By Jonathan Micocci – GRAND Magazine Car Reviewer
Minivans are one of those concessions to maturity, like flossing or balancing your checkbook, right? So what happens when a performance car company, Mazda, builds a minivan, and offers it at a value price? We had a week with a Mazda 5 to find out if practicality, performance and economy belonged in the same vehicle or even the same sentence.
First impression: swoopy lines. Considering a minivan must have copious interior volume or be kicked out of the club, it looks good. Curb appeal is subjective but we find it easy on the eyes.
The left front seat is where you will spend most of your time and the Mazda 5 got a big gold star right away. The steering wheel not only tilts but telescopes. Some otherwise good cars fail in this important area. Visibility is excellent all around and our model has a clever warning device that should prevent backing over the trash cans. Seats are firm but well contoured with lumbar support. Dash, controls and instruments coexist in simple harmony. This would be easy to live with.
Moving aft, sliding side doors open up a six-passenger vehicle with a little cargo area; or a four-passenger vehicle with a lot of cargo area. The Mazda 5 is smaller than most minivans and smaller is better in many ways. But it is smaller.
We throw some innocent victims, er…grandchildren in the back, adjust the electric mirrors and fire up the 157 hp 2.5L four, mated to a five speed auto with a sporty manual shift option (kudos to Mazda for also offering a six speed stick).
The driving experience is a pleasant surprise. Acceleration is adequate for the job. The traction control wizardry is overkill for Florida but would be nice in a Midwest blizzard. The delightful anti-lock brakes offer a firm pedal and progressive response. Steering is light, quick and nimble. The chassis stays flat in the corners so the little darlings in back don’t lose their grip on their video game players when we start to push it. Bumps in the road are not a major event and the sound level at highway velocity is pretty low with just a bit of tire noise. Other than a more upright seating position, driving the Mazda 5 is very much like driving a Mazda sedan, which is not a bad thing at all.
Putting it all together, this special vehicle is almost in a class of it’s own. It’s smaller than other minivans but is still a people hauler. The barrier to entry is really low for what you get. MSRP on our well-optioned car is about $25K and according to the internet, some have gone out the door under $20K. 28 mpg on the highway is equally thrifty and what I ultimately care most about, it’s a pleasant vehicle to drive for hours at a time.
Road Trip! It’s almost a week now with this silver Mazda 5 and I find myself wanting to load it up and drive it somewhere, like the Grand Canyon. Familiarity has bred affection. Is it reasonable to think…maybe they’ll forget to pick it up?
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