By on February 9, 2017

2013 Mazda5 - Image: Mazda Canada

99.9 percent of the minivans sold in the United States in 2016 were (oxymoronically-titled) full-size minivans.

The Kia Rondo finished its brief one-generation U.S. run in 2011, having generated 73,100 total sales over the course of nearly five years.

Having produced more than 160,000 sales for Mazda USA, the Mazda 5 is likewise no longer part of the automaker’s U.S. lineup. Mazda 5 volume was essentially chopped in half between 2008 and 2014.

The Chevrolet Orlando arrived in North America with a decidedly Floridian name but never actually made its way to Florida, or the U.S. market as a whole. Having generated 12,038 Canadian sales, the Orlando quickly departed Canada after volume plunged 81 percent between 2012 and 2014.

Yet the Kia Rondo and Mazda 5 are still available in Canada. They’re alive and (un)well. And while “full-size minivans” claim 96 percent of Canadian MPV sales, Kia and Mazda just won’t give up on their genuinely mini minivans. 

Prompted to look into the matter after January sales of the Kia Rondo and Mazda 5 fell to a combined, paltry, scarcely measurable 189 units last month (the Mazda averaged 1,000 monthly sales on its own in 2008; the Rondo more than 800 monthly sales during the same year), we made inquiries at the Canadian outposts of both Kia and Mazda.

At Kia, in particular, recent Rondo results have been disastrous. Sales in 2013 tied the Rondo’s worst performance ever even as Kia launched an all-new, long-awaited model. Then sales dropped 12 percent in 2014, took a 35-percent hit in 2015, and plunged 45 percent in 2016. January began with only 48 Rondo sales, the worst full month in the Rondo’s Canadian history.

2017 Kia Rondo - Image: Kia Canada

Kia’s response: “We have no current plans to discontinue the Rondo or any other of our current vehicles,” Mark James, Kia Canada’s corporate communications manager told TTAC last week; a firm, if not a ringing endorsement. Kia’s other vehicles accounted for 99 percent of the brand’s sales in January.

At Mazda, meanwhile, sales of the Mazda 5 have perked up recently, but only in comparison with a period during which Mazda 5 sales fell to the lowest level ever. Mazda 5 sales have increased on a year-over-year basis in each of the last five months, growing 15 percent during that period. But with the 5’s relatively recent U.S. death and the traditional ties between virtually every automaker’s Canadian and U.S. lineups, is Mazda Canada really going to forge ahead with an aging design for a vehicle that sells roughly one-seventh as often as it used to? Of the nearly 70,000 Mazdas sold in Canada over the last year, only 2 percent were Mazda 5s.

Sandra Lemaitre, Mazda Canada’s director of public relations, told TTAC, “In Canada, the 2017 model year Mazda5 went on sale in August 2016. We haven’t yet announced any details for 2018 model year vehicles, including the Mazda5, so I’m not able to confirm anything at this time.”

So there’s a chance it’s dead? No, Mazda declined to comment on the 2018 model year potential for any vehicle.

But how much longer can Kia and Mazda continue to import wildly unpopular products that aren’t sold in the United States?

For the most part, Canadians just want Dodge Grand Caravans. The ancient Dodge earned 57 percent of all Canadian minivan sales in 2016. And yet the Grand Caravan hasn’t yet killed off the ankle-biting upstarts.

Timothy Cain is the founder of GoodCarBadCar.net, which obsesses over the free and frequent publication of U.S. and Canadian auto sales figures. Follow on Twitter @goodcarbadcar and on Facebook.

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39 Comments on “Mini-MPVs Just Won’t Hurry Up And Die Already...”


  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Have a previous generation Kia Rondo and quite frankly we love it.

    From a 6’1″ plus drive to a 5’2″ driver, all can find a comfortable driving position with great sightlines.

    More than enough room in the back for 2 for extended trips and 3 for regular trips. Plus lots of luggage space behind them, including Clarkson’s requirement of ‘room for a dog’. A 6’10” friend was impressed by the amount of head and legroom.

    ‘Er Indoors finds it much easier to drive than the previous Grand Caravan.

    When you travel throughout Ontario and Quebec you still see quite a few being used as taxis. A role for which they are particularly well suited. More than a few companies also used them as courier vehicles.

    When objectively measured it could be pound for pound the best value of any vehicle that I have owned, including my lamented Honda Civic Realtime 4wd Wagovan. Some nice touches like standard heated seats, heated mirrors, Bluetooth (before it was required), leather wrapped shifter and steering wheel, rear seat vents in both the floor and the centre console, and ‘active’ head restraints. Even a hook for a purse on the passenger side.

