2014 Mazda Mazda5 Sport Passenger Minivan (2.5L 4-cyl. 6-speed Manual)
Driven On 5/3/2014
The Mazda 5 represents a unique middle ground between crossovers and traditional minivans, with its unusual combination of utility, efficiency and nimble handling. It offers three rows and the ability to carry six people, but doesn't benefit from Mazda's latest highly efficient engine and transmission options.
PerformanceThe 5's handling offers more driving reward than any vehicle in this class needs to, but its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine isn't powerful. The availability of a 6-speed manual transmission, which gives the driver full control over the powertrain, is unique among minivans.
With only 157 hp to work with, the Mazda 5 is easily burdened by a full load of passengers. It required 8.8 seconds to hit 60 mph. Slower than most minivans, as quick as most crossover SUVs. The 6-sp manual transmission is easy to use.
Stopping from 60 mph requires 124 feet in the Mazda 5, which is average for crossovers and minivans. The 5's brake feel is nothing special, but its pedal is positioned well to accommodate using all three pedals with purpose.
Steering offers good weight and reasonable feedback yet it's light enough to accommodate the parking lot maneuvers for which the 5 will be used most often.
Few vehicles that can move this many people are as nimble as the Mazda 5. Like most Mazdas, there's sporting character here. Balance and cornering manners are good, even against unimpressive test numbers, especially relative to minivans.
Though the 5 is well mannered and produces no driveability gripes, its underpowered engine means it's just plain slow in many situations. You'll need to leave some space when pulling out into fast-moving traffic.
ComfortDon't go looking for luxury levels of comfort in the Mazda 5. It's mostly about utility. Though its interior design is, for the most part, accommodating, there's nothing that stands out about it either.
Far from fancy, the Mazda 5's seats are adequately comfortable, even for long hauls. Height adjustability for the driver's seats is the only special feature you'll find. Otherwise, seat adjustments are basic.
Though its ride is marginally busier than most minivans, the Mazda 5 suffers no compromise in ride quality despite its capable handling. Body motions are well controlled even when driven with purpose.
Wind and tire noise aren't as well damped as in most crossover SUVs and minivans. Though it's not significant over a short distance, the loud cabin will wear on occupants after several hours.
InteriorThe Mazda 5 is characterized by a highly flexible and utilitarian interior, with folding second and third row seats that offer a large amount of cargo space. There's little focus on presentation, and the 5 shows its age, as most of its interior dates to the first-generation model.
The 5's tilt and telescoping steering wheel offers ample adjustability for many different driver sizes. Knobs control both the audio and climate control systems, their straightforward nature making them simple to use.
Lightweight manual sliding doors are easy to use, even for small children. Buyers who require automatic sliding doors are out of luck with the 5. Access to the third row is good. Front doors open amply wide.
Long-legged drivers will struggle with the 5's lack of front-seat legroom. Second-row seats are comfortable for adults, but only small folks will fit in the third row. Due to the Mazda 5's smaller size, there's isn't a 7-seat option.
With a large glass area and relatively small pillars, visibility is better out of the 5 than it is from behind the wheel of many crossovers and minivans.
The 5's biggest strength is its efficient use of space. It can carry four people and still have ample cargo room with the third row folded flat. It offers less total space than a regular minivan, but utility remains plenty capable.
ValueWith a low cost of entry and high utility factor, we think the Mazda 5 is a good, if unique, value offering. It lacks several key features you'll find in many competitors, but still manages to shine if you need a compact vehicle with lots of interior room.
Build Quality (vs. $)
Build quality is good in the 5. Our test car exemplified solid assembly quality and decent materials. We witnessed no squeaks or rattles, which are commmon in minivans.
The 5's lack of safety features, like a rearview camera and blind-spot monitor, are crucial missteps these days. Also, the lack of automatic sliding doors will be a deal breaker for some buyers. Still, there's lots of interior function here.
If you want a minivan, it's hard to spend less than this (though Dodge lets you do it by a tiny margin). Our Sport trim 5 cost $21,010. And if what you want is a small, nimble van then this is your only choice.
The lack of Mazda's latest powertrain puts the 5 at a disadvantage here. The EPA-rated 24 mpg Combined (21 City/28 Highway) means the 5 isn't much more efficient than a Honda Odyssey. The 5 garnered just 25.3 mpg on our 116-mile test loop.
The 5's 3-year/36,000-mile basic and 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranties give coverage that's average for the segment.
The 3-year/36,000-mile roadside assistance plan the Mazda 5 comes with is nice but certainly not unheard of among family vehicles.
Fun To DriveYou probably never thought of a minivan as a corner carver, but you will when you drive the Mazda 5. Especially if it has the 6-speed manual transmission. Yes, small minivans can be fun to drive.
Like all Mazdas, the 5 excels at cornering. Though it's not as sporting as the company's latest creations (the 3 sedan/hatchback, CX-5 crossover), it's the best handling minivan on the market. But it could use more power.
Certainly there's more personality (and less stigma) here than you'll get with other minivans. And there's this: It's fun to drive a car with a lot of utility and character.
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