- Responsive steering
- Handles more like a hatch than a minivan
- Excellent ride
- Seating for six
- Short, flat front seats
- Skimpy feature list
- Bluetooth isn't standard
- Can be noisy
- Manual option is gone
The 2015 Mazda 5 has good road manners and clean styling, but its flexibility is undercut by poor safety ratings.
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. It provides a good transition vehicle from a family sedan to a minivan, or can do just fine for smaller families that want a little extra flexibility compared to a wagon or hatchback.
Mazda refreshed the looks of the 5 a few years back. At that time, its compact proportions and boxy fundamentals remained, yet some added contouring in its fenders and a rhythmic flow to its surfaces and creases livened up the exterior. It is indeed a minivan, but at least it's one that looks different, even sporty. With lots of shiny, hard plastic and on-a-budget trims, the interior is a little more deserving of criticism, however.
Sporty yet restrained, as well as surprisingly nimble, are ways to sum the performance of the Mazda 5. Its 2.5-liter four-cylinder has just 157 horsepower; it's not quick at all. A five-speed automatic is now the only transmission option, but at least it has manual shift control. Acceleration is adequate, thanks to well-chosen gear ratios. With EPA ratings of 21 mpg city and 28 mpg highway, gas mileage is fine, although the bigger minivans do just as well, and people movers like the hybrid Ford C-Max and Toyota Prius V do far better.
We do lament the loss of a manual-transmission option for 2015. The previously standard six-speed unit really helped differentiate the Mazda 5 from other vans its size and especially the larger "minivans" on sale today. It's an understandable change, however, since Mazda likely sold few with the manual, especially considering how few 5s it sells altogether.
It's ride and handling that continue to draw our attention to the 5, though. The athletic feel starts with top-notch steering and a well-composed ride. The 5 is 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. It skips most frills—there's are no power rear hatch 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 right behind. 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 get comfortable. The third-row split bench works in a pinch for smaller kids and folds away to create a big cargo area. 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.
The more basic Sport model is easily the best value in the lineup, better than most minivans and crossovers, really. For around $20k, you get power locks, windows, and mirrors; automatic climate control; an AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary jack and USB port; a tilt/telescoping 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. The top-of-the-line Grand Touring adds a power moonroof, heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, xenon HID headlamps, heated front seats, and Sirius satellite radio (available as a standalone option, too), all for around $25,000.
While the 5 is still plenty of fun to pilot, its aging architecture becomes - bit more evident when put up against the latest crash tests. Likely because of its low sales volume, the Mazda 5 hasn't been tested by the federal government's NHTSA. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has put it through its wringer, and the results are only fair. The Mazda 5 scores top 'good' marks in moderate front crash and roof strength tests, 'marginal' in side crash, and 'poor' in the small front overlap test, the agency's newest and toughest.
2015 Mazda MAZDA5
The Mazda 5 hasn't changed much in a few years, but the minivan box is disguised fairly well behind some smart lines.
The Mazda 5 was given a styling refresh a few years back that helped it step a bit further away from convention and look a little more light, lean, and dashing. 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 of a van. 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 the bigger 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, 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. There are rounded climate control vents at either side, and center vents are high up for better flow.
The interior is tastefully understated but frugal to a fault in some areas. For instance, the hard, hollow plastic atop the instrument panel is among the worst we've seen in any vehicle currently on sale. The dull, lightly grained black plastic shifter trim ring is easily scratched, and other plastic items just have a low-rent feel.
2015 Mazda MAZDA5
Not quick by any measure, the Mazda 5's compact size helps it feel more perky than any other minivan.
Though the 2015 Mazda 5 might have compact-car origins, its basis started with great dynamics that it was able to carry through to a larger package.
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 Mazda 5 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.
The only engine is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 157 horsepower, and it's now paired only with a five-speed automatic that sends power to the front wheels. No one would ever accuse this minivan of being quick, but at least the transmission has well-chosen ratios, giving the 5 decent acceleration. The automatic has a manual-control mode, but there's really no point in revving the engine into its noisy upper reaches.
We do lament the loss of a manual-transmission option for 2015. The previously standard six-speed unit really helped differentiate the Mazda 5 from other vans its size and especially the larger "minivans" on sale today. It's an understandable change, however, since Mazda likely sold few with the manual, especially considering how few 5s it sells altogether. It was offered only on the Sport model, so those looking for features had to pick the auto anyway.
