By on August 6, 2013

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My last Rental Review re-ignited one of TTAC’s “third rail” debates, that of compact pickups versus their full-size brethren. For the uninitiated, this topic is only slightly less contentious than discussing the merits of Roe v. Wade on a 1970’s college campus. User krhodes1 commented that when it comes to small trucks versus an equivalently priced full-sizer “Sometimes paying more for less is worth it.” I’m not entirely sure I agree with this sentiment across the board, but I know someone who does when it comes to minivans: my mother.

My family has owned two minivans: a 1995 Honda Odyssey and a 2002 Kia Sedona. The Odyssey stayed with us for 7 years, taking trips to Florida, Upstate New York, Philadelphia and other locales on the Eastern Seaboard while surviving a maelstrom of vomit, spilled popcorn and the various flotsam and jetsam of childhood prior to the invention of cheap portable digital media devices. Despite being horrendously underpowered and lacking sliding doors, the Odyssey was adored by my mother, which made her the sole person without a New York City taxicab medallion to ever express such feelings.

Her love for the Odyssey (and her disdain for the Sedona) came down to its footprint. At 187 inches long, the Odyssey was quite compact for a minivan, easy to park on city streets and maneuver in traffic. Since it was largely designed with the Japanese market in mind, the small size and powertrain were considered adequate for Japan, and the formula certainly worked for her. But the car was decidedly not a hit in America and the next generation Odyssey morphed into a full-size van with a V6 engine, sliding doors and acres of room inside.

Small minivans have never been a hit in America, but Canadians, with their denser urban areas and higher gas prices, do tend to gravitate towards them. Not only do we get the Mazda5, but we also get the Kia Rondo and Chevrolet Orlando, which are not sold in America. The Orlando is a pseudo-van in the same vein as the original Odyssey, with a not very powerful 4-cylinder engine and conventionally hinged doors. Like the Odyssey, it’s also not that popular in Canada. But it is more popular than the Mazda5, despite the Mazda possessing supposedly superior sliding doors, which minivan owners seem to favor by a significant margin.

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For TTAC readers looking for a true minivan (rather than a not-so-mini-van), the Mazda5 is about as perfect as can be. It’s even available with a manual transmission! Just like the CX-5, this is a utility vehicle that happens to drive very nicely. If there were some kind of way to administer a blind test drive without the possibility of maiming or killing anyone, you would swear that you are driving a Mazda3 but sitting slightly higher. The precise, properly weighted steering feels like it was lifted directly from the rest of the Mazda lineup, the brakes were strong and the 2.5L powerplant felt as taxed as one would expect a 157 horsepower motor to feel in a 3,457 lb minivan. It was very slow. In other words, a lot like a CX-5, but without the intelligent 6-speed automatic attached to the new 2.5L SKYACTIV powertrain. Hopefully the next generation Mazda5 will benefit from this, along with a weight loss regimen.

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As nice as the car is to drive, even something as mundane as getting groceries led me to recall the “big truck vs. small truck” debate. A modest grocery shop at Costco necessitated having the third row folded (shown above). The third row folds more like a traditional car seat than a minivan, which tends to flip backwards and fold completely flush into the floor. On this particular trip, it wasn’t such a big deal, but in the event that larger objects needed to be hauled, it’s conceivable that the lack of a Caravan style “Stow N Go” system would be a demerit rather than a credit to this car.

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Despite Canadian sales figures showing that the Mazda5 is a relatively unpopular vehicle, they are ubiquitous on the streets of Toronto, whether privately owned or in hourly rental fleets like the horribly abused Zipcar you see here. Their small size, sharp dynamics and the correct badge (Mazdas are very popular) make them well-suited for this particular metropolis. But it’s also easy to see why, nation-wide, the Caravan is the runaway winner, outselling the Mazda 10-to-1. The extra length that makes the Mazda easy to parallel park also means that carrying two kids and two hockey bags (don’t laugh, it’s a serious requirement here in Canada) will be a real challenge. The Caravan does have that extra room, along with a V6 engine and a $19,995 base price. An SXT with Stow ‘N Go can be had for $21-$23,000 by the time discounts are factored in (Chrysler Canada officially lists the Caravan as starting at $27,995 but this appears to be a recent change, as it has long been advertised at $18,995. This may be due to the massive incentives being offered on the car, allowing Chrysler to effectively sell it for the same price but officially offer it for more). Canadians have voted with their wallet on this subject; the Caravan is Canada’s 4th best-selling vehicle.