    Currently I am checking out low mileage used 4cylinder Rondos of the same generation, however may instead purchase a new one, although despite its looks we prefer the high greenhouse of the older generation. Also it was based on the larger Optima platform. In regards to size it is comparable to the original Caravan.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    When the first vans came out in the 60’s, the side doors were hinged. Sometime in the 80’s or 90’s, we redefined “van” as a vehicle with sliding side door(s).

    I don’t believe the 1st gen Honda Odyssey was a van because it had hinged, not sliding, side doors. For the same reason, I don’t consider the KIA Rondo a van either. Tall wagon, maybe. Crossover, maybe, but not a van.

  • avatar
    DougD

    Yup, I just want a Grand Caravan (only have a Caravan now so I have Grand Envy) Don’t care about your flashy vehicles down south, you can keep them, and since you guys don’t want GCs everybody’s happy.

    The next question is, if they’re not selling Mazda5 and Rondo in such paltry figures in Canada, where are they selling lots of them? Can’t imagine keeping them in production just for us, do they sell well in Europe or Japan, or Indonesia?

    • 0 avatar
      Drzhivago138

      The Rondo (called Carens in EU) probably sells quite comfortably over there, given how Europe is the home of the MPV. Though admittedly I haven’t looked at any sales numbers.

  • avatar
    Russycle

    friend of mine has a 5, he loves it. I rented one for a thousand-mile trip and was pretty happy with it. But it’s a tough sell when the Caravan doesn’t cost much more, gets a few less mpg, and has a ton more power and passenger/cargo room.

  • avatar
    JMII

    I had a Mazda5 as rental once and it was easily the best packaged / most usable vehicle I have encountered. Sliding doors and right sized. I bet most soccer moms likely think its too small without even trying it out. Another advantage: it drove like your standard Mazda car. While some CUV pull this off well the Mazda5 did it even better. It also didn’t feel like it was on stilts but you still had a good view of the road.

    • 0 avatar
      slavuta

      ” it drove like your standard Mazda car.”

      That you exaggerating. I rented it too. But it aint’ mazda3. It is a good car for 4 passengers and luggage. This is exactly what happened – I had 7 hours before flight, we had 4 adults with luggage of the cruise. Rentals gave us Dodge sedan and luggage didn’t fit. But in Mazda5 we were good. But as soon as you have 5th person, the trunk is finished. I wish they had middle seat in the 2nd row.

      • 0 avatar
        WheelMcCoy

        A friend rented a Mazda5, but coming from a Toyota background, she didn’t like the ride and promptly returned to exchange it for another mini-van.

        I test drove a 2nd gen Mazda5. Coming from a Mazda3, the Mazda5 felt very familiar. It may not drive exactly like the Mazda3 sedan, but visibility, controls, engine sound… I felt very much at home. The dealer told me the Mazda5 was more popular among Europeans.

  • avatar
    alfaromeo

    Price probably is the issue here. When I considered a mazda 5 back in 2008, it asked for over 16000 canadian dollars while the Caravan with canadian value package can be had for 18000 canadian dollars. So the value of caravan simply can’t be beat.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    My favorite MPVs are the 3rd-world centric Toyota Avanza and Mitsubishi Zinger/Fuzion. A neat concept of a tidy compact van shaped car with sturdy solid rear axle-rwd underpinnings with good ground clearance and optional 4wd. Totally irrelevant to the US market I know, but they really speak to me from a durability/practical all arounder perspective.

  • avatar
    markogts

    In Europe the size of the Kia Rondo (Carens, I believe they couldn’t sell a Rondo where there are no 4-stops crossings, people wold keep thinking of roundabouts) is often the maximum available parking room, makes for great family cars when they compensate with height and clever packaging for the lack of length.

    On the contrary: can someone explain me why is the Grand Caravan so widespread across the pond? I just can’t stay the fact that they put two seats on the wide section of the car and three on the narrow one. It’s plain stupid! Espace, Sharan, Galaxy are all 2-3-2. What’s the point?

    • 0 avatar
      psarhjinian

      “On the contrary: can someone explain me why is the Grand Caravan so widespread across the pond”

      It’s cheap. You can get a Grand Caravan equipped more or less the same as a Mazda5 or Rondo, and it’ll have about the same features, more room and a bigger engine.

