Full 2009 Mazda MAZDA5 Review
What's New for 2009
After significant updates last year, the 2009 Mazda 5 sees no major changes.
Not everyone's going to dig the 2009 Mazda 5 -- aside from folks who resent redundancy. This is a mini minivan, a small version of an increasingly unpopular form of family transportation. But times are changing, and in 2009 more Americans are considering the purchase of smaller and more-fuel-efficient modes of transportation. For a small family, the Mazda 5 could fill the bill perfectly.
Under the Mazda 5's skin lies a lot of DNA from the Mazda 3, a class-leading compact sedan that sets itself apart with razor-sharp handling and a solid European-like ride. The sporting heritage gives the otherwise utilitarian 5 a more athletic, nimble handling nature than anything else that bears the descriptor of "van." The Mazda 5's compact dimensions also make maneuvering through traffic and squeezing into tight parking spots a breeze. And once you're in one of those tight parking spots, the 5's sliding side doors will make loading the little ones into the back easy. Plenty of folks think sliding doors are uncool, but there's no denying their superb family-friendly utility.
One inherent design compromise is that the 5's third-row seat is really only intended for children. Even then, you have to scoot up the sliding second-row captain's chairs. It's therefore best to think of the 5 as a good car for families with one or two small children that occasionally need room for the neighbor's kids or enough cargo space for trips to grandma's house. If you need enough room for three kids, Aunt Doris, a kayak and a week's worth of stuff for a road trip to Disney World, you probably should stick with a full-size minivan.
Given these size restrictions and its efficient but underpowered engine, the 2009 Mazda 5 won't be enough car for a lot of people. If you like the size and the body style but question the four-cylinder engine, the V6-powered Kia Rondo should fill the bill, although it has conventional rear doors. The highly rated Toyota RAV4 crossover SUV also has three rows of seating as well as a strong V6 that gets nearly the same fuel economy as the Mazda. But in this current climate of high gas prices and tight economic conditions, the affordable, efficient and reasonably practical Mazda 5 is making a lot more sense.
Body Styles, Trim Levels, and Options
The 2009 Mazda 5 is a small six-passenger minivan available in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels. The Sport comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic climate control, rear-seat air-conditioning vents and controls, full power accessories, cruise control, fold-flat second- and third-row seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel with audio controls, a trip computer, electroluminescent gauges, and a six-speaker stereo with a CD player and an auxiliary audio jack. Stepping up to the Touring adds foglights, a rear spoiler, a sunroof, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, and an in-dash six-CD changer (optional on the Sport). The Grand Touring adds automatic xenon headlights, rain-sensing windshield wipers, leather upholstery, heated front seats and Bluetooth. The Touring and the Grand Touring can be equipped with a touchscreen navigation system, and all Mazda 5s are pre-wired for satellite radio.
Powertrains and Performance
The 2009 Mazda 5 is available with only one engine, a 2.3-liter four-cylinder that produces 153 horsepower and 148 pound-feet of torque. A five-speed automatic is standard on the Touring and Grand Touring but optional on the Sport, which has a five-speed manual standard. In performance testing, a Mazda 5 Grand Touring went from zero to 60 mph in 10 seconds. Fuel economy for automatic-equipped 5s is 21 mpg city/27 mpg highway and 23 mpg combined.
Standard safety equipment on the 2009 Mazda 5 includes four-wheel antilock disc brakes, front side airbags and three-row side curtain airbags. Stability control is not available. In government crash tests, the 5 scored a perfect five stars for frontal crash protection and front side crash protection for front occupants. It got four stars for rear side protection.
Interior Design and Special Features
Some might find sliding rear doors to be the epitome of minivan uncoolness, but there's no denying that the Mazda 5's sliders make loading passengers in tight parking spaces easy. Plus, you'll never have to worry about the kids flinging the doors open into the innocent sheet metal of a neighboring vehicle. Once inside, you'll find that the sliding second-row seats are a tad short on legroom, but they can definitely accommodate small-to-average-height teens and adults. The third row is really just for children who don't require child safety seats. Six-foot-plus drivers will also find space a tad pinched, even if driver seat comfort and steering-wheel adjustment are commendable. Families with a child who still requires a car seat will find it easy to install in the second-row captain's chairs, but Mazda loses points for not offering a bench seat with the center seating position for maximum safety. With the third-row seat folded flat, 44.4 cubic feet of luggage space are available.
The 2009 Mazda 5's four-cylinder engine is adequately powerful with a driver and youngster aboard, but when fully loaded, the 5 can start to wheeze. However, since it shares much of its underpinnings with the athletic Mazda 3, the 5 exhibits a nimble nature that will have it running tight little circles around conventional minivans, which behave like battleships by comparison. The sharp, communicative steering is particularly impressive. However, this is still a tallish vehicle, and it certainly feels more top-heavy and tippy than the compact sedan on which it's based. In our testing, the 5 also showed some instability in high-speed accident avoidance maneuvers; which might be of minor concern as no stability control is available.