• Dec 18th 2007 at 12:02PM
  • 44
The Tutors have been waiting months to get a Mazda5 in the Autoblog Garage. The car-like minivan has been on the our family shopping list since we knew we were adding an extra person to the house. Based on the Mazda3 platform, the 5 promised a sedan ride with family-size space for parents on a budget. That, in my mind, is the perfect vehicle.

Our strato blue tester was a Touring model with 17" wheels, cloth seats, automatic climate control, and moonroof. The only optional equipment was satellite radio. The sticker on the window listed a base price of $19,780 with a $430 charge for the Sirius receiver and a delivery charge of $595, for a grand total of $20,375.

Continue reading about the Mazda5 Touring after the jump.

All photos Copyright ©2007 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.

If you travel with a human younger than 21, you carry loads of toys. And those myriad toys gotta be stowed somewhere, or else you get action figures lurking beneath the accelerator and baby dolls flailing away loudly on hollow plastic in back. Mazda's designers have no kids. None. I am convinced of this because the Mazda5 has the small-item storage of a Kawasaki . OK, sure, there is a small cubby hole in the very back, and a little mesh baggy thing suspended between the two center seats, and a shallow indentation beneath each of those same seats' cushions. But you try explaining to a bored toddler while doing 70 down the interstate, why he can't have his coloring book because he and his child seat are sitting on it. Oh, and the driver and passenger share what seemed to be a vertical bread box between the front seats. It must have been a foot deep and about six inches wide, perfectly suited for umbrellas. Or maybe rolled up newspapers. The tiny glove box was completely taken up by the car's manual.

What few storage bins the car did have were unlined hard plastic which meant the loose change up front rattled over every bump, the small items in back knocked about with every turn and the umbrella by my elbow bounced around wildly. Come on Mazda. How much could rubber liners have cost?

And that's about as passionately positive or negative I can get about the Mazda5. Otherwise, it's not a bad vehicle. It just seemed every time my wife and I found a feature we liked about the Mazda, we found a negative to balance it out. Take the interior, for example. Behind the two front seats, there was ample seating for five, and with those seats folded, enough cargo room to move a college senior from dorm to apartment. The balancing negative came with driver and passenger seats. Despite being an average 5'10", I felt cramped behind the wheel. Push the seat close enough to properly work the clutch, and my knees were scraping the plastic beneath the instrument cluster. The passenger seat wasn't much better. With it pushed back to its limits, my 5'4" wife still had very little knee and foot room. We've also heard complaints from some current 5 owners about the lack of center armrests, HVAC outlets for rear passengers, and the lack of a power port in back.

Our Mazda5 had the optional Sirius satellite radio, which worked just as it should. We just wish Mazda would give its customers more than a one-line LED readout. It was almost impossible to change satellite channels while driving, and a pain in the rear when parked.

Safety is as you would expect. Disc brakes on all wheels, air bags in front, and front side, as well as side bags for all four rear passengers.

Performance is surprising for a vehicle of this size. Our loaner had the 5-speed manual attached to the standard 2.2 liter 153 hp engine. We didn't have a chance against a Mazda3 on which the 5 is based, but we'd have a good shot at taking most other minivans on the road. Automatic-equipped 5s with steering-wheel-mounted paddle-shifters bring almost the same level of go, and, in our opinion, are better suited for family-hauling than is the manual. Our only real gripe about the manual is the placement of the shifter. We wouldn't expect a stubby little Miata-like shifter in a minivan, but it was a sometimes uncomfortable reach for the stick way over there by the radio. We got pretty near the estimated EPA highway number of 27 mpg on a long drive to New Orleans, but only about 19 mpg in city driving.

Seating for six is nice to have, but sometimes you're hauling more cargo than people. The 5 makes that fairly easy. All rear seats fold flat, giving you room for almost 71 cubic feet of stuff, as compared to a miniscule 4 cu. ft. with all the seats up. The seats fold easily from either of the two sliding side doors, but to get them back up requires opening the rear hatch. Not a big problem, just an annoyance. With just the rearmost seats folded, we were able to load groceries and our extra-large stroller with space left over.

