- Responsive steering
- Handles more like a hatch than a minivan
- Excellent ride
- A six-speed manual is standard
- There's seating for six
- Short, flat front seats
- Skimpy feature list
- Bluetooth isn't standard
- Can be noisy
The 2014 Mazda 5 offers the flexibility, space, and versatility of a minivan, but with the personality of a sporty small car, it's a lot more enjoyable for the commute.
A minivan can feel like a sentence for a dull car life, especially if you're making that indelicate transition between the college years and the mortgage years and the daycare years. Drive the Mazda 5 and you'll probably agree, you don't have to let go of your soul all at once.
The Mazda 5 has a charming simplicity. It combines all the usefulness of a minivan with the nimble driving feel of a small hatchback. It's arguably a more exciting option than some of the crossovers most newly minted small families are likely to choose.
The Mazda 5 was redesigned a couple of years ago, and at that time its compact proportions and boxy fundamentals remained, yet some aggressive contouring in its fenders and a rhythmic flow to its surfaces and creases added a lot more excitement to the exterior. It is indeed a minivan, but at least it's one that's very different--even sporty--looking. With lots of shiny, hard plastic and on-a-budget trims, the interior is a little more deserving of criticism, however.
It's ride and handling that continue to draw our attention. The athletic feel starts with top-notch steering and a well composed ride. It's a blast to drive, especially when the road winds. It feels natural and confident, and ride quality is comfortable and absorbent whether you’re cruising on the highway or taking on the tight esses of a mountain road.
The Mazda 5 is a tall, sliding-door wagon, but it sure doesn't feel like it. Size-wise, it's a 7/8-scale minivan; there aren’t a lot of frills, and there are no power rear hatches or power folding seats; from the driver’s seat, you might think you’re in a nimble small car, yet there are convenient sliding side doors and oodles of easily reconfigurable interior space. Mazda has managed to fit seating for six—three usable rows—in a vehicle that’s shorter than a typical mid-size sedan. The front seats are a little skimpy, but the buckets in the second row have enough space for adults to be comfortable. The third-row split bench works in a pinch for smaller kids--and folds away to create big cargo-carrying capacity. The two most significant letdowns of the Mazda 5’s interior are its drab, hard-and-hollow plastic trim for the dash and door panels, and the seemingly ever-present din of road noise.
In top-of-the-line Grand Touring form, the Mazda 5 also comes with a power moonroof, heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, xenon HID headlamps, heated front seats, and Sirius satellite radio (a standalone option, too), all for around $25,000. But it's the more basic Sport models that stand out to us; that's where the 2014 Mazda 5 offers loads of value and space--more than any other minivan or crossover, really. For around $20k, you get power locks, windows, and mirrors; automatic climate control; an AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary jack; a USB port; a tilt/telescopic steering wheel; cruise control; keyless entry; and steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls. Rear parking sensors also are standard, as well as Bluetooth with audio streaming, on mid-range Touring models.
2014 Mazda MAZDA5
The Mazda 5 can't hide its boxy basis, but it's sporty and nicely detailed as a whole.
The Mazda 5 is indeed a minivan; but one that's more sensibly sized. To put it all into perspective, the Mazda 5 is actually five inches longer than the original Dodge Caravan, but nearly two feet shorter than what are now called minivans, like the Honda Odyssey,Dodge Grand Caravan, and Toyota Sienna. In truth, each of those vehicles now nearly take up the space of the old boatlike station wagons they were intended to replace.
The 5 was given a full redesign just two years ago that helped it step a bit further away from convention and look a little more light, lean, and dashing. For it, Mazda took what were some already great proportions and infused them with some of the brand's 'Nagare' design cues--ones that have since come and gone in favor of a more aggressive 'Kodo' language that now describes the CX-5, Mazda 6 and Mazda 3.
That said, there's only so much you can do to escape the inherent boxiness. From a few paces back, the Mazda 5 still looks like a well-designed 7/8-scale minivan—one that might park and maneuver a little easier, too (as it does). It is a little more exciting to look at than other minivans, especially from the side. The flow of surfaces and creases down the fenders generates some visual drama, and the long taillights have gone horizontal, all in the name of lowering the van's profile, making it seem more like carlike. The stance alone helps the Mazda 5 pull off some of those details in a way no larger minivan could.
The interior feels modern, but more influenced by small cars than larger minivans. It's a simple, matte look, with bright accents throughout, and a few curves added to the instrument panel. The Mazda 5 gets the Mazda 3's rounded climate control vents at either side, and center vents are high up for flow.
