Lending validity to the "mini" in minivan, the 2007 Mazda 5 offers a nimble and practical solution for smaller families who are realistic about their space and performance needs.
In Europe and Japan, small minivans (called space wagons) have been popular for years due to their impressive space efficiency and fuel mileage. Offering a lot of cabin space within a reasonably small footprint, these family shuttles never quite made it in the U.S. Nissan and Mitsubishi tried in the early '90s with their Axxess and Expo, but here, where \bigger is better\ is the overriding philosophy, they were soundly snubbed.
With the ever-increasing size of the minivan offerings here in the states, Mazda decided the time was right to reintroduce the idea of the space wagon, and did so with the 2006 Mazda 5. Based on the platform of the compact Mazda 3, the 5 is larger than the 3 but much smaller than every other minivan on the market. At 181.5 inches long and 69.1 inches wide, it's 2 feet shorter and 8 inches narrower than a Honda Odyssey. And at 3400 pounds, it's about 1000 pounds lighter.
In spite of its relatively diminutive size, the 2007 Mazda 5 is a real minivan. Twin sliding rear doors are so easy to open that one can do so with one finger. The second-row seats fold as well as recline and there's a third seat as well, allowing for up to six passengers. A major benefit of both its smaller size and Mazda breeding is the 5's surprisingly competent road manners, making this people mover entertaining for the folks behind the wheel. The sacrifice made for the mileage estimates of 21 city\/26 highway (automatic transmission) is rather tepid performance at higher speeds from the 5's four-cylinder engine.
In addition to its maneuverable size, sporty dynamics and the promise of good fuel economy, the 5 offers a third-row seat and available luxury features that include a navigation system. With gas prices at all-time highs and people getting more realistic about their vehicle choices, the 2007 Mazda 5 is a true minivan that makes perfect sense for smaller families.
The compact 2007 Mazda 5 minivan is available in three trim levels: Sport, Touring and Grand Touring. The Sport trim includes dual manual-sliding rear doors, 17-inch alloy wheels, ABS, air-conditioning with cabin filtration, a CD stereo, keyless entry, cruise control and full power accessories. Step up to the Touring trim and you'll get a moonroof, automatic climate control, an upgraded MP3-compatible stereo with an in-dash CD changer, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, rear spoiler and front foglights. The Grand Touring adds luxury in the form of leather seating, HID xenon headlights and heated front seats. Major options for the Sport include a moonroof and the Popular Equipment package, which bundles a six-disc CD changer with a rear spoiler and side sill extensions. The Touring and Grand Touring offer a voice-controlled navigation system.
Sharing its suspension design (including a multilink rear setup) with the athletic 3 means that the 2007 Mazda 5 possesses quick, precise handling and minimal body roll through the curves. The 5 also boasts sharp, communicative steering. In tighter turns, the 5 feels more top-heavy than the compact on which it's based, but that's expected. Overall, this minivan is quite entertaining to drive and lends credibility to Mazda's \zoom-zoom\ marketing angle. A petite (34.8 feet) turning circle makes U-turns and parking maneuvers a breeze.
The Mazda 5 minivan uses the same 2.3-liter, four-cylinder engine found in the Mazda 3, and output is rated at 153 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed manual transmission is standard on the Sport and Touring, while a four-speed automatic is optional on those trims and standard on the Grand Touring. Fuel economy ratings are 22 mpg city, 27 mpg highway (manual) and 21\/26 (automatic). While the van's 2.3-liter engine feels peppy in the Mazda 3, the 5's additional 600 pounds make it work hard. Scooting around town is no problem but the 5's pull fades at higher speeds, such as when merging onto a fast-moving freeway. We timed an automatic-equipped 5 at 10.1 seconds for the 0-60-mph drill, and that's with just a driver aboard. With a load of passengers, performance suffers even more.
Four-wheel antilock disc brakes (with electronic brakeforce distribution), front side airbags and side curtain airbags (for all three rows) are standard on every Mazda 5. Stability control is not available. A tire-pressure monitor comes on Touring and Grand Touring models equipped with the navigation system.
Getting passengers and cargo in and out of tight parking spaces is a snap, thanks to the Mazda 5's sliding rear doors. Theater-style seating, with each row raised 2 inches higher than the one before it, allows even third-row passengers a view out the windshield. Both second- and third-row seats fold flat, offering a 5-foot-long load floor and 44 cubic feet of cargo capacity. Those in the second row will have plenty of legroom and headroom, but the third row is cramped and really suitable for small children only.
Low price, generous features list, nimble handling, excellent fuel economy for a minivan.
Performance suffers when loaded up with people and gear, cramped third row, stability control not available.