In the Autoblog Garage: 2007 Mazda5 Touring

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.

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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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