      As for the 2/2/3 seating: the second row seats are full-sized, like the fronts; the third row gets saved for small (but out of car-seat) children. You can, or could, get a 2/3/3 configuration with a second-row bench, but the second row ends up less comfortable as a result.

  • avatar
    slavuta

    Gosh, I owned 1987 Nissan Stanza Wagon. Sliding doors and folding rear seat resulted in ability to load 2 loveseats and close door behind it. On top of that 36 mpg highway with manual. My 2011 Mazda 3 rated 33 mpg

  • avatar
    nguyenvuminh

    I have a 2013 Mazda5 and it’s a perfect car for my family. 2 adults + 2 young children, occasionally a 5th & 6th passenger so the kids scoot on back. Size allows ease of parking, handling is car-like and better than the other minivans in the market place (yes, I’ve driven those). I don’t like the wind noise (tire noise has been fixed with new tires) and I think the fuel economy is good but it should be great being a family-oriented practical design. It has 2 huge strikes against it though i) trend favoring CUVs over minivan and ii) size of the American consumers (big and fat). I still like this segment best (true minivan not macrovan, sliding doors, 3 rows of seat) and only wish it improved its fuel economy via hybrid technology or something. This segment is very popular in Asia.

    • 0 avatar
      BoogerROTN

      I’ve got 2012 Touring (paid $21.5K) and it just ticked over 60K. It’s been an okay car for what it is and with our expectations…but it’s starting to lose it’s lustre. Some of it is my fault, namely that I have two elementary-age kids and the beige seating surfaces have not worn well (rectified tho’ w/Costco seat covers). But other things are not, such as road noise, paint quality and the fact that mine eats tires (which is not unheard of on the Mazda5 forums). The first winter we had the car was not pleasurable, but a dedicated set of snowtires on steelies rectified that. The windscreen has been replaced twice now, but I don’t think it’s totally fair to fault Mazda for that (glass seems to be thinner these days). One thing that I’m definitely disappointed w/is the hard interior plastics; yes, they’re easy to clean…but they scratch easily too and look very cheap.

      Overall, I give my Mazda5 a 7.5/10. Right now I’m looking for a 2016 lease/fleet return Town & Country to replace it. The FCA dealership up the street has three of them in Touring trim (kids really want the entertainment system w/wireless headphones) w/<20K miles for $21K. Considering the snowberms around them, I don't think they're going anywhere soon…so if I can get it down to $19.5, I'll probably the trigger and get rid of the 5 via private sale.

      • 0 avatar
        ktm

        I paid $21.9k for my 2012 Grand Touring. You must be in a market where the dealers just don’t deal. I love it. The leather helps with the small kid wear and I’ve hauled around 20 x 2 cu. ft. bags of wood chips in it. Yes, the fuel economy is not the greatest for its size, but it handles very well and is a great 4-passenger vehicle.

    • 0 avatar
      manny_c44

      Man the stock tires were awful, wretched tires.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    Is the Transit Connect in this segment?

    (If not, why the hell not?)

    • 0 avatar
      JimZ

      technically yes, but the Connect seems more like it is primarily a commercial vehicle pressed into doing passenger duty. it’s not really competitive with regards to interior refinement (mostly hard plastic.) The Grand C-Max would be, but that’s not sold in North America.

    • 0 avatar
      Garrett

      The Transit Connect has the distinction of being the worst vehicle update I can recall in the past several years.

      The original one we received here in the US looked properly Euro, and the interior was well suited for hauling stuff without having to worry about messing up upholstery.

      They took a cool little van, and have now turned it into what feels like a slammed minivan.

  • avatar
    brettc

    My brother has a Mazda 5 with a manual transmission and a Dodge GC (he previously had a Routan that had a catastrophic failure with the electronics that they couldn’t reasonably fix). I do know that he’s had almost no problems with the 5 since he’s owned it. It’s not a bad vehicle in my opinion. Maybe he’ll chime in with his perspective.

    The local Ford/Mazda dealer to me has the same 2015 Mazda 5 sitting on their lot that was there in May of 2016 when I test drove a C-Max. So you can still buy “new” Mazda 5s in the U.S. if you look hard enough.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    We also get the Mercedes B class in Canada. From most exterior angles it is almost indistinguishable from the Rondo.
    And a fully equipped Rondo can be priced to about the midrange for the B class.

    The B class sold quite well, actually mostly leased in its first generation iteration in Canada. The current generation not so much.

