The Mazda 5 has room for six, while it's shorter than many mid-size four-door sedans. It's a feat of packaging that makes this model a real alternative to today's (not-so-mini) minivans; but you won't find anything too opulent or plush here.
The seats in front are flat and feel skimpy, although 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, but it's also not all that contoured for long-distance comfort.
In the third row, getting in and out is perhaps the hardest part; but it's not all that roomy back there either. 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.
Simplicity is the operative term when it comes to the Mazda 5's versatility, too. With the easy pull of a strap, the third-row seat folds forward to form a flat cargo floor. 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.
You won't find power controls for the sliding side doors or for the tailgate, although some will find that refreshingly simple. You'll only miss it if you're trading down from one of the larger, more expensive vans like the Odyssey or Grand Caravan.
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.
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.
What's not as endearing about the Mazda 5 is its drab, hard-and-hollow plastic trim for the dash and door panels. Even considering the price it's disappointing; and on some kinds of surfaces the cabin is simply too noisy.