Given my preference for small cars and my affinity for Mazdas, I should be inclined to favor this car. And as much as I love its engaging handling and familiar Mazda feel, I perfectly understand why Chrysler sells so many minivans every single year. Few people actually want to pay more for less, especially families, who must make financial sacrifices in the name of spending money on their children. It’s not merely a matter of “buying cars by the pound” either. It’s difficult to see where the 5 makes sense in the marketplace, unless you are like my mother, who would not be caught dead behind the wheel of an American minivan or someone who prioritizes the driving experience over all else – which is equally rare in this segment. <ost minivan buyers are not looking for that – quite the opposite. In this context, the Mazda5 is a bit of a misfit in the market, but I am certainly glad it exists. If nothing else, it makes the occasions where I do need to rent a minivan feel less alien for someone who drives a Miata the other 364 days of the year.

TTAC arranged for the hourly rental of the Mazda5 via Zipcar. Despite having roughly 22,000 miles on the clock, the car appeared to have weathered twice that. The front end of the car was horribly bashed up, and the interior appeared to be well-worn. It also smelled like wet dog.


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62 Comments on “Rental Review: 2012 Mazda5...”

  • avatar

    I have seen no news yet about a new Mazda 5, I assume once they get the 3 launched they will move onto this, since it is based on the 3. The 2 and MX5 are next but I would assume after those are launched in a year or so the 5 will have its turn.

    The Mazda 5 in Japan (called the Premacy) does have the skyactive engine in. That would be a worthwhile improvement to fuel economy. But the looks of this are hideous, especially the swoops on the side flanks. I fully expect a much better looking new fully skyactive 5 in a couple of years.

  • avatar

    I own a 2012 Mazda 5 Sport. The biggest reason we bought it is because it is the most fuel efficient vehicle that has 6 seats, which is kinda sad because the Mazda 5 isn’t particularly fuel efficient. We regularly see very low 30’s on the highway, but given the spec’s on this van it should at least get mid 30’s.

    Derek mentions that it’s “very slow”. Compared to what? I have not had trouble accelerating and keeping up with traffic. It’s not even an issue that crosses my mind. It’s not “very slow” in the sense that a diesel VW Rabbit is very slow, or even slow like a 2.2 liter Dodge Caravan, but I guess it’s slow compared to other minivan’s that are now pushing 300 hp. I guess my concept of very slow is more “holy-crap-I-hope-I-can-merge-at-the-bottom-of-this-entrance-ramp-at-55-mph!”

    I’m looking forward to a new version, hopefully with a bench seat in the middle and some SkyActive goodness under the hood.

    • 0 avatar

      When my daughter-in-law bought her 2009 Mazda5 Sport in 2009 it truly was the answer to her personal transportation needs with twins in car seats occupying the middle row, and her two older kids all the way in the back row.

      A frugal 2.4-liter four-banger, an automatic transmission with Cruise control, HUGE wheels & tires, PW, PDL and a fob, all for less than $18K, what more could anyone ask for?

      So here we are in 2013 and the Mazda5 already had >125K trouble-free miles on the clock mostly due to military moves and cross-country driving. The kids are older now and need a little more space.

      Time to trade and buy the bigger $42K Honda Odyssey and marvel at how much trade-in value the Mazda5 retains. That’s exactly what she did.

    • 0 avatar

      I rented a 5 for a 1000 mile road trip, including some mountain driving (Lake Tahoe). With 2 people on board, it never felt under powered to me. Fully loaded, different story. I like it, but when you can get a Caravan for less, it’s a tough sell to anyone who regularly hauls kids and their gear.

      • 0 avatar

        The wife and I sold our fully-stocked ’08 Grand Caravan 4.0L SXT and used the money to purchase a ’10 Mazda 5 Grand Touring (used) and had some lovely change to purchase a roof rack and Thule storage carrier which greatly increases its packing volumne for long trips. Three kids, one dog, all our gear for two weeks in the mountains of Colorado from KC and never did we get less than 28 mpg (the Dodge made barely 17, would get better but only newer 5’s have the 6 speed auto; we have the 5 spd) or run out of room. The tan leather seats are heated for when you need them, the A/C cranks and blows into the rear space, it drives like a terrier on a mission to throttle the neighbors cat and the doors are light enough for my six year old to close even on a hill. However, you do have to live without the plethora of entertainment options (no DVDs here; the kids have to look out the window! Mon Dieu!) and with the little efficient four cylinder, you ain’t towing much of anything. Its so much easier to park (not just parallel but within the garage), drive, and live with we never want to go back to the maxi-vans.