Other than that, it's understated; tasteful but clearly frugal--painfully so in a few places. For instance, the hard, hollow plastic atop the instrument panel is among the worst we've seen in any new vehicle as of late; the dull, lightly grained black plastic used around the shift faceplate looks of the type that's easily scratched by watches or bracelets, and the vinyl-ish boot around the manual shifter feels like a parts-bin extra from the '90s.
2014 Mazda MAZDA5
The 2014 Mazda 5 is more agile and nimble than other minivans, although it's hardly quick.
The 2014 Mazda 5 has humble compact-car origins; but it's inherited some of the best bones in the business--as well as some good reflexes.
With underpinnings based on the former Mazda 3 compact sedan and hatchback, the Mazda 5 offers handling that's more athletic than any other minivan. But acceleration is among the slowest.
The only engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 157 horsepower, and it's teamed up to the front wheels through either a five-speed automatic or a six-speed manual transmission. No one would ever accuse this minivan of being quick, but at least the transmissions have well-chosen ratios, giving the 5 decent acceleration. The automatic has a manual-control mode, but the six-speed still has a more energetic, direct feel. Either way, there's really no point in revving the engine into its noisy upper reaches.
By the way, you'll want to weigh the need for options with the transmission you want, because the six-speed manual is only offered on the base Sport model, while the other models have the automatic standard.
In any case, the Mazda5 is a joy to drive, with top-notch steering and a nimble, athletic feel--especially brought out when the road turns curvy. The quick-ratio electro-hydraulic power steering is weighted about perfectly, and it feels natural and confident whether you’re cruising on the highway or taking on the tight esses of a mountain road. Ride quality is surprisingly good, given the taut suspension tuning, while body control is in check and four-wheel disc brakes provide strong stopping power without the dramatic nosedive of other people-movers.
2014 Mazda MAZDA5
Comfort & Quality
Six will fit easily in the Mazda 5's compact footprint, and rear seats easily fold flat for cargo.
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.
2014 Mazda MAZDA5
Crash-test scores aren't available for the current Mazda5, and a rearview camera isn't widely available.
The 2014 Mazda 5 includes all the safety equipment you get on most new cars, as standard, but it doesn't offer any of the advanced technology found on some of the competition. And its crash-test ratings aren't proving all that impressive.
Three-row curtain airbags are standard, as are a throttle-brake override system and stability control. Odd exclusions (even optional) include a rearview camera and blind-spot monitors. Bluetooth hands-free calling, which we consider a safety feature, isn't standard, or even available on the base Sport.
The Mazda 5 still hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) just tested a 2014 model, in summer of 2014, and found that it didn't fare well in several categories. It rather spectacularly failed the tough new small overlap frontal test since it was last redesigned, a couple of years ago.
2014 Mazda MAZDA5
The Mazda 5 is a disappointment for those looking for tech and connectivity features; but it's a strong value.
The 2014 Mazda 5 offers loads of value and space--more than any other minivan or crossover, really.
At the base Mazda 5 Sport level, you get power locks, windows, and mirrors; automatic climate control; an AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary jack; a USB port; a tilt/telescopic steering wheel; cruise control; keyless entry; and steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls.On the Mazda5 Touring, the automatic transmission becomes standard, as do 17-inch wheels; leather trim on the steering wheel and shift lever; and a trip computer. Rear parking sensors also are standard. Bluetooth with audio streaming is also standard.
In top-of-the-line Grand Touring form, the Mazda5 also comes with a power moonroof, heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, xenon HID headlamps, heated front seats, and Sirius satellite radio (a stand-alone option, too), all for around $25,000.
The audio system is only capable of displaying a few characters at a time; satellite radio is available with it, but that hampers tuning and display.
When it comes to advanced tech features, the Mazda5 is sorely lacking. Most glaring: there's no navigation option (a Garmin system is offered on a dealer-installed basis, however).
2014 Mazda MAZDA5
Highway mileage isn't any better than some larger minivans; but the EPA ratings aren't any stretch.
The Mazda5 gets better gas mileage than larger minivans, but in terms of highway mileage it's no standout.
With its new six-speed automatic, the Honda Odyssey can match the Mazda 5's EPA highway rating of 28 mpg; but the Honda can't quite equal the Mazda's city ratings of 21-22 mpg. Meanwhile, the Odyssey can carry eight passengers--two more than the Mazda5.
There are also a number of smaller-car alternatives to the Mazda 5 that get significantly better mileage; and the new Ford C-Max returns 43 mpg on the EPA cycle, from its hybrid powertrain.
But it's worth noting that we’ve seen significantly better real-world results in the Mazda. In one 420-mile, varied weekend drive of a manual-gearbox model, over two mountain passes, mostly highway driving plus some city miles, we averaged nearly 30 miles per gallon.