Car test: 2016 Mazda5 GT

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Barely the average ‘car’, this minivan deserves a little more love – though it’s due for an update that might never come.

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I have to throw some love at the Mazda5, Mazda’s brave compact minivan. It’s such a useful runabout, a good family vehicle for those with young children who might be constrained by budget and / or parking space to buy something bigger.

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In fact, all minivans would need a hug; from their dominance a generation ago as a de facto family suburban vehicle – having replaced the station wagon as that – their sales have withered in the face of more popular compact and mid-size SUVs and crossovers. Oh, there are still players there; the Dodge Grand Caravan continues to control the segment and the Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey generate reasonable sales, but the numbers drop quite dramatically from there. (For the record, it was when most of my married friends and family had a second child that they made their minivan purchase “reluctantly”.

But the six-seater Mazda5 is a somewhat unique proposition due to its size and sliding rear doors. (The other possible contenders for the 5 – Kia Rondo, Mercedes B 250, Ford C-Max – all have regular hinged rear doors). This provides unparalleled access to the second row of seats and easier access to the third row. Not that I would go up to the last row myself; the 5 is a true compact, with a length of only 4,585 millimeters, shorter than that of the current Honda Civic sedan. In fact, at 6 feet 2 inches, I don’t have enough legroom in any row; even the front seats can withstand an additional displacement of a few inches, especially if long distances are involved.

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2016 Mazda5 GT

The second row captain’s seats have tilt and slide functions, making it easier to access the third row, at least for the young and the more flexible. There’s not a lot of room to stow things with all the seats up, but the rear seats fold flat to provide a much more convenient 15 cubic feet.

The biggest problem with the Mazda5 is that it is “mature” and in serious need of updating. The thing is, in February 2016, Mazda Motor reportedly announced that the development and production of minivans could end within the year – obviously choosing to focus on the much larger and more profitable crossover segment. The 5, which has been around since the 2006 model year, last saw a serious upgrade in 2012. It has been sailing since and, in fact, is no longer sold in the United States. Not exactly a resounding endorsement, although Mazda Canada says there will be a 2017 model (no change from 2016 or even 2015). It will probably be the last.

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The Mazda5 is powered by the venerable 2.5-liter MZR four-cylinder, which is not one of Mazda’s new SkyActiv engines. It’s a small, busy unit that produces an output of 157 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 163 lb-ft. of torque at 4000 rpm, and is a bit out of breath at higher revs. Scintillating acceleration shouldn’t be expected, but any idea of ​​passing slower vehicles should be planned well in advance – instrumented tests by the Automotive Journalists Association of Canada show it takes 10.2 seconds to go from zero to 100 km / h, and 7.7 seconds to reach 120 km / h from 80.

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Interestingly, the 5 comes with a six-speed manual transmission standard on the GS and GT trim levels; the five-speed automatic – with manual shift mode – is a $ 1,200 option. The automatic, at least one cog below its competitors, does the job; at 120 km / h, the engine is running at less than 2,500 rpm. Yet like the engine, the transmission really should be replaced with something more efficient. And the manual gearshift function – via the console-mounted gear lever; there are no paddle shifters – add nothing to the driving experience other than making the engine sound louder at higher revs. Speaking of the racket, there is moderate wind noise at highway speed, which is to be expected given the 5’s square shape.

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Handling is the strong point of the Mazda5. Between its size and Mazda’s engineering philosophy of instilling a sporty feel into each of its products, the van is quite nimble. The driving is, from your perspective, rather sporty or rather rough, especially on rougher surfaces.

Even more than the powertrain, it’s the interior of the 5 that is in desperate need of an update – something I noticed when I last used the van a few years ago. The whole dashboard area is full of dull, hard, black plastic. And the digital readings are so the last century. Still, those who hate touchscreens – yes, I know you’re out there – will love the fact that the van doesn’t have one. This means a large center console full of large, easy-to-use controls. In addition, the top-of-the-line GT ($ 26,795 with manual transmission) gets leather seats and the usual amenities – power windows, power locks and mirrors, cruise control, air conditioning, Bluetooth, on-board computer, windshield wipers. with rain sensor, etc. There’s no rear-view camera, which, while not absolutely necessary given the 5’s compact size, would still be appreciated. Mazda provides rear reversing sensors as standard equipment on the GT.

Ultimately, there is little reason to complain about the Mazda5; What you see is what you get. And what you get is a declining niche player in the family transport segment compromised by planned obsolescence and size but backed by the fact that it is inexpensive and has some sportiness in its dynamics. driving. Like it or not, it has real utility as a low-cost family carrier. I will deplore his eventual disappearance.

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