We just bought a new Mazda5 Touring edition to replace our gas guzzling daily driven F150 Supercrew 4x4, and so far we are anything but disappointed.
It's only been three full days since we brought it home, but having put 337 miles on our first tank of gas (still over 1/4 tank left), we were pleased to discover upon refilling that we were already hypermiling it! No fancy techniques were used aside from a couple of FAS's and generally good economical driving habits such as moderate acceleration, keeping the revs down, and not speeding on the highway. Still, it's one slippery car that feels like it would be just as at home going 90mph as it is at 55.
DRIVETRAIN: The one gripe some reviewers have had about the Mazda5 that we were prepared for is a lack of power. Too bad we disagree!
While the 153HP it is rated at is below the mark of even your typical minivan and the same as the significantly lighter 3 series upon which it is based, it's still only moving 3330 lbs of car, which is more than adequate to accelerate and merge with normal everyday traffic and likely capable of propelling it to well over 100 MPH. We won't be passing any STis or Corvettes with it, but we'll be hauling up to 6 people and not interested in risking life and limb to get places a few seconds faster thank you very much! Even shifting at between 3000-3500 rpm, short of the 6500 rpm redline, provides more than adequate merging power. And the 5-speed manual transmission is smooth shifting through all of it, although my wife has had issues getting it into reverse while stopped.
INTERIOR: What we especially like about this vehicle aside from the good balance of power and fuel economy is the layout and versatility of the interior. It seats up to 6 (European and Asian versions seat up to 7), and all but the front seats fold down completely flat to permit a large loading area. I would not charachterize it as overly spacious however, as even with the seat fully back, I could use another inch of legroom for my 34" inseam. Regardless, around town it is not an issue and I have not complaints after driving for an hour straight this afternoon. Head and shoulder room however is adequate, but dimensions for passengers shrink progressively toward the rear, although 2 adults could sit in the 2nd row with little if any discomfort. The rear most seats are strictly for people 5' and under if you have anybody of any stature in the 2nd row however. Regardless, with 2 kids in the 2nd row and one in the back, the 'stop touching me!' occurrances have so far been kept to a minimum. Even our bulldog was relatively happy with one of the 3rd row seats folded flat for her to lay on. We also really like having the sliding rear doors, although Mazda could improve them slightly with a power opening and closing option, as despite their relatively small size, they are still a bit heavy for kids to open or close with the car parked on any significant hill.
We are still getting used to where everything is in the car, but most controls seem reasonably placed and it is nice to have stereo and cruise control operations within thumbs reach on the steering wheel. Our only gripe so far here is that MP3 capability is not standard on the 6-disc changer and is a $450 upgrade! That's pretty ridiculous in my opinion, but at least there are other options that will integrate an ipod or USB drive control into the system and stereo display - albeit with limited folder and track information. But considering that one could store their entire music collection on an ipod, or USB thumb or disk drive, not futzing with MP3 CD-Rs actually seems like it may be a benefit given how picky some MP3 CD players are about the disks they will play. Regardless, the sound of the six speaker system should keep the average listener happy.
EXTERIOR: This is one of those things where the more closely I look, the more I discover how much thought Mazda put into making sure that this minivan/minwagon was as slippery on the highway as practical. In macro, the overall profile of the car suggests a very smooth aerodynamic shape from the front of the hoodline all of the way to the spoiler over the rear glass, with a nice smooth side body having minimal wheel arches extending into the airstream. Looking closer however, it's clear that Mazda put attention into some smaller less obvious details.
The front fascia alone is a study in directing airflow to where it is needed most. On either side within the lower grille opening are splitters for directing air into the fender wells, toward the throttle intake, and ultimately out into the fenders where it appears to be useful for improved brake cooling and likely reduced turbulence at the front wheels. Looking into the upper grille opening, airflow is split horizontally between the radiator and just under the cowl where some of the air is ducted in to vent the sealed battery box.
Inspection of the underside of the car revealed similar attention to detail, and although there are still some of the typically rough areas around things like the exhaust and suspension present, it appears to be well thought out. From the front spoiler moving back, there is a complete engine undertray with several roughly 2" wide NACA style ducts placed in it to draw air up into the engine area before venting to the rear at the front subframe. Looking to the sides, there are also spoilers that protrude down a couple of inches just ahead of the front wheels. Further back, the unibody itself provides most of the air contact surface on each side of the exhaust tunnel which is open except for several cross-braces until it passes the rear suspension. Still, there are spats(?) just ahead of the rear axle that appear to be intended to generate vorticies just ahead of the rear suspension for some reason.
In a nutshell, I doubt that there is much any of us could do to improve undercarriage aerodynamics, short of lowering, without having other possibly detrimental affects. Perhaps the only obvious aero improvement would be to add rear wheel well covers and place a belly pan between the otherwise open rear axle to bumper area.
ON THE ROAD: It's easy for one to forget they are driving a minivan, wagon, or whatever you want to call it. This vehicle just plain feels like a compact car. It handles far better than the 2000 Focus sedan that we gave up 3 years ago - even after we upgraded the springs and shocks. The 5 is just fun to drive on roads with curves.