  • avatar

    If they sold that Rondo here, it would make my car shopping a lot easier.

  • avatar
    deanst

    I have a 2010 Mazda5, and I’ve had no problems outside of the rear suspension needing some work, covered by warrantee.

    The biggest issues are:
    1) mileage is not as great as it should be
    2) acceleration is fine around town with a few kids, but load it up for a family trip and you can really notice the difference
    3)interior plastics are cheap looking, although the layout of most controls is logical
    4)seat adjustability is limited. My wife is only 5’9″ and the seats are almost to the limit. (I’m also 5’9″, but with shorter legs.)

    I only paid $16000 CDN for it, so I can’t complain. And no rusting (yet)! I do find it funny to see cars costing 2 or 3 times this price without automatic headlights, while this cheap Mazda has them.

    The main problem is that it is a bit small for a growing family, and the caravan is only a little more for not much more money. The ideally sized minivan for me would be the old short wheelbase GM vans.

  • avatar
    tjh8402

    while I understand that poor sales numbers killed its chances, I really wish Mazda had given us a shot at a Skyactive Mazda 5. It’s biggest downside was its poor fuel economy, which was not much better than the full size vans. Having van practicality with good mpg and Mazda driving dynamics would be a brilliant family vehicle. Unfortunately, all the mini minivans for sale here now are commercially oriented vehicles with unimpressive MPG and only the Ford Transit Connect offering noteworthy driving dynamics

  • avatar
    Jimal

    When we were at the Mazda dealer early last month looking at a MAZDA6, my wife asked about the MAZDA5. The salesman told us how they had just recently sold the last new 5 they could get their hands on; a black on black 2014 that they swapped in for a customer. Too bad, it might have been the gateway minivan for her.

  • avatar
    ranny

    Love that Kia Rondo. And I’m a single man with no kids. Looks a lot like a small SUV. No sliding doors. Why it doesn’t sell better is beyond me.

  • avatar
    22_RE_Speedwagon

    We bought a 2014 when we still lived in San Francisco with three small kids all in car seats– the only 6 passenger vehicle you can reasonable expect to street park. It’s only a few inches longer than the Mazda3 we traded “up” from. Plus, my wife somehow convinced herself it was not a minivan, which she refuses to drive. Now that we’re the suburbs of the northeast I wish we had a bigger vehicle but the solution was a roof rack and car carrier which turns the mazda5 into a passable roadtripper for 5.

  • avatar
    zoomzoomfan

    I really wish Mazda would have given the 5 the redesign it deserved. A new style and a SkyActiv power train, perhaps the 2.5 Turbo found in the CX-9, would make for an awesome little people mover.

    The ancient 2.5 offered in the current 5 is just too underpowered and thirsty at the same time. Add to that the abysmal crash test rating (in the small overlap test, anyway) and the smiley front end…you’ve got a no sale. :-(

  • avatar
    manny_c44

    I convinced my sister to buy a Mazda 5 and every time I get to drive it I am struck by how pleasant it is to tool around in. I love the sight lines, the seating position, the economy of the space and how feather-light-yet-solid the construction is. Also made in Japan. A car with a real quality feeling despite being an economy vehicle.

  • avatar
    Pig Hater

    The Rondo reminds me more of a stretched Honda Fit than a minivan since I don’t see a sliding door on it. That’s fine with me. I cruise around in a Fit and the great thing about it is even though it’s classified as a “station wagon” the last thing I feel is that I’m driving around something like a Chevy Kingswood or Vista Cruiser yacht on wheels when I’m behind the wheel of my tiny 2500 pound Fit.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    For those interested in such things, the new generation is available in Canada as a manual. The previous generation was available only with an automatic transmission.

    In Europe the Rondo, known as the Carens is available as a manual and with a diesel.

    It is also available with a 7 passenger configuration, although the rear 2 seats are best used as ‘jump’ seats for small children or short trips only.

    • 0 avatar
      allythom

      I rented a diesel Carens on my last family trip back to the motherland. Sadly not a manual though (pretty sure UK rental agencies look at the US license and assume you need an auto), and not brown either -otherwise it could have been a contender for “internet’s perfect car”. It served as an excellent family hauler, albeit a thoroughly unexciting one. Even managed to use the third row briefly on a short excursion with the grandparents.

      Was watching some old episodes of Minder at the weekend, stand on me.

  • avatar
    rolando

    The new Kia Rondo/Carens looks great, I might have chosen it over my Mazda3!

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