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The sporty 2013 Mazda 5 is just right for folks who don't need the size or space of a full-size minivan.
Easy to park and maneuver; sharp handling; affordable price; easy third-row access.
Seats only six; missing some popular minivan options; slow acceleration; fuel economy not much better than that of full-size minivans.
Available MAZDA5 Minivan Models
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All 2013 Mazda 5 models now get a USB/iPod connection, and no longer offer a six-disc CD changer.
Traditional minivans keep getting bigger, and for smaller families that don't need such vast acreage, the 2013 Mazda 5 splits the difference. Completely redesigned last year, the Mazda 5 remains a mini-minivan for those with modest needs, with two seats in each of its three rows as opposed to the seven- or eight-passenger configurations of full-size vans. If you seldom ferry more than five passengers, there's a good chance you'll simply enjoy the nearly 45 cubic feet of cargo space offered by keeping the third row semi-permanently folded.
The Mazda 5 offers another advantage that can't be understated: It's pretty fun to drive. Some automakers may boast that their minivan handles like a car, but with a sporty suspension and precise steering, the Mazda 5 actually does. This holds true whether you're taking the road less traveled or just navigating the strip mall parking lot. And its humble size makes the 5 easier to maneuver through tight spaces and slot into compact parking spots.
But the 2013 Mazda 5 isn't for everyone. Larger families will need more space, especially when bikes, bags and pets are included. And while the 5 offers an eager four-cylinder engine, there's something to be said for V6 power, especially in hilly terrain or with a full passenger load. The 5 also lacks certain features common on today's minivans, including power-sliding doors, sunshades and factory-installed navigation and entertainment systems. Given that, the 5 works best as a niche -- yet still very appealing -- alternative to mainstream vans like the 2013 Honda Odyssey and 2013 Toyota Sienna.
The 2013 Mazda 5 is a three-row, six-passenger compact minivan available in Sport, Touring and Grand Touring trim levels. The base Sport comes standard with 16-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, keyless entry, cruise control, automatic climate control (with rear vents and fan controls), a height-adjustable driver seat, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, USB port and an auxiliary audio jack.
The 5 Touring adds 17-inch alloy wheels, foglights, a rear spoiler, rear parking sensors, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, a trip computer and Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity. The optional Moonroof & Audio package adds a sunroof and satellite radio to the Touring. This package comes standard on the 5 Grand Touring, which also gets automatic xenon headlights, heated mirrors, automatic wipers, driver lumbar adjustment, heated front seats, leather upholstery and satellite radio.
The Mazda 5 also offers several options including remote ignition, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, a rear-seat entertainment system and a Garmin portable navigation system.
Every 2013 Mazda 5 is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that produces 157 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque. A six-speed manual is standard on the Sport, while a five-speed automatic is optional on the Sport and standard on everything else.
In Edmunds performance testing, a 5 Grand Touring accelerated from zero to 60 mph in 9.5 seconds -- slower than most typical minivans and many compact SUVs. A Mazda 5 with the manual transmission returns an estimated 21 mpg city/28 highway and 24 mpg combined. The automatic transmission does 1 mpg better in city driving.
Every Mazda 5 comes with standard stability and traction control, antilock disc brakes, front side airbags and full-length side curtain airbags. In Edmunds brake testing, the 5 came to a stop from 60 mph in 130 feet -- a few feet longer than average.
The Mazda 5 is obviously smaller than what passes for a minivan today, but it still packs plenty of interior versatility. Comfortable second-row captain's chairs slide and recline, while the passenger-side seat features a nifty fold-out center table/storage net that can snap into place between the seats, then be stowed away later to create a walk-through to the third row.
Up front, the dash layout looks sleek, simple and modern, with the exception of a dash panel heavy with audio control buttons. But controls are easy to reach and use, which helps the 5 feel much more like a regular car from behind the wheel. The front seats provide respectable comfort, though taller folks may wish for more rearward seat travel.
Aided by wide sliding door openings, the Mazda 5's third row offers easier access than just about any three-row crossover we can think of. The 50/50-split-folding seats are best suited to kids, however. With just 30.5 inches of legroom back there, close quarters and a sloping roof consuming headroom, adult passengers won't stifle their grumbles for long (the second row, by comparison, offers 9 inches more legroom).
Though the Mazda 5 may truly represent a "mini" van, it doesn't lack cargo volume. Folding the third-row seats yields 44.4 cubic feet of room, while dropping the second row increases that to 97.7 cubic feet -- just 10 cubes shy of the full-size Nissan Quest's total cargo capacity.
The 2013 Mazda 5 deftly blends utility with agility and urban maneuverability. Impressive visibility and a tight turning circle make swift work of narrow roads and parking lots. The 5's ride is not overly firm, but the suspension doesn't soak up bumps like a full-size minivan. That said, body roll is well contained so passengers riding with an enthusiastic driver won't find themselves sliding and swaying in their seats. Think of the Mazda 5 more as a tall sport wagon with extra room.
If there's any compromise on the Mazda 5's balance sheet, it's the four-cylinder engine. Although it has enough power for day-to-day errands, acceleration is still pretty pokey, especially on hills or when fully loaded. Neither does the 2.5-liter offer much better fuel economy than V6-powered full-size vans.
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