  • avatar

    My ex-wife had one of these. Stick shift, first year (’06). It was a cool little vehicle – less a minivan than a more practical alternative to a FWD CR-V. Lower load floor, better to drive, more comfortable back (middle) seats, and an “in a pinch” third row for occasional use. The car was great fun to drive. Took it down big sur once or twice. As an alternative to a minivan, it falls short. As an alternative to a mini-ute, especially for someone who doesn’t associate SUV’s with youth*, it’s perfect.

    * do SUV’s have any cachet over minivans these days? An SUV screams pampers and groceries, with a backyard swing set. What is the next “No, I’m still young at heart!” Vehicle?

  • avatar

    I own a 2012 Mazda5. We bought ours as an alternative to crossovers and because at the time we bought it, we needed more space than the hatchback 3 could offer. Since Mazda doesn’t offer a 6 wagon any more or a 3 wagon at all, the 5 split the difference. I cross-shopped the Equinox, Escape, Focus hatch, Mazda3, Kia Soul, and Elantra Touring and the 5 was the clear winner. Yes, I want more power and yes, I want better fuel economy and yes, I wish the interior materials were slightly nicer and especially more durable (the hard plastic scratches as if it were made of butter). But it drives wonderfully, is okay on gas, and serves our childless, dog-filled family perfectly. We carry friends, dogs, and gear on trips routinely, both short and long distances, and I’ve hauled more junk in it than I can count. The CX-5 is a great vehicle, and when the wife’s 2000 CR-V dies Mazda will be one of our first stops when shopping, but the CX-5 didn’t exist when I was in the market. 99% of the time, the 5 is exactly the car we need.

  • avatar

    I share mcarr’s opinion that the Mazda5 isn’t noticeably slow. My family rented one last year to tour Utah’s National Parks. That included some stretches of interstate where the speed limit was 80. Fully loaded with 4 adults and two weeks of luggage, the Mazda5 had no problems climbing mountains and maintaining the 80 MPH speed limit. (I was surprised to find that I was not the only one that chose to mostly drive somewhat slower as a matter of choice both for a quieter ride and better MPG.) Because it was “full” only in the rental car sense when we picked it up, and we returned it “empty” I never got an accurate MPG reading, but my best guess was about 27 MPG, only slightly higher than my Dodge Grand Caravan, certainly less than a 10% difference.

    • 0 avatar

      In the spectrum of “fast,” danger lies at both ends. A car that couldn’t maintain 80mph on a flat surface or slight grade would fall into the dangerously slow category on American highways.

      Just because it isn’t dangerous though, doesn’t mean it isn’t a dog. I myself own a slow car, and the Mazda5 has almost 3 additional pounds per HP. I couldn’t cope with that.

  • avatar

    I’m not sure if they sell enough of these in North America to put a lot of money into federalizing it. It’s an interesting option, but I remember this one poor guy who bought it expecting a minivan, and was annoyed when he discovered it drove like a Mazda rather than a beige-mobile.

  • avatar

    Not to be nitpicky, but we did get the Kia Rondo stateside. It doesn’t (didn’t?) sell too well though.

  • avatar

    The Mazda5 is a good little vehicle and I almost bought one on two occasions. But the front seats are way too small and short and I found them so uncomfortable. Also, road noise was a bit too high for my liking. The current model doesn’t look as good as the previous version but the older model lacks power. Mazdas seem to have problems with rust here in Canada and the last gen Mazda5 had suspension issues in cold weather I believe. I can’t wait to see the next Mazda5 with the new design and skyactiv.

  • avatar

    Correct me if I’m wrong but: If you have to have a sliding door minivan and a manual transmission, the Mazda 5 is your only choice.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    I rented one of these back in 06 when I was spending three weeks a month out in PrincipalDan land (Gallup NM and northern AZ) on a construction project. It was useful for hauling with the third row down – I never had the third row up.
    To me the ride was horrible and I like firm suspensions, but this one felt like it had no suspension at all. This may have been aggravated by the low profile tires. It was OK on the relatively smooth I40. but any road inperfections could shake a tooth loose.
    It also revved way too high at 70 mph – about 3000 rpm IIRC, and delivered relatively poor highway mileage of about 26 mpg which is only slightly better than the 24-25 mpg my wife’s Oddyssey delivers.
    IMHO this Mzada 5 could be desirable if it could deliver 35 mpg on the highway and not beat up the driver if the road was not glass smooth. Otherwise, it costs too much relative to a full sized minibvan that can haul more in greater confort with a minimal mileage penalty. .

