2014 Mazda Mazda5
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    $20,140 - $24,670
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    2014 Mazda Mazda5 Expert Review:New Car Test Drive

    The following review is for a 2013 Model Year. There may be minor changes to current model you are looking at.

    Mini minivan delivers versatility and value.

    Introduction

    Not quite a full-fledged minivan and not quite a wagon, the Mazda5 is a small, front-wheel-drive van with sliding rear doors and space for six. 

    Mazda5 was completely redesigned for 2012, so changes for 2013 are minor. Among them: The 2013 Mazda5 gets some new exterior colors, and a USB/iPod connection comes standard on all models. 

    The design of the Mazda5 is based on the Nagare, or flow in nature, design language. Its hallmark is an upside-down pentagon grille up front and a flowing design up over the front fenders and down the sides. 

    With these styling cues, the Mazda 5 has a bolder and sportier look than the slab-sided approach usually reserved for minivan bodies. The body has been shaped with sculpted sheet metal and a severely laid-back windshield, with a rear roof spoiler on the Grand Touring version. 

    The grille, hood, fenders, lamps, bumper and front air intakes complement body-colored door handles and mirrors and taillamps. The design is not only attractive, but helps to achieve a 0.30 coefficient of drag, which is remarkably aerodynamic for a minivan, helping reduce wind noise and maximize fuel efficiency. 

    The interior layout of the Mazda5 is unusual in that it provides three rows of two seats each, with bucket seats in front, available captain's chairs in the second row, and a split folding bench seat in the third row, best suited for smaller children. A second-row bench seat is also available, which appears to be better for dogs or cargo than people. It's a versatile cabin, regardless of configuration. A mechanically operated liftgate makes the rear hatch easy to open. 

    A 2.5-liter double-overhead-cam four-cylinder engine with variable valve timing powers all Mazda5 models, giving it good low-rpm torque and high-rpm horsepower. Rated at a modest 157 horsepower and 163 foot-pounds of torque, it's the same engine found on certain Mazda3 trim levels. Transmission choices include a 6-speed manual or a 5-speed automatic. 

    Fuel economy ratings for the 2013 Mazda5 are 21/28 City/Highway with the manual transmission, 22/28 mpg with the automatic. 

    We found the Mazda 5 enjoyable to drive, with responsive acceleration performance, sharp handling, and smooth braking. Mazda's sporty suspension means there's very little body roll. Brakes are four-wheel disc for good stopping power. 

    This is an economy minivan with a starting price under $20,000, so don't expect a blind-spot warning system, adaptive cruise control, or any of the other higher-priced, high-technology safety gear found on more expensive cars. Nor is a built-in navigation system available; Mazda expects most buyers will opt for a portable Garmin, Magellan or other stick-on system. 

    There aren't any apples-to-apples competitors for the 2013 Mazda5. Minivans such as the Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna are larger and more expensive. Compact wagons and hatchbacks come closer in size, but lack the rear sliding doors and tend to be more expensive. Shoppers looking for utility with a smaller footprint and are willing to shell out a little more might also consider the Ford C-MAX wagon and compact SUVs such as the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4. 

    Lineup

    The 2013 Mazda5 comes in three trim levels. Each is powered by a 157-hp 2.5-liter engine. 

    Mazda5 Sport is available with a 6-speed manual ($19,940) or 5-speed automatic ($20,940) transmission. Standard equipment includes cloth upholstery, automatic climate control with rear fan controls, power locks and windows, a manual height-adjustable driver seat, tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, keyless entry, cruise control, 50/50-split third-row seats, a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, auxiliary audio jack and USB port and 16-inch alloy wheels. 

    Mazda5 Touring ($22,070) adds a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, a trip computer, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity, fog lamps, rear liftgate spoiler, side sill body trim, rear backup sensors and 17-inch alloy wheels. A moonroof/audio package ($1,040) adds a power sunroof and Sirius satellite radio with a four-month subscription. 

    Mazda5 Grand Touring ($24,470) adds leather upholstery, heated front seats, driver's seat lumbar adjustment, Sirius satellite radio with four-month subscription, power sunroof, automatic Xenon HID headlights, rain-sensing wipers, heated side mirrors and an anti-theft alarm system. 

    Optional accessories available on all models include a rear, overhead DVD entertainment system ($1,200), cargo net ($50) and all-weather floor mats ($100). 

    Safety equipment on the Mazda 5 includes front, side and three-row roof curtain air bags, traction control, dynamic stability control and four-wheel disc brakes with ABS, Electronic Brafefoce Distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist. 

