A few notes on the end of the Mazda5, whose American production has ended and is sold off on these shores in favor of Mazda’s CX-5 and CX-9 SUVs. (Full Disclosure: A 2010 Mazda5 Carries My Family Daily):
• When the Mazda5 is finally sold, there will be no three-row passenger vehicle with a manual transmission available in the United States. If this was a type of vehicle you wanted, you should have bought one now.
• Although it was never a blockbuster, the Mazda5 had a sizable fan base in the nearby suburbs. People who bought Mazda5s – and I’m not just counting myself – did so because they were a smaller vehicle that could still hold six people in relative comfort. It wasn’t as thirsty for gasoline or bulky as a real minibus; I get a lot of big SUVs around my house for testing, and many still don’t fit the Mazda5 for real world use. And it was incredibly affordable, often selling for less than $ 20,000 new.
When the Mazda5 passes away, the era of cheap family trucks also passes. The next cheapest new three-row models are the Mitsubishi Outlander SUV or a heavily discounted, long-lasting Dodge Grand Caravan. (The most affordable and reasonable alternative? A base Kia Sorento, starting at around $ 25,000).
• Other automakers sell similar vehicles around the world with excellent results (outside of the US, the Toyota Prius V has a third row). Chevrolet was even planning to launch its own foreign minivan here, the Orlando, until its dealers rejected it, fearing it would undermine the Equinox. There might not be a better option for consumers than having a usable third row of seats – and automakers want to make sure that value continues.
• The current Mazda5 has its faults; it underperforms in some crash tests and its competitors have better technology. I liked the microvan style of the previous edition better than the newer “Kodo” look. You can’t even easily swap out the 2.3 turbo four for a Mazdaspeed 3 without some extensive rewiring. At least I won’t have to worry about losing her track in a sea of lookalikes in the parking lot.