    • 0 avatar

      The was the previous version, the 2012 we have is at about 2500 rpm at 70 mph IIRC. We have the 16in wheels, and the ride is great. The 2.5/5-speed is better matched than the 2.3/4-speed auto. But yes, they have the opportunity to get it perfect with the next version.

  • avatar

    My wishlist for the next Mazda 5:
    1) More power and better efficiency (aka Skyactive)
    2) Better quality interior
    3) A few inches of increased length after the third row
    4) Option for seven person seating
    5) The new Kudo design theme.

    If they can provide all of this, I would gladly buy another Mazda 5.

    • 0 avatar


    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      As well, add 4″ to the ride height and add power front seats.

      I test drove one of these and found it to be a great handler with a decent suspension. But at 6’3″ I needed the seat to pivot up to deal with my gangly legs.

      The original Nissan Quest and Mercury Vilager were the perfect size. As was the original Odyssey.

  • avatar

    Two thoughts:

    1 – I work at a Honda dealership in the service department. We don’t see many of the original Odysseys anymore, but when I started worked here in 2004 we did see our share. Of the people I talked to, most seemed to really like their Odyssey and preferred to keep it and “drive the wheels off of it” before replacing it.

    2 – This piece makes me think of a car my Mom owned many years ago from the 1980’s… a Nissan Stanza with the dual manual sliding doors. She loved it. Manual 5-speed. On demand AWD. Try finding the modern day equivalent to that in the United States today :)

    • 0 avatar

      My wife had one of those before we met. It was the go-to vehicle for ski trips, and she was a sales rep covering three states. In a leased vehicle. Got killed in mileage penalties when the lease was up. But she loved that car.

  • avatar

    Also, forgot to mention that the biggest difference in fuel economy between the Mazda 5 and every other minivan is on the city cycle. My lead-footed wife would get 16-17 mpg around town in various GM and ChryCo minivans. 240-280 hp and a 4500 lbs van doesn’t go well with stop and go traffic and MPG’s. She’s getting 23-24 mpg around town now in the 5, still driving like a maniac.

  • avatar

    I think biggest problem the 5 has are from within Mazda, specifically the 3 and the cx-5, as well as the 6 wagon if it’s also available. all of the above offer far superior fuel economy and, in the case of the cx-5 and 6, can come close to the 5 on cargo space and people space as long as you dont need the (almost too small to be useful) 3rd row.

    • 0 avatar

      I think you are broadly right. But I have 3 kids in car seats and am not convinced I could fit them in the CX5 or the 3. However in the 5 it wouldn`t be a problem (with limited cargo room). So I am waiting to see what the new 5 will be like, but based upon the new 3, 6 and CX5 it should be good.

      The current model has two key issues for me – very poor fuel economy and terrible exterior styling.

      • 0 avatar

        We were in the same situation a few years ago when my wife and I went shopping. We tried the Mazda5, but found that once loaded with the five of us, there was little room for anything else. Throw the normal garbage you have to take along with kids (think pack’n’play) and a roof box becomes required equipment.
        We ended up with a CX9 and felt it was the right choice. I like the driving dynamics of the 5, but the interior felt a little cut-rate. To be mean about it, there is nothing special about it on the inside; it’s pretty entry level, even on the GT.

  • avatar

    My wife loves our 2009 model so much that we are keeping it (for now) even though we have 4 (small) kids and it is quite snug. We stick a box on the top for road trips, I figured it was part of the purchase price of the car. Still, it’s extremely maneuverable, more fun to drive than the competition, and the kids can’t ding the cars next to us in the parking lot (sliding doors FTW!)

    In a few years I’m sure we’ll trade up to a Odyssey or Model X, but for now we’re devoted fans.

  • avatar

    Weirdly enough, I almost snagged one of these at Cleveland Hopkins this morning. It was the only interesting thing in a sea of Impalas on the Hertz Choice lot. The guy in front of me grabbed it, so I stuck with my assigned new Pathfinder. Which is like a school bus. With a CVT. And feel-free steering. And I cant figure out how to open the hatch. Thankfully only for two days, then off to SFO where they usually give me something decent.

    As to the subject at hand, the average North American equates big and cheap with value. You see it here in the comments all the time – why would I buy X when Y is bigger for the same price? Well, I would buy X because it is better! If you only have one or two small kids, why do you need a car the size of the Queen Mary? If you need the size, you need the size, but many folks don’t. I was perfectly happy to spend the equivalent of a mid trim Camry on a Fiat Abarth. And I think the Abarth is a stunning bargain for what you get. Not cheap by the pound though!

