The Mazda5 defies categorization in the United States In many ways, it’s a timeless car, as the class of proto-minivans to which it belongs left our market decades ago. Large multi-passenger wagons like the Nissan Axxess, Mitsubishi Expo and Dodge / Plymouth Colt Vista once roamed the roads, but they have since disappeared, giving way to the larger minivans that still rule today. And the lack of competition has allowed Mazda to thrive in the niche segment.
OK, maybe “prosper” is not the right phrase. During the first half of 2014, approximately 7,200 Mazda5s were sold, a decrease of almost 21% compared to the same period last year. But for parents looking to transport kids on a budget, the six-passenger wagon is pretty much the only game in town. It’s also the most compact and car-like of all the minivan alternatives, two attributes that should appeal to those who object to the experience of driving a minivan that craves the minivan. soul. If that’s not enough to convince the enthusiast turned shuttle driver, the Mazda5 is also the only transport car available with a six-speed manual transmission.
Our 2014 Mazda5 Sport test drive came equipped with this rare manual option, but what helped it stand out the most from other multi-passenger vehicles was its taut chassis, which shares many components with the previous Mazda3. The turn is reasonably precise for a car built purely to carry people. The body roll is noticeable, but no more than expected for a large wagon. But perhaps the most engaging thing about the Mazda5 is its steering. Instead of the boosted minivan steering I expected, the helm offered a more Mazda3-like experience – a welcome departure from the floating, disconnected segment standard.
In testing, the Mazda5 nearly duplicated the handling results of the last model we tested, a 2012 Mazda5 Touring. The Sport model’s 16-inch alloy wheels wrapped in 205/55 all-season tires helped it contain averaging 0.79g on the skate and completing the eight in 28.3 seconds at an average of 0.60g. Test director Kim Reynolds rated the Mazda5’s age on the figure eight, especially in terms of how the ABS came about. When braking at the limit, the ABS would engage suddenly and cause directional instability in the Mazda5. Modern systems have become more sophisticated and the performance of the 5 on our handling course highlights the age of its hardware.
All is not bad, however. With the manual, the Mazda5 has improved its acceleration figures compared to last time. The 2.5-liter I-4 previously offered in the latest generation Mazda3 Grand Touring develops 157 horsepower and 163 lb-ft in the Mazda5. That power channeled through the six-speed manual was good enough to get the Mazda5 to 60 mph in 8.2 seconds. Not fast at all, but almost a second faster than the Mazda5 Touring five-speed automatic result of 9.1 seconds. The quarter mile came in 16.3 seconds at 85.5 mph, compared to 17.0 seconds at 81.5 mph with the automatic. Braking also improved slightly, with the 2014 Mazda5 stopping 60 mph 7 feet shorter than the 2012 model at 116 feet.
Going back to the age of the Mazda5, this impression also applies to other parts of the vehicle. The exterior styling retains the “smiley” front look of the previous Mazda3 and does not benefit from Mazda’s latest Kodo design language. It’s not a bad look, but without the corporate face found on the rest of the line, all 5 looks are dated. It’s a similar story inside the cabin, which features a center console that’s at least a generation behind. Switchgear and gauges also seem to be overdue, and our tester lacked a lot of modern equipment. Features like triple-flash turn signals, push-button start, hands-free keyless entry, Bluetooth, and automatic headlights were missing, although we could hardly complain considering the tested price of our 21 car. $ 010. Bluetooth is standard on the top-of-the-line Touring model, which starts at $ 23,065, while the automatic headlights are locked into the Grand Touring trim at $ 25,465.
Sliding rear doors allow easy access to the second row. Getting to the third row, however, is a bit more difficult. The narrow passage between the second row captain’s seats is barely wide enough for kids to get through, so if you’re an adult, expect to trip at least once as you make your way to the back seats. Considering the dimensions of the Mazda5, these seats are naturally cramped, offering the bare minimum of legroom. Adults should expect to bend in origami fashion, with their knees ending somewhere near their chest. But passengers under 5 feet should have no difficulty seated in the back row.
With the third row seats in place, there isn’t much cargo space. I even struggled to close the tailgate with just my (admittedly full) backpack in the back. With the third row down, however, the Mazda5 offers 44.4 cubic feet of space. If more storage is needed, the captain’s seat cushions lift up to reveal additional compartments, with the passenger side seat also hiding a drop-down tray and cup holder.
The Mazda5 looks like the modern day crocodile in some ways. It has survived without a lot of changes since its introduction as it didn’t need to. Its unique characteristics make it well suited for its intended use, and even in the animal kingdom we see evolution tends to stick with what works. But given its declining sales figures, the Mazda5 could be at risk of extinction if it can’t adapt quickly with the right updates. A facelift inside and out with a dose of Skyactiv transmissions could help ensure the survival of this rare beast.
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|2014 Mazda5 Sport|
|STARTING PRICE||$ 20,935|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$ 21,010|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front engine, front wheel drive, 6 passes, 4-door van|
|MOTOR||2.5 L / 157 hp / 163 lb-ft I-4 DOHC 16-valve|
|SIGHT WEIGHT (DIST F / R)||3362 pounds (56/44%)|
|Length x Width x Height||180.5 x 68.9 x 63.9 inches|
|0-60 MPH||8.2 seconds|
|QUARTER MILE||16.3 s at 85.5 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||116 feet|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.79 g (average)|
|MT NUMBER EIGHT||28.3 s at 0.60 g (average)|
|EPA CITY / HWY / COMB FUEL ECON||21/28/24 mpg|
|ENERGY CONSUMPTION, CITY / HIGHWAY||160/120 kWh / 100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS||0.82 lbs / mile|