Child seats can be installed in any of the rear four seats, and installation was unremarkably easy. The dual sliding rear doors made loading and unloading of a two-year-old very easy in the second row, and the Mazda5 had no problem passing the stroller test with the third row seats down or up. It held our full-size Graco and groceries either way.

Some complaints about the 5 will be addressed in the upcoming redesign expected in late 2008. Rear passengers get HVAC outlets and armrests, and the dashboard gets a makeover with an auxiliary audio input. We don't know yet whether storage issues or seating problems will be addressed. That means Mazda5 shoppers should be able to find some good deals on leftover 2007 models, or if they're patient, will get an updated mini-minivan in a few months. For those not ready for a minivan, but who still need lots of space, the 5 is one of a very few cars that can deliver for less than $25,000.

All photos Copyright ©2007 Chris Tutor / Weblogs, Inc.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 7 Years Ago
      Hate to break it to you guys but I had one of these for two years. I got rid of it because the electrical system would SHUT OFF when driving at highway speeds. On top of the the radio had a propensity to randomly not work when I started the car (I had to restart it to make it work). Also, after just barely two years of ownership, both of the front seats' stitching and fabric had started to come apart/wear through. I would NOT recommend this vehicle to anyone. I had the high end version of this vehicle. So sad. I loved that car.
      • 7 Years Ago
      So let's see, here. It's a vehicle that gets 26 MPG hwy with a light load, which is less than a 233 HP Impala. With 5 passengers, you have a grand total of 4 cu ft cargo space behind the rear seat. Outside of the times when you need to bring home large boxed items, without more than four people in the car, this vehicle is not very functional. There's more room in a Kia Rondo that's rated 20/27 with a V6 and has the 10 year warranty. Granted the 5 handles better, but outside of fairly decent handling, there doesn't seem to be much about the vehicle that really stands out from the competition.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Although I agree there are some positive attributes to the 5, it is, unfortunately, no more than a commuter car that can carrying six people somewhat comfortably. With the third seat up, a full size stroller will barely fit in the back- if it does at all. A family of five can not take the 5 on a trip, as there is not enough room for all their luggage.

        I agree that on those rare occasions when you have a large item to transport, a big hatch is very convenient, but the reality is with a large sedan, such as an Impala, (the LT model sells for basically the same money as a 5) still has 18.6 cu ft of concealed cargo compared to the 4 cu ft in the 5. When you consider the Impala actually gets better hwy MPG than the 5 (my brothers' LTZ averages over 31 when loaded with presentation pieces on business travel), basically the same city MPG and does so with much more interior room, the only perks I see to the 5 are better handling (a definite plus) and the ability to carry a large box once in a while.

        I understand it would be rare for a consumer to cross shop a 5 and an Impala, but I was just trying to point out that a larger sedan offers more room, same or better MPG, more cargo space with five passengers for about the same money. I carry large items once every four years or so. My family does travel often to visit relatives, however, and it's nice to be able to travel in comfort with all of our luggage concealed knowing that we get better MPG than we would crampt up in a small wagon.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The nice thing about the 5 is that it offers a versatile vehicle for people who would otherwise be stuck with something too small (like a two-row hatch), too large (like a minivan or crossover) or too impractical (like a sedan).

        The 5 (and Rondo) fit more than a full-size sedan and get as good or better mileage than either a sedan or SUV/crossover (even five-seaters like the CRV or RAV/4). They're right-sized for most people's needs; the problem is that people buy for what they might need (no matter how rare) versus what they do most often.

        The comparison with the Impala is a red herring. I'd never, ever consider an Impala. While the trunk looks big, it's awkward to load like all sedans; a hatch is effortless, especially if you're loading a kid's gear (stroller, bags, etc). A hatch-style vehicle is also more efficient in terms of size (an Impala is over 200 inches long; a 5 or Rondo is more than a foot shorter), which is nice in confined spaces.

        That being said, the 5 could do with a smaller powertrain. The problem Mazda has is that Americans are powerjunkies and the 2.3L NA four is as big an engine as will fit in this car--any smaller and it'd be called slow. In Europe, people will put up with the performance of the 2.0L or 1.8L.
        • 7 Years Ago
        Just because an engine is smaller doesn't make it more fuel efficient. The 2.3 is less strained to move about the 5 than would a 1.8 or a 2.0 producing the same power per liter. The more an engine has to work, the lower the efficiency and thus the lower the MPG.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Is no one else going to mention how UGLY it is? Honestly.... I think that Mazda has been producing some incredibly attractive vehicles recently, but this is most certainly a wart on an otherwise attractive face. The rear of that car (van, whatever) looks like the old school Pontiac Transport.