    • 0 avatar

      I remember starring out onto a road once and counting how many people were taking up seats in their cars vs empty seats.

      In most cars there was just one driver with no cargo, sometimes there’d be two when a van or SUV would pass by.

      Most people seem to buy big cars based on percieved safety and “just in case”, its why modern cars have so many cargo compartments, cupholders, and often get bigger with each passing “update”.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      The Pathfinder seems to me to be such a step backwards. Perhaps economy and interior environment are improved, but the exterior styling is hideous. Absolutely the vanilla design of the year.

      If you HAVE to have a Nissan, search the couch for loose change and get the base JX35….

      • 0 avatar

        The interior is pretty awful too. Gray Nissan rat-fur seats – lovely. I do like the high-res color screens and the floating instruments, but it is a mess otherwise, and cheap looking. I will say that the CVT is completely unobtrusive, and for once the Nissan V6 sounds OK, mostly because you can’t really hear it at all. WAAAY too much of a tank for me, and for the external size of the thing, not very roomy. A minivan for idiots. Kind of wishing I had taken the Impala, much as I loath those too. Gotta try new things though.

        Amusingly, my roommate just bought a 2010 Rav 4 that is identical to the one I had as a rental back along that I loved so much. A complete surprise and delight that little trucklet was, and I don’t find THAT with Toyota products, ever. He went and drove one on my recommendation and loved it too. Shame they ruined the new one.

        • 0 avatar

          The only upside to the Pathfinder is that it comes with the same V6 you get in an Infiniti G35, which is also used in the Nissan Quest.

          Dunno if thats a bad thing or a good thing.

  • avatar

    I’ve looked at buying the Mazda 5, I think it’s a great concept, but I can see it’s a limited market.

    If you have young kids, sliding doors really are a nice feature. I don’t know why the automakers have decided only minivans should get rear sliding doors. I would think SUVs and crossovers (since they’re also big as kid haulers) would maybe have them incorporated.

    Sliding doors are likely such a minivan stigma, the focus groups killed them. My wife won’t be caught dead in a minivan, so instead she has to drive a full size SUV that gets about 16mpg and is a parking nightmare everytime with the 2 kids.

    • 0 avatar

      When my son was stationed in Germany with the US Army, he bought his wife an Opel Safira which is roughly the same size as the Mazda5.

      That size of mini-minivan is very popular in Europe and Asia, but Mazda5 is the only one of its kind marketed in the US.

      Upon their return stateside, she opted to buy the Mazda5 in 2009 and was not disappointed. It has been a trouble-free ride for her these past four years.

      • 0 avatar

        HDC – exactly the Mazda 5 is the only small minivan around in the US even though most manufacturers have one in their European stable of models. The market must be considered small since Ford decided against bringing their 7 seat C-Max across.

        • 0 avatar

          mike978, with prices what they are these days and many young families just getting started, to me it would seem that the Mazda5 niche is a perfect match for the majority of them.

          The two sliding side doors give great access to both rows of rear seats AND are at the right height for putting kids into them, unlike the taller, bigger, wider minivans you have to climb in to.

          In 2009 that Mazda5 Sport went for ~$18K out the door. A perfect fit for just about anyone’s budget.

          With the general trend to downsize the vehicles available for sale in the US, it seems to me that Mazda is ahead of this game.

          I did most of the maintenance on my daughter-in-laws Mazda5 and other than the engine compartment being a little cramped, it was a breeze.

  • avatar

    I parked my Ford C-Max beside a Mazda5 the other day and compared and contrasted these “cousin” vehicles. I imagined a hybrid 3-row Grand C-Max. I can see how it would be difficult/impossible to fit the battery pack into. the cargo room of a C-Max stretched to e the same size as the Mazda5 and still retain the third row seats. (Yet Toyota manages to put a limited use 3rd row into the Prius V sold in other markets.) On the other hand, even if it had just two rows of seats, the extra space in a Grand C-Max hybrid might be worth the hit in performance and fuel economy. The extra space would especially be useful for the plug-in Energi version.

  • avatar

    Sorry but i have to question some facts. There are plenty of dense urban areas in the us. It’s pretty damn dense here. In fact i live between New York, and Boston and its one the most densly populated areas in the United States. Specifically between DC and Boston.

  • avatar

    “Given my preference for small cars and my affinity for Mazdas, I should be inclined to favor this car.”