    Walkaround

    Design of the 2013 Mazda5 is based on the Nagare, or flow in nature, design language, the first Mazda to be designed using this philosophy. Its hallmark is an upside-down pentagon grille up front and a flowing design up over the front fenders and down the sides. 

    The Mazda5 has integrated halogen headlamps at the front corners, creating a line that goes up over the front fenders like other Mazdas, and then all the way to the rear of the car through the centerline of the body. 

    The lower body is sculpted with an upswept line starting just behind the front tires and extending up and over the rear wheel wells. With the five-point lower grille and the five-point rear window glass, this couldn't be anything but a Mazda, mimicking as it does the Mazda 3, Mazda 6, RX-8, CX-7, and CX-9 in its front and rear layouts. This car looks like it's smiling at you. 

    With these styling cues, the Mazda 5 has a bolder and sportier look than the slab-sided approach usually reserved for minivan bodies. The body has been shaped with sculpted sheet metal and a severely laid-back windshield, with a rear roof spoiler on the Grand Touring version. 

    The design is not only attractive, but helps to achieve a remarkably low coefficient of drag for a minivan, 0.30, which helps with wind noise and maximize fuel efficiency. 

    Interior

    The Mazda5 interior is very versatile and can be configured for two, three, four, five, or six occupants in some 16 different configurations. The second-row captain's chairs flop forward and slide for access to the 50/50 folding third-row bench seat, and there is hidden storage under each chair, not to mention a standard fold-out tray table and cupholder setup that fits between the two captain's chairs when needed. 

    The instrument panel contains the usual two round gauges with lights and indicators in between the deeply tunneled clusters and is designed together with a second large, horizontal binnacle in the center of the instrument panel to house the time, temperature, fuel economy, sound system and climate control readouts, with the CD slot below, a very pleasingly laid-out sound system control center, and a three-dial HVAC control panel at the bottom (automatic climate control front and rear air-conditioning with pollen filtration is standard equipment). The shifter, whether manual or automatic, resides in the bottom center of the instrument panel. 

    The three-spoke steering wheel has a thick rim and a thickly padded hub with convenient switches for the sound system on the left, cruise control system on the right, and telephone on the lower left. The thick steering wheel is pleasant to hold onto, and the Mazda 5 is made more comfortable with a combination of a tilt/telescope steering column and adjustable seat height. Taken together, the Mazda 5's interior components add up to a very livable, easy-to-use whole with good quality plastics, a minimum of brightwork, plenty of storage, and high functionality. 

    As for storage, the rated cargo capacity of the Mazda 5 is 5.6 cubic feet behind the flipping and folding third-row bench seat, with 27.5 cubic feet with the second seat folded flat and 55.4 cubic feet with both rows of seats folded flat. 

    Driving Impression

    The 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine in the Mazda 5 provides just enough power and torque to get the job of family transporter done, with not much more available. 

    A 6-speed manual transmission is offered on base Sport versions for the few who want it, but the more popular automatic is a 5-speed, not a 6-speed, which means the highway fuel economy suffers and the cruising noise level goes up accordingly. The engine performed smoothly and quietly. 

    Front seats are comfortable and supportive, with cool contrasting stitching on upper models. The second-row captain's chairs slide, recline and fold flat, opening up all kinds of passenger comfort and storage possibilities. Interior function was excellent with a newly added USB/iPod connection on all models, and wireless Bluetooth connectivity standard on Touring and Grand Touring models. The six-speaker sound system sounded very good when the volume was cranked up. 

    Suspension is conventional, with MacPherson struts in front and a multi-link setup in the rear. The ride is relatively flat through the corners, with quicker-acting shock absorbers and brake and throttle action that make the Mazda5 fun and comfortable to drive quickly. 

    The steering uses a combination of electric and hydraulic assist, and it feels connected to the tires and the road. Brakes are four-wheel discs and offer confident stopping power. 

    Summary

    Mazda5 is a unique vehicle that offers the sliding doors of a minivan and the versatility of a wagon in a smaller package. 

    Jim McCraw reported from Coronado, California, with Laura Burstein reporting from Los Angeles. 

    Model Lineup

    Mazda5 Sport manual transmission ($19,940); Mazda5 Sport automatic transmission ($20,940); Mazda5 Touring ($22,070); Mazda5 Grand Touring ($24,470). 

    Assembled In

    Hofu, Japan. 

    Options As Tested

    none. 

    Model Tested

    Mazda 5 Grand Touring ($24,470). 

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