2007 Mazda5 Touring

by Chris Tutor

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.

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.

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2008 Subaru Impreza Outback Sport

by Dan Roth

The standard new generation evolution usually goes like this: bigger, roomier, longer, wider. For some models, it's not such a big deal to go fiddling with the specs, on certain cars it's even a welcome improvement. Subaru, however, has a conundrum on their hands when they go messing with the Impreza formulation. There's a loveable quirkiness to the recipe; start tinkering too much, though, and you'll end up with New Coke.

Thus, it's with trepidation that we sampled the 2008 Impreza. It certainly looks different than those which came before. New duds don't mean an expanded waistline here, the 2008 model actually twirls out considerably less measuring tape in several dimensions than its forebear, while gaining inches and tenths where they make the most difference. Better doesn't have enough depth to fully convey the marked improvements Subaru has made in their entry-level model for 2008. Even stretching to "a lot better" leaves more to be said

Something that will not pass without controversy is the new styling direction the Impreza has taken. The bug-eyed, ugly to the point of cute previous version is replaced by sheetmetal that follows Subaru's new styling playbook. The Impreza and the revised Tribeca have both shed their off-center exteriors for less outré designs. While we weren't in love with the new look when we first saw it, we've come to appreciate how the clean flanks and crisp surfacing are handsome without being overwrought. The Impreza Outback Sport 5-door carries a stylish hatch profile on its tight dimensions.

The design might be viewed as bland by some, but there are hints of adventure. The hood has a couple of quick, gestural creases, and the C-Pillar has the reverse-kick that's become universally popular as a way to suggest you're an iconoclast. The angle of the backlight and shoulder line converge at the rear light clusters, seemingly the point where the sheetmetal was drawn tight at the factory. It's a nice effect, and the way reflections take on an arrow shape when you're taking in the rear three-quarter view is entertaining. The five-door's rump is far more successful than the sedan, which has a trunk awkwardly tacked on.

Fender flares are hinted at by clever (or clumsy, opinions vary) use of contrasting paint. The effect looks better in person, but the arc traced by the paint doesn't necessarily track any type of body feature, so it can appear awkward. The rear fenders do actually flare a bit, but it's more of a subtle swelling than a well-defined bulge. The highlighted fender arches and rockers is a look that Subaru's been carrying since the first Outbacks in the mid 1990s, and the Outback Sport has always avoided the mobile melanoma of cladding that has developed on the Legacy-based Outbacks. All Outback Sports have a silver or gray accent color but the the color tricks look best with the bluish-gray our tester wore, called Steel Silver Metallic. A close second is Obsidian Black Pearl, which uses a slightly darker shade to trace the wheels. Say what you will about the two-tone, it's better than the tacky bodykit that the WRX models get, and foregoing cladding denies corrosive muck a place to infiltrate and collect.

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2008 Scion xB

by Sam Abuelsamid

In the latter part of the 1990s, Toyota realized it had a problem on its hands. Although its sales had been climbing steadily for years, the average age of its customers was also climbing. That's fine in the short term, but over the long haul if a company isn't attracting some younger clientele into its showrooms, sales will eventually begin to dry up. After several years of unsuccessfully trying to attract more youthful customers with cars like the Echo, the Japanese behemoth tried a new tack in early 2003.

That was when Toyota announced a new brand called Scion that would be targeted at the so-called Generation Y crowd. Unlike Lexus, Scions would be sold in existing Toyota showrooms. The Scion roll-out kicked off in California and a few other markets in the Southwest and eventually spread throughout the country. The first two Scions were the xA and xB, which were both based on the previous generation Yaris/Vitz platform. By late 2006, the xA and xB were ready to be replaced as the first second generation Scions made their debut at the 2007 Chicago Auto Show in February. The new xB started appearing at Scion stores in early summer and landed in the Autoblog Garage in September.

The first thing anyone familiar with the original xB will notice upon walking up to the new one is its size. While the car is still recognizable as an xB, it has clearly hit puberty and the growth hormones have kicked in. The new dimensions are due largely to the model trading in its little Yaris platform for the larger Corolla architecture.

The new xB still has a wagon-like shape but the details and proportions are very different. The car is a full twelve inches longer and almost three inches wider, but loses an inch and a half in stature. The nose looks longer and the roof-line now has a chopped look to it. The glass in the D-Pillars has also been replaced by solid steel. Where the original had an almost delicate look to it, the second generation model has far more visual heft. Unfortunately, the heft is not purely visual. The curb weight of the xB has ballooned by 636 lbs to 3,086 lbs. You might think all that extra girth would translate into increased interior volume. You would be thinking wrong. The only major interior dimensions that grow are shoulder and hip room. Head room drops by six inches in the front seats and four and a half in back. Front leg room also drops by six inches. Cargo room behind the rear seats, however, does grow by half a cubic foot to 21.7 cu. ft.

Styling as always is highly subjective and the new xB is no exception. The lower and wider stance of the wagonette certainly looks more aggressive and the flares around the wheel wells with their adjoining sills have a hint of PT Cruiser and HHR. The new look will probably be a good starting point for those who want to customize their rides. The base of the windshield has moved forward but maintains the fairly upright angle of the original, meaning it sits pretty far out in front of the driver. That enhances the impression of room inside, although it also means that the driver has a really long reach to adjust the mirror.

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