    Thanks for the full disclosure. For full disclosure I haven’t been too fond of Mazda’s, or should I say the hype was bigger than my Mazda 6 could hold up to. That said I have driven the 5 as a rental. I can see its merits for younger kids. Driving around 4 adults a decent midsize sedan or SUV would’ve been better IMO. Also, it seems everyone that “loves” the 5 does so because of the manual tranny and the driving dynamics. Both things I appreciate but in the luxury space the Mazda falls short….WAAAAY short of both Honda and Toyota. For a highway comfort cruiser I’ll take the competition.

    One thing I don’t think has been mentioned yet about the “right sizing” of minivans is how the 5 has been compared to the original Caravan. Again, a failure. Fold all the seats down and try to fit a 4×8 sheet of plywood inside. (A design requirement to the original Carvan engineers.) If Mazda could do that sales would double…I have no doubts. Utility is lacking. The Ford Transit goes to fleets for utility…make that an option here.

  • avatar

    Geez, it’s like a Mazda5 owner’s club in here. We love ours (optioned up with leather, etc). Although it’s not without its nits to pick on, there really isn’t much else like it (as others have pointed out). Although I may not be back in the market for another one, I “get” it. Just saying “You coulda had a Caravan” is missing the point.

    For a more “objective” analysis, I wonder not if could unseat the Caravan, but how “mainstream” it is compared to other niche vehicles – Cubes and Elements, etc. Anybody have some sales data for comparison?

    • 0 avatar

      Well the Element is dead, so…….but it wasn’t selling well before its demise, about a thousand units a month as I recall. Element and 5 were my top choices a few years ago, bought the Element for the AWD. Sometimes I think a 5 with snows would have been a better choice, but I’m not complaining.

    • 0 avatar
      Richard Chen

      YTD sales through July 2013, pulled from last weeks’ press releases:

      Mazda5: 10,023
      CX-5: 45,882
      CX-9: 16,756

      TSX Wagon: 1,332
      Nissan Cube: 3,720
      Scion xB: 11,047
      Kia Soul: 73,191

      Honda Crosstour: 10,018
      Honda Odyssey: 79,733
      Toyota Sienna: 73,167
      Chrysler T&C: 67,439
      Dodge Caravan: 68,055

      • 0 avatar
        Dave M.

        Scion xB: 11,047
        Kia Soul: 73,191

        Ouch. The Kia knock-off of the original xB outselling the master nearly 7:1 must be killing Toyota.

        Of course, you can get a sunroof in the Kia, which is the entry conversation for many people….

      • 0 avatar

        I had no idea Mazda sold that many CX-9’s. The current Xb lost a lot of its charm when this generation replaced the old one. I drove one once that was a special “Release” package with TRD stuff(wheels, suspension,intake and exhaust) and it was OK. But it was loud, rode very stiffly (18 in wheels I think, maybe 19?).

        I love the utility of that box shape, but the rest of the vehicle was a penalty box. And a basic one is just too boring, while also suffering the cheap touches prevalent in the Cube too. As for the Kia, I refuse to buy a vehicle sold by gangsta hamsters.

        I knew the take rate on the TSX wagon would be low but damn…

  • avatar

    I own a 2012 Mazda 5 Grand Touring. Price up all the features on a Caravan that a Grand Touring has and then do a comparison. Blue tooth, HIDs, sunroof, leather interior, traction control, heated seats, heated mirrors, rain sensing wipers, etc. I paid $22,000 plus tax, title and tags for the car.

    As for slow? Yes, it’s slow compared to my LS1 powered 240z, but is it really slow compared to how a majority of people drive their cars? No.

    • 0 avatar

      We own one as well…the wife didn’t want a hulking 3 row CUV, nor a Mommy-van, so a 5GT for under $22k was an easy choice. My aging parents can sit in the comfort of the captain’s middle row while my kids jump in the 3rd row, which is fine for kids until they’re 8, and adults for short trips with cooperative 2nd row passengers (middle seats slide about 5 inches).

      I think it drives like a car, my wife, 2 kids and 2 dogs can fit without stress and, at the end of the day, its a cheap and cheerful ride that most people know nothing about (Mazda marketing for this vehicle must be 3 digits, tops)

      If it means anything to the masses here, I’ve had numerous inquiries about it from strangers and friends, including 2 families that bought one as a result of ours.

  • avatar

    Does the Mazda 5 suffer from the same rust issues as the 3 line-up?

  • avatar

    I think everyone who bought one is here to comment.

    We have a 6MT 2012, which replaced our WRXagon when we went from 1 kid to 2. Bought it specifically to avoid a land barge and preserve some driving enjoyment. Also, it was $19k with 0 miles and 0 options.

