of a strap, the third-row seat folds forward to form a flat cargo floor; for even more space, the second row can be flipped forward almost flat. The net is a large cargo space that doesn't require much muscle or the removal of any seats.
Throughout the Mazda5's interior materials can be a letdown if you're expecting a premium feel; otherwise, they're fine considering the price range. An available perforated leather upholstery with contrasting piping looks great from a distance, but up close it feels a little slippery and overtreated; we think most Mazda5 buyers will be happy with the base cloth, which feels durable and looks ready to take on repeated deep cleans from toddlers’ spills.
Up close, the drab, hard-and-hollow plastic trim for the dash and door panels is disappointing even considering the price, and there's a lot of road noise on some surfaces.
Overall, too, the Mazda5 is user-friendly in a way that doesn't allow on complicated power controls, running boards, and such. You can easily open or close the non-power sliding doors with your thumb and forefinger; the hatch is easily closed and at arm's height for even shorter moms; and second- and third-row seats fold forward without a lot of straining or reaching.