2015 Mazda MAZDA5
Comfort & Quality
The Mazda 5 will carry four adults and two kids easily, and the rear seats fold flat for lots of cargo capacity.
The Mazda 5 has room for six in a body that'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 legroom. The same is true for the second row, where two adults will have enough room, but it's also not all that contoured for long-distance comfort.
Ingress and egress to and from the third row isn't terribly easy, and it's not all that roomy once back there. The split bench is hard to climb into, which is fine for the kids that fit into it easily but not so good for the adults, who will find their knees positioned toward their chins once they're back there.
Simplicity is the operative when when it comes to reconfiguring the Mazda 5. 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, netting a large cargo space that doesn't require much muscle or the removal of any seats.
There are no power controls for the sliding side doors or for the tailgate, although some will find that refreshingly simple. You might only miss it if you're trading down from one of the larger, more expensive vans like the Odyssey or Grand Caravan.
Overall, too, the Mazda 5 is user-friendly even without complicated power controls, running boards, and such. You can easily open or close the human-power sliding doors with your thumb and forefinger; the hatch is at arm's height even for shorter folks and is easily shut; 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.
Throughout the Mazda 5's interior, materials can be a letdown if you're expecting a premium feel; otherwise, they're fine considering the price range. 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 Mazda 5 buyers will be happy with the base cloth, which feels durable and looks ready to take on repeated deep cleans from toddlers’ spills.
2015 Mazda MAZDA5
Crash-test scores are low, and safety options are sparse.
The 2015 Mazda 5 includes the normal roster of standard safety equipment, but it doesn't offer any of the advanced technology found on some of the competition, even as options. Because of its aging architecture, its crash-test ratings aren't proving all that impressive.
The Mazda 5 still hasn't been crash-tested by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and likely won't be as a result of its low sales volume. But the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tested a 2014 model and found that it didn't fare well in several categories. It rather spectacularly failed the tough new small-overlap frontal test, which was added after the 5's last redesign.
Three-row curtain airbags are standard, as are a throttle-brake override system and stability control. Bluetooth hands-free calling, which we consider a safety feature, isn't standard, or even available on the base Sport. There's no available blind-spot monitor or rearview camera, but thankfully the Mazda 5 is small and not that difficult to see out of, and rear parking sensors are included on Touring and Grand Touring models.
2015 Mazda MAZDA5
It's a good value, but the Mazda 5 lacks many of the infotainment features that stand out in other minivans.
The 2015 Mazda 5 offers loads of value and space in a relatively simple package. The amount of choice has been slightly diminished for 2015 with the demise of the six-speed manual transmission, which was standard and only available on the base Sport model.
So the five-speed automatic is now included on all Sport models, which also come with power locks, windows, and mirrors; automatic climate control; an AM/FM/CD player with an auxiliary jack and USB port; a tilt/telescoping steering wheel; cruise control; keyless entry; and steering-wheel-mounted cruise and audio controls.
The Mazda 5 Touring adds 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 Mazda 5 also comes with a power moonroof, heated mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, xenon HID headlamps, heated front seats, and Sirius satellite radio (which is available as a stand-alone option on other models). The price for all that is around $25,000.
When it comes to advanced tech features, the Mazda 5 is sorely lacking. The most glaring omission: navigation, although there is a Garmin unit that can be purchased from and installed at the dealer. The audio system is only capable of displaying a few characters at a time, which makes tuning and display of information from the available satellite radio very difficult.
2015 Mazda MAZDA5
Fuel economy numbers aren't much better than larger minivans.
The 2015 Mazda 5 manages better gas mileage than most larger minivans, but it's no standout in terms of highway mileage.
In the EPA cycle, the Mazda 5 (which is now auto-only) returns 21 mpg in the city and 28 on the highway. The Honda Odyssey, which was recently upgraded to a six-speed automatic, can match the Mazda's highway rating and carry eight passengers--two more than the Mazda 5. Other big minivans are a couple of miles per gallon lower, if not more, on the highway cycle.
There are also a number of smaller-car alternatives to the Mazda 5 that get significantly better mileage, including the Ford C-Max hybrid, which returns 43 mpg.
It's worth noting, however, 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. It should also be noted that the automatic 5's city rating is down 1 mpg from the 2014 number.