    To compare the M5 to other minivans kinda misses the point. In terms of size, shape, volume and utility, midsize crossovers are probably closer. Something like a Dodge Journey.

    Dunno about others, but for us the whole “seating for 6” doesn’t play out. With car seats in the middle row, you can’t move them enough to actually access the way-back. If someone goes back there, we usually fold down one rear seat and they go in through the back door.

    • 0 avatar

      Funny, I bought my 2012 GT to replace my 2006 WRX wagon.

      It is a GREAT 4-person hauler. I have a colleague who is 6’2″ and 260 lbs and he can almost cross his legs in the back. It is a good 5 person hauler if one of the passengers in the captains chairs is smaller in stature and can move the seat forward. Seat 6? Only if everyone in the back does not mind a comprised ride for a short distance.

  • avatar

    I’ll chime in as an owner of an 08 Mazda 5 GT. I love how it drives, it’s not *that* slow in 90% of the normal driving. Mazda did a decent job with the 5spd auto/2.3 in terms of gearing. The 08 only has ABS, no traction control or stability control which I like. The Grand Touring has leather, HID lamps, heated seats, moonroof and LED tail lights. The interior is a bit cheap and hard plastic abounds, but it’s not terrible.

    For about 75% of what we do, it’s fine. Twin 2.5 year olds in car seats fit, as does most of their stuff. Only when we put our giant double stroller in does it get challenging. Sliding doors are great though.

    We get around 18-19 around town, but there’s lots of hills in western PA, causing the 2.3 to work a lot. We’ve seen as high as 32 mpg highway, but mostly [email protected] mph on cruise, which is what it’s rated for.

    Gripes are minimal but worth mentioning. The mileage could be better. The early cars(06-07 especially) suffered from squeaky,flimsy suspension components and fast tire wear. The 205/50/17 tires, in my area is which is tough on brakes and tires, are worn at about 12k miles. Worn evenly, but worn. And that’s with using dedicated snow tires and steel wheels. Road noise and wind noise on anything less than smooth roads is pretty loud too.

    The big factor is as mentioned is that the 2nd row doesn’t fold down or come out without tools. This limits what you can carry home from the big box store. 3rd row hasn’t left the floor since the kids came home from the hospital because there is NO space behind it.

    For you other 5 owners, be sure to check your transmission fluid. Mine was dark brown at 30k, but Mazda has no service interval listed. There’s not enough of these vehicles to warrant Honda levels of transmission problems, but the Mazda forums has more than a few folks who lost their transmission at 75k. It has been a good car, rarely in the shop.

    I love the 5, it will stick around our garage as my car. But we will be shopping the bigger vans for the next car. As others have stated, it’s just not enough vehicle for ALL the things a family of 4 or more wants or needs to do. Any of the large vans offers more room, more utility and nearly the same real world mileage as the 5, though at a much higher cost. Buy a used one(especially T&C or Caravan) and you can get a lot more van for nearly the same money as a new 5.

    I’ll be interested to see how the more refined redesigned Transit Connect looks.

  • avatar

    We have 2006 Mazda 5 Sport with MT, and live in downtown Philadelphia. I can understand why the 5 might not be ideal in suburbia, but in an urban environment it simply rules. It’s maneuverable and easy to park, and the sliding doors are great when you’re often parked at the curb. We can haul our two kids and two of their friends for carpooling duties. With the third row down, it has plenty of cargo space for shopping and family road trips, and with one of the second row seats folded (which does NOT require tools) I’ve hauled nearly an entire rock band’s gear to NYC for gigs. (IIRC, only the keys were in another car.) With both second and third rows folded, it can haul serious amounts, and has managed some considerable Home Depot runs. Basically, it’s either a six seater or a cargo hauler, but not both simultaneously without a roof box like others mentioned.

    Amazingly, it is fun to drive despite the modest power. It has natural, fluid chassis dynamics that would be more than acceptable in a sedan. Finally, other than one of the power locks failing and a headlight bulb burning out, NOTHING has gone wrong. I mean nothing. It gets its regular service, and that’s it.

    For the low price we paid, I think it was a steal, but it does have its flaws: road noise; low power; fuel economy; wimpy paint that easily scratches off; and some cheap interior materials. It should have traction control, which was already common in 2006. Also, after seven years of pounding around Philly, the structure is starting to loosen up more than I’d like, but with its economy car roots I suppose this is not surprising. I’m not complaining though — for achieving its intended purpose, I think it’s the best vehicle I’ve owned.

