Zoom Zoom With Room
by Donny Nordlicht
My Audi-obsessed friend could not believe me when I said that the car I was driving this week was best described as “zippy.” He whined about how it only had a 2.3 liter 4-cylinder sending a measly 153 horsepower through a lowly 5-speed automatic. Oh, yea, and it’s a minivan. But then again, he will rarely give anything not wearing the four rings a second glance. For me, I’ve found the Mazda5 to be one of the best around-town cars I have driven, hands down.
The 5 is a mini-minivan; essentially a longer and taller Mazda3 5-door with sliding doors. But before I go on, let me make everyone aware of my bias: I own a 2008 Mazdaspeed3, so obviously I love my Mazda, and I love them with room for junk in the trunk. Owning a Mazda myself made the ergonomics second nature for me. However, even if i was not part of the Zoom-Zoom faithful, finding a button or knob would be trouble free. The interior layout is simple, straightforward, and very clean. And being a minivan, the interior was light-filled and spacious, with seating for 6. You could either fill up the 5 with your friends, or the rear four seats fold flat making more than enough room for, say, a patio lounge and matching table. Cubbies are abound throughout all three rows, although few of them are covered. The one covered storage space – the glove box – was, as it is in most Mazdas, large enough to swallow an Hermes Birkin bag, complete with small dog.
Speaking of luxury goods, the loaded-for-under-$25,000 Mazda5 comes with features you wouldn’t think to find this far south of $35,000. The Grand Touring model I had was equipped with every option on the checklist, except the navigation system. What that does mean is that it had auto xenon lights, auto wipers, auto climate control, LED taillights, heated leather seats, Blutetooth, and a flip-down DVD player for the rear seats. Surprising was that there was no Bose premium sound system, which is found on the Grand Touring trim level on most other Mazdas. Even more surprising was the fact that the standard audio system was just as good, if not better, than the upgraded systems in most cars in its price range.
But the fact that the Mazda5 is better than most in its class. doesn’t surprise me in the least bit; that seems to be Mazda’s modus operandi. Known generally as the cult favorite, you can see why these cars have such loyal followings. Every Mazda I’ve been behind the wheel of has had quick steering, a nimble handler, and peppy around town. The 5 is no exception, especially with a ride that is goldilocks perfect: not too firm, not too soft. And, oddly enough, I also find that Mazdas are remarkably easy to park. With the room of a much larger car, it’s easy to forget that the mini-minivan is quite, well, mini. That is, until you to parallel park in an SUV-sized spot. The 5 is shorter than both the Toyota Camry and Honda Accord by roughly 10 inches, and just an inch longer than a BMW 3-Series Convertible.
Maybe it’s because I’m a Mazda faithful, but, more likely, but the car is so well engineered, it’s hard to find many faults for the 5. However, it could use either for a more refined and less buzzy engine, and an extra cog in the automatic transmission. Although down a gear from most automatics you find in 2009, I – me, me with my lead foot and heavy a/c usage – managed 25 miles per gallon around town. Highway cruising got me the nice number of 28. If you drive the 5 like a normal person, my guess is that you’ll be cresting 30 mpg’s on the highway.
So for a hair under $25,000 (my car stickered at $24, 975), you can get a loaded, versatile, fun-to-drive package. However, I did learn something about myself after spending a week with the Mazda5: I have a subconscious association with soccer practice when I hear the sound of a sliding door. If I had to pick an efficient, inexpensive car to take the kids to soccer practice in, this would be it.
Photos courtesy of Mazda
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