It's certainly not the noisiest car I've ever owned either, but I give it a score of slightly better than the average compact, and in line with what you get with most vehicles in this price range. Much of the noise and vibration can probably be attributed to the 50 series V-rated rubber however. It's a rare car that is whisper quiet with barely 2" of v-rated sidwall on it's wheels. Wind noise is virtually absent (or at least we don't notice it over the road noise).
Best of all on the road however, as I opened this review with, is fuel economy. With 80% highway and a mixed bag of spring weather, we managed to beat the EPA estimate for our first tank by 20%, or 3 mpg. We hypermiled without really trying! I can only imagine what's possible if we get aggressive about it. Even so, I believe that puts this vehicle at the top of the minivan class for economy. That's not bad for giving up a seat or two and the extra power those other vans are available with. But I suppose if you need to seat 7 in the US at least, you're just plainscrewed on that one.
SUMMARY: We think it's a winner. For the sub $20,000 price we paid for it, we don't believe there is another more suitable vehicle for our needs. It transports the entire family plus a friend or a pet. It can haul significant loads (I'm thinking lumber up to 10' in length). It's relatively comfortable and easy to drive. And it gets great fuel economy.
PROS: Economy, seating and hauling capacity. CONS: No MP3 as standard, and backup sensors would be nice.
nice job! ive been reasearching the 5 also, and i like it so far. its nice to have a car that can sit 6 people and still gets 30 mpg, i wished that honda or toyota had made something like this, since im a honda/toyota type of person.
i have 1 question, is the engine of the 5 made by mazda or ford?
I didn't roll around under the rental 5 I had, so I didn't know all of the detail that there was underneath. Very impressive.
As far as lowering, it seemed to me like the rocker panels were already pretty close to the ground...
I hope that the 5 does great. It really is a very useful and seemingly very efficient vehicle. So many people are anti-minivan, though, so I sort of wonder if people will buy a lot of them. It seems like it has the potential to get the mileage of a sedan, with a lot more utility as far as ability to carry 6, carry large stuff, carry long stuff, etc.
Oh, one thought. If you think that you might take long trips, you might want to see about a hitch-mounted basket to put your stuff in. Better than a rooftop carrier any day. With the basket, you could build on a box that could be locked down pretty tight so that you would have some security as well. It would block the hatch, but with 5 people in there, you won't be putting much stuff inside the hatch, and what you do put back there could be reached from the side door.
Anyway, congrats and I hope it is a great vehicle for you.
i have 1 question, is the engine of the 5 made by mazda or ford?
I can only say that it's the same 2.3L that they put into the 3. Even so, where it's assembled is probably a question google could answer faster than I.
The hitch mounted rack idea is a terrific suggestion Bill. That seems to be the way quite a few 5 owners are going. Unofficial word is that so long as no lights are wired in, dealers won't be voiding warranties over having a class-I hitch installed. We will likely end up with one to throw the bikes on, but we'll also be needing the roof rack to transport our skis and wakeboards too!
I honestly think that anybody who has doubts about the way the 5 drives and handles needs to simply try it out. In no way does it have any of those traditional minivan style handling traits, and the motor likes to rev. It is just a touch gutless under about 1600 rpm, but the torque seems to take off pretty strong from there with smooth power all the way to redline. I think however that most of the complaints about power are from the slushbox geared models. Unfortunately, one can't get some of the other options like heated seats and such without it, but the mid-level Touring trim is reasonably well equipped otherwise.
I have heard a few comments on the gearing being somewhat low (a la Honda Fit). Your thoughts?
I do keep looking for 6th, but I think that has more to do with my last manual equipped car being an STi. At 55 mph it is spinning in the mid-2k range. Although I think it could stand a taller highway gear, it might fall flat on medium grade hills. I think they kept it lower to preserve the sportiness and avoid the necessity of downshifts with the cruise control set.
Even so, the reports I've seen from other 5-speed owners is that it will still return 30 mpg at a constant 70 mph.
Regardless, I've got an SG on the way.
(And backup sensors which are probably 1/3 the cost in the aftermarket vs. what a dealer would likely tack on. They look like a very simple install.)
I was wondering if anyone out there with a 5 has noticed a lot of noise from the drivetrain. I just drove a used Mazda5 this afternoon and I liked it. But the noise from the trans or something was loud enough that it would be really annoying. It was an 2006 sport with auto trans and 27000 miles. So I guess I am looking for people with a good amount of miles to chime in.
Thanks for your thoughts
Drive several. If it's common and this drivetrain is a well-proven design then it may be something you'd have to live with. A friend had that in a Tercel once. She thought it would drive her crazy (and I thought so too). It turned out that after not too long, we just got used to and forgot about it.
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one. - Albert Einstein
- What noise? We can barely hear the motor, much less anything resembling gear noise.
- An automatic? Are you insane? j/k, but take a serious look at what people with automatics really achieve economy-wise vs. the 5-speed.
- I believe the 2.3L and transmission are the same ones they'e been putting into the 3 for a few years now. I've not seen mention of any issues with it, but broadening the search for trouble with the 3 could provide more useful information. Given the generally younger demographic, the average 3 driver is probably pushing their car on a more regular basis as well.