  • avatar

    I’m never surprised by reviews of the Mazda5, you can always tell when it’s been written by someone that heard something, rather than by someone who has actually driven one.
    I can tell you as an actual driver of 110,000 miles on a 2006 Mazda5 that I bought the car because I DIDN’T want a minivan. Which we should really just call a van these days. I needed space for passengers and things, but the last van I liked was the original short-wheelbase Caravan, which is about the same size as the Mazda5. Oh, and I like the Vanagon, too!
    It goes really fast. Traffic here regularly runs WELL over the limit, and I have no problem keeping up in the fast lane. If it has a hard time going up a hill, I’m not lazy, I downshift. I assume that’s why they put all those gears in there. It has gotten 24.75mpg overall since day one. I am not happy about that, because I drive pretty intelligently and I usually average closer to the highway mpg on most cars. I have had it on many cross country trips and I currently commute 50 miles each way, mostly highway, but some city (where I work) and some mountains (where I live), but I have enjoyed most of those miles.
    It holds A LOT! And this was my mistake when buying the car. I was about to move and I thought this would be the ideal moving car. Only problem is, once you’ve filled it up, you’re exhausted. Then you have to drive somewhere and unload it. That was too much work. It really holds too much stuff.
    I like that all the seats fold flat in a jiffy. It’s not a low, low load floor, but it’s fine, a little above knee height. If you push the front passenger seat well forward, you can even carry things more than six feet long, like those tall shelves from Ikea.
    The ride is fine. I live in New Jersey, so I know from crappy roads. Occasionally I hit one of those potholes hard, hard enough to bend the rim (or something) because those stupid low profile tires don’t have any give to them at all. And they don’t do anything for the ride. And I found out I can get 4 new tires (filled with nitrogen!), AND cool wheels (like the kids like) from tirerack for about $800, about the same price as just 1 new wheel from the Mazda dealer.
    Now I need a muffler (or whatever they put on cars these days), so I’m going to trade it in. Believe it or not, I was tempted by the new version of the same car, because I’ve just been so happy with it. But, some of the small problems are still there, like the too-small seats (my right arm rests on the passengers arm rest), cupholders that collect everything and fill up with gooey messes, bad mpg’s and lack of seating for 3 in the middle seat. Plus, since I’ve recently moved again (and, yes, the car still holds way too much stuff) I need 4-wheel-drive. I looked at the CX-5, but it just didn’t appeal to me, plus it’s not cheap. The Mazda5 (I call it a tall wagon, like the old Colt Vista) has hardly gone up at all in 7 years. So I’m getting a Subaru before the snow comes. It looks pretty cool, isn’t too expensive, beats the Mazdas mpg’s and isn’t too big. I would like a convertible, though. Like a Wrangler. But the new Wranglers are for wimps. Oy, don’t get me started on that one!

  • avatar

    I thought DK’s review missed the mark in some areas, perhaps in part because he rented the car and had to endure the little 4-banger with an automatic. Our logic in buying this car, with an infant and an expected sibling, was simple: manual tranny, great handling, sliding doors, and room, occassionally, for grandparents or family plus two friends. Simply put, the M5 is a superb car for the family of four who want a sporty and versatile vehicle. The comment about having to fold down the 3rd row to accommodate a routine shop at Costco is antithetical to the vehicle’s purpose: it is a 4-seater at heart; you don’t take grandparents to Costco with the kids.

    We have loved this car over 7 years and have just one serious complaint: The car has destroyed its tires at an unacceptable rate. I know this is a much reported problem with the first generation M5s and for us no frequency of rotation and alignment seems to sort the problem out.

    Every machine is a compromise. Mazda made a superb car for a small family. It is not so much van as tall wagon, in Euro terms.

  • avatar

    I’ll tell you what works in this car: Turbodiesel.

    I had the Toyota version of the M 5 called the Corolla Verso in 07-10 in Europe. I don’t know if Toyota and Mazda have cooperation deals, but it’s the same exact car.

    Anyway, with the six-speed turbodiesel, I routinely drove 150-160 kph on highways and STILL got over 30 mpg. Overall, I usually got about 38 mpg.

    The car had PLENTY of power and quickness, yet was incredibly versatile, comfortable, and full of amazing features like the best GPS I’ve ever used.

    No problems at all for long trips (like Portugal to Italy) with five people and the roof rack loaded.

    It’s ridiculous that we don’t have that here, in a Mazda or Toyota. Other than a couple of Land Cruisers I’ve had, that Toyota Verso was the best car BY FAR that I’ve ever owned.

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