Mazda 5 Review

Compact minivans have been popular for years in Europe and Japan, where families find them useful for dealing with narrow streets, limited parking and high fuel prices. These "super space wagons" haven't been historically successful in the U.S., though, because Americans were more interested in large minivans and SUVs. But fluctuating gas prices in the mid-2000s led some buyers to downsize from larger vehicles, and Mazda decided that a truly "mini" minivan might have a chance with U.S. consumers.

The result was the Mazda 5 compact minivan. Although it was significantly smaller than other minivans on the market, the Mazda 5 provided six-passenger capacity along with the distinctive look and sporty handling associated with Mazda. If you're looking for an affordable, relatively fuel-efficient family hauler that's particularly easy to maneuver in traffic and a snap to park, a used Mazda 5 is a good choice.

Used Mazda 5 Models
There were two generations of the Mazda 5. The most recent was produced from 2012 to 2015. Trim levels and features stayed fairly consistent from beginning to end. The Mazda 5's base Sport trim was equipped with features such as alloy wheels, automatic climate control with rear vents, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and a six-speaker audio system with a CD player and auxiliary port. Stepping up to the Touring added larger wheels, foglights and Bluetooth. Selecting the Grand Touring equipped this mini minivan with automatic xenon lights, heated front seats, leather upholstery and the Touring's Moonroof & Audio package (a sunroof, satellite radio and six-CD changer). Options included a navigation system and a rear-seat entertainment system.

Under the hood of every Mazda 5 was a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine with 157 horsepower and 163 pound-feet of torque on tap. For the first three years, a six-speed manual transmission was standard on the Sport, and a five-speed automatic was optional on that trim and standard on the rest. The manual was dropped from the equipment list in the final model year. EPA-estimated fuel economy was about average for the segment, which you might find to be a little disappointing given that other minivans of the time were bigger and heavier.

In testing, our editors found that the Mazda 5 occasionally felt underpowered, such as when climbing steeper grades or while carrying a full load of passengers and cargo. It had the same refined engine we praised in the Mazda 3, but it just wasn't powerful enough to move a heavier van around at higher speeds with much authority. On the bright side, these criticisms were pretty minor. In daily use, the 5 proved comfortable, easy to drive, and more agile and easier to park than a typical minivan, which is something to consider for those who don't really need all the space of a bigger van.

The 5's front seats were comfortable, though taller folks may wish for more rearward seat travel. The second-row captain's chairs could slide and recline, and they featured a pop-up center table and storage space that could be stowed away to allow a path to the third row. The smallish third row was best suited for kids but was easier to get into than most any larger crossover's last row. The van's sliding rear doors meant easy access, particularly in parking lots. Even with the second row in use and the third row folded down, a healthy 44 cubic feet of cargo capacity was available.

The first-generation Mazda 5 was introduced for the 2006 model year and ran until 2010. This compact minivan offered sliding side doors and seating for six within a relatively small footprint. Powered by a 2.3-liter four-cylinder with 153 hp, most versions were fitted with a four- or a five-speed automatic, although a five-speed manual was available on lower trims.

Initial trim levels consisted of base Sport and uplevel Touring, with perks of the latter including a sunroof, automatic climate control and an upgraded MP3-compatible stereo with an in-dash CD changer. A navigation system was optional for the Touring. The following year, the range-topping Grand Touring model debuted with its many luxury niceties.

For 2008, the Mazda 5 received revised front and rear styling and a new center control panel. Electroluminescent gauges were also added that year, along with rear-seat air vents and controls, additional flip-down armrests and an auxiliary audio jack. Another thing to note is that Mazda 5 models prior to 2008 featured a four-speed automatic rather than the five-speed unit, resulting in lower fuel economy. Lastly, stability control wasn't available until 2010, when it came onboard as standard equipment.