      • 7 Years Ago
      im thinking about getting one when i get my income tax money in march. despite all its "flaws" i dont weight 300lbs and neither my wife or my kids.

      thats the thing with the american market and why we dont get any cool european models. because we want everything big. big is better here. if you are 7ft tall and weight 400lbs yeah this car is not for you an expedition is you vehicle of choice. but if you are like me 5,3 150lbs this is more than enough for me
      • 7 Years Ago
      I wanted to like the Mazda5 because of the manual transmission, good fuel economy, and price relative to other vans. But it's just too small. There's not enough leg room up front, or enough cargo space behind the third row. I also wonder if that 4-banger would be able to handle a full load.

      It's odd that the glovebox is small. The glovebox in the Mazda3 is enormous. And the 3 has plenty of leg room up front. I guess you just can't stretch a small car platform into a "people mover" without some major compromises.
        • 7 Years Ago
        The front leg room is this vehicle's Achilles' heel. If Mazda could get just two more inches of track travel, I would have bought one, even if it cuts into the second row room.

        Being able to drop the seat an inch would be nice, too.

      • 7 Years Ago
      We love our 5. Only been in for service once in two years. I do 80-90mph highway, very smooth. It has the zoom-zoom where it's just so fun to drive. Handles corners very well. I just packed in a 55" Sony LCD in the back yesterday. I have also loaded screen doors inside. A 3rd row, NAV, good fuel for it's use, sliding door all for $20k! We love it.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Why would you give a car that will drive children a manual transmition?
        • 7 Years Ago
        What a silly question. Am I not allowed to enjoy driving just because I frequently have my 3 kids in the car? When I bought my 5 a year and a half ago, I had 4 primary criteria: manual transmission, solid dynamic handling, 3 rows of seats, under $20k. There is no other vehicle that even fits, sold in America.

        As far as this review, how can you have a review, and not really even comment on how much fun it is to drive? Sure, it's not filled to overflowing with useful storage. Sure, you can't stuff 27 kids in it. But for someone like me, who enjoys driving, doesn't want to have to deal with a kid sitting in the middle seat, needs to occasionally haul some big stuff, and needs to do it all on a budget, there is nothing comparable to the 5.
        • 7 Years Ago
        I don't get the kid hauler != stick argument, either. My dad's old VW Vanagon was a manual and it was a great family van.
        • 7 Years Ago
        because it costs less and gets better mileage?

        And if your small children are in the front seat able to access the shifter or left in the car without adult supervision then you are a bad parent?
      • 7 Years Ago
      Cheap frabric on the seat, won't last with kids also stains easily.
        • 7 Years Ago
        My 5 is two years old now with two kids (toddler and infant). Seats are fine. We are extremely happy with ours.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I honestly don't think this is the car for people with 4 kids. Yeah, they will all fit back there nicely, but it truly doesn't have the cargo capacity. Parents have to carry around strollers, diaper bags, toys, all kinds of stuff.

      A car's back seat won't hold 2 kids in car seats plus another person comfortably. This Mazda5 won't hold 4 kids plus cargo. Ergo, for families with 3 kids, it looks perfect. Fold down one seat, provides the luggage necessary. Good compromise, eh?
      • 7 Years Ago
      The glovebox is huge if you don't have the nav feature. MPG and power are better in the updated 2008 model which also has stain-resistant leather seats as an option. I have the 2006 model and love it for my 5-person family. Parking is tight in our city & the Mazda5 is a perfect people & cargo mover.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I really like the 5, but the one thing that concerns me is it seems that the mileage should be better. It doesn't get much better mileage than the full size minivans. Which really aren't "mini" anymore - not when the new Caravan is the size of a Tahoe. The 5 is actually close to the size of the first generation Caravan. So it shouldn't be a "mini minivan," but rather just a "minivan" while the new Caravan should just be a "front wheel drive van."
      • 7 Years Ago
      i hope Ford will bring its sister